UAlbany women’s basketball preparing for the unknown

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College basketball scheduling can be treacherous even in the best of times. With the COVID-19 cloud hovering over the 2020-21 season, teams are practicing without even knowing when their first game will be or against whom.

“We’re all living in a weird world right now,” University at Albany women’s coach Colleen Mullen said of the current situation.

“I wouldn’t say ‘frustrating’ at this point, because now we’re just so happy to actually be back in the gym,” sophomore forward Helene Haegerstand said, “but, of course, we want to play.”

The season for both men and women will begin about two weeks later than normal. There will be fewer games — maximum of 27, according to the NCAA, though most teams won’t get to that number. The America East season, which usually starts in Jaunary, has been stretched out to incorporate the final two weeks in December should the coronavirus interrupt play.

“I had a change of perspective,” senior point guard Kyara Frames said, “and the only thing I could do is control the controlables. That’s just my effort, pushing my teammates, and if we don’t have a season, I’ll leave a legacy of being a good point guard here at practice for my teammates.”

Conference play, which will be confined to Saturdays and Sundays, is scheduled to begin Dec. 19. Division I schools can play as early as Nov. 25, giving the 10 basketball-playing America East school approximately three weeks to squeeze in non-conference games.

Mullen said she has “handshakes” with five potential out-of-league opponents and would like to find one more, “mostly because I anticipate there’s going to be a pause.”

When it releases the schedule in early November, the America East will build in at least two standby weekends should a school be plagued with positive COVID-19 tests. The conference potentially could add a third by condensing its postseason tournament, which is usually strung out over two weeks.

“I anticipate we may lose a game, so I certainly want to make sure I get to that level of 13 competitions so we can qualify for the NCAA Tournament if that situation arose,” Mullen said., “You want to make sure you’re prepared for conference play, so I don’t want to have too many or have too few because I could risk not having any games to prepare for the conference.

“Every week we’ll have other opponents drop us or try to add us because their conference schedules are coming out so they might have had a weekend that they thought was open and now isn’t, then we get bumped or they try to change the date.”

Practice has provided other challenges. Off-season programs were scrapped. Players were left to try to find workout facilities on their own.

For the first week of official practice, the UAlbany teams were limited to 10 people, including coaches, on the court. That has since increased to 25 in what is termed “Phase 2,” but there is a no-contact edict in effect at the school until Nov. 2.

“I’m from (Laurel) Maryland, and at the beginning of all the COVID and quarantine things, everything in my hometown was shut down,” Frames said. “I had limited access to any gyms anywhere. A lot of my time this summer was spent outside and doing as many workouts on my own as I could.”

“We were so excited for going into Phase 2, that we were just allowed to be on one court,” Haegerstand said. “It felt a bit more like usual practice, even though we’re still playing (against) the coaches, we all get to see the same drills do the same things, cheer each other.”

Notes: Frames said she likely will try to capitalize on the NCAA granting this year’s winter-sport athletes an extra year of eligibility. “I’m a gymrat,” she said, “I love basketball, so if they want to go ahead give me another year I’m definitely going to utilize that.” … Mullen said the status of transfers Grace Heeps, Fatima Lee and Ellen Hahne is still uncertain. All played last season at other Division I schools — Heeps at Massachusetts, Lee at Providence, and Hahne at Wake Forest — and are seeking waivers so they don’t have to sit out this season. Heeps is from East Greenbush, “It would make a huge difference in terms of our our depth,” Mullen said.

[email protected] • 518-454-5416 • @Pete_Dougherty



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