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Monday, October 2, 2023


Kelvin Sampson: UH’s return to court depends on Wednesday’s tests

UH men’s basketball head coach Kelvin Sampson balls up his signature tie in frustration during a game against UConn in the 2019-20 season at Fertitta Center. | Mikol Kindle Jr./The Cougar

UH men’s basketball head coach Kelvin Sampson balls up his signature tie in frustration during a game against UConn in the 2019-20 season at Fertitta Center. | Mikol Kindle Jr./The Cougar

Shortly after Houston men’s basketball head coach Kelvin Sampson woke up on Tuesday morning, he received word that his team was going to have to pause all team-related activities for at least a few days due to positive COVID-19 tests within the program.

While the 65-year-old head coach had a sense of what was to come after the team tested on Monday, it did not make receiving the news any less stunning.

 “You’re not quite sure what to do,” Sampson told reporters on Tuesday afternoon on a Zoom conference call. 

The Pembroke, North Carolina, native’s first reaction after he was able to gain his composure was to make sure that those within his program who had tested positive for the coronavirus were doing well. His second reaction was to make sure they were following the correct protocols.

The Cougars’ recent string of positive tests has now brought the team to 10 total positive cases within the program, which includes players, coaches and managers, since the summer, Sampson said.

The UH men’s basketball team was forced to pause due to the round of testing it did on Monday. The Cougars test at least three times a week and are only a few days removed from lead assistant coach Kellen Sampson’s positive test on Thursday.

Because of that test result, the head coach, who was deemed a close contact but did not test positive for coronavirus, and his son were unable to be on the sidelines of the game against South Carolina.

The UH head coach said on Tuesday that Kellen Sampson was dealing with minor symptoms of the virus but had been doing “much better.” 

‘Uncharted waters’

As for the rest of the program, it is now on complete hold. The student-athletes cannot do anything basketball related. They are not allowed to enter the Guy V. Lewis training facility until the latest round of testing on Wednesday.

Those COVID-19 tests will be only for those within the UH program that tested negative on Monday, the head coach said. 

If those results remain the same, Kelvin Sampson said, then the team will have a chance to be back doing individual workouts by the end of the week. It will ultimately depend on the Cougars’ medical staff, which is led by head athletic trainer John Houston.

“These are uncharted waters for everybody,” he said. “I don’t think any of us have a playbook. … Once this next round of tests comes through, we’ll make a decision on what we are going to be allowed to do.”

When the Cougars return to practice, they will continue to abide by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and other protocols their medical team advises them to follow.

Since the players returned in late July, Kelvin Sampson said, the team has emphasized three things — masks, social distancing and hand washing.

UH made multiple changes to mitigate the risk of exposure, he added, which included mandating masks, even during practices for the coaches and managers.

The Cougars also stopped watching game footage in the film room and moved a big screen onto their practice court and even at times at Fertitta Center to have everyone more spread out.

The UH head coach said his team has done a good job following these protocols, but he knows that even that doesn’t guarantee protection from the virus.

“It is an inevitability that it is going to happen,” Kelvin Sampson said. “We can do everything right and it still can happen.”

Schedule impacts

For now, the Cougars wait and hope that Wednesday’s test results come back negative so they can begin to plan their return.

The two games postponed by the outbreak, contests against Sam Houston State (Wednesday) and Rice (Saturday), are likely canceled, Kelvin Sampson said, but his team continues to contact other schools to make up those two games that will be lost.

The head coach said UH was already on the phone on Tuesday with other schools to see if they could work something out, but nothing has been able to be agreed on.

“We’ll get through this,” Kelvin Sampson said. “There are no complaints. It’s just the way it is. … Everything will get back to normal pretty soon. We’ll use this time to get better.”

For more of The Cougar’s coronavirus coverage, click here.

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