After the NBA season had just been canceled the night before following the positive COVID-19 test of Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert, Cal State Fullerton men’s basketball spent Thursday morning going through their normal pregame routine ahead of their 12 p.m. matchup against Cal State Northridge in the first round of the Big West Tournament.
While waiting for the team bus to leave for the Honda Center two hours before tip-off, the team saw throughout social media that conferences like the SEC, Big Ten and Pac-12 were canceling their conference tournaments.
Source: The Big West has cancelled its conference tournament due to Coronavirus.
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) March 12, 2020
Around the same time, head coach Dedrique Taylor said that he had heard that the conference board of directors were going to have a conference call to determine the status of the tournament.
“I just kind of figured that the odds were against us to start,” Taylor said.
Sure enough, CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein tweeted at 9:50 a.m. that the conference had canceled the tournament as the Big West officially announced it six minutes later. The following day, the NCAA announced the cancellation of all winter and spring championships.
While the women’s team was at the semifinal stage of their tournament when the cancellation was announced, the men’s game against the Matadors was going to kick-off the first round of the men’s tournament.
After learning about the conference’s announcement, Taylor said it was difficult to tell his team that their season ended without a game.
“I could see the disappointment. I could see the disbelief, I could see the kind of a letdown on their face,” Taylor said.
With the season over, Taylor said it was disappointing that seniors Jackson Rowe, Davon Clare, Austen Awosika and Brandon Kamga were not able to end their collegiate careers on their own terms. He said he has a great amount of respect for them for their contributions to CSUF.
The cancellation of games were not the only things that affected CSUF, as the NCAA implemented a recruiting dead period, which means that coaches cannot meet in-person with potential recruits on or off campus through April 15. The only contact the organization is allowing during the time is written or digital communication.
“It’s had a dramatic impact,” Taylor said. “Recruiting is the lifeline of the lifeblood of any program, and we were poised to get out and beat the bushes and try to find some guys that could come in and help us.”
Despite the abrupt ending to the season, the men’s basketball team still remains close as they met together Monday morning. Taylor described a somber mood throughout the team as there was much uncertainty about what the next steps will be for each player.
“There are a ton more questions than there are actual answers and the hard part is I can’t give them any definitive answers,” Taylor said.
Taylor said that he tried to focus on the fact that his players will need to stay on top of their schoolwork as the university transitions to virtual learning, which will become mandatory on March 25. Some players also expressed interest in leaving campus, mainly the freshman athletes who live in student housing.
Throughout the team meeting, Taylor said he tried to ease everyone’s mind because of the influx of information that they are getting from social media or their phones.
Even as the college basketball season came to an end, Taylor said that the game is nowhere near important to the pandemic going on and making sure each person and their family are safe. Taylor said he has used this time to reconnect with his family, which he said has been a blessing.
“You kind of push basketball to the backburner, and you start worrying about the safety of yourself and the safety of your loved ones and trying to focus on how to make that a reality,” Taylor said. “The humanity aspect takes over.”