Kansas men’s basketball program pushes back return date

Kansas head coach Bill Self talks to his players, coaches and staff on the court during practice on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 at Sprint Center. On Wednesday afternoon, the NCAA announced that upcoming basketball tournaments would be played without fans because of concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.

The Kansas men’s basketball program is delaying its return to campus by roughly two weeks as cases of COVID-19 continue to surge nationwide.

The Jayhawks had originally aimed for a July 6 return, as allowed by the Big 12 Conference, but KU coach Bill Self said late Thursday that the team now plans to be back in Lawrence by July 19.

KU’s coaches cannot start working with players in person until July 20 under NCAA rules, so any basketball activities done by Self’s players before then would have been voluntary.

“I personally didn’t think the reward outweighed the risk this early if you can’t work with them,” Self told the Journal-World. “That was our thinking.”

Self said he contacted each of his players individually Tuesday night and talked with them and their parents about their plans to return.

“The ones that spoke up, I think they agreed (with our new plan),” Self said. “I think most people are going to bring (their players) back sooner, but we just didn’t see the benefits of that.”

Self said two of the 15 players on KU’s 2020-21 roster are already in Lawrence.

Senior forward Silvio De Sousa has been in Lawrence throughout the pandemic. And senior guard Marcus Garrett recently returned to Lawrence from Dallas.

Many of the other players are within driving distance, including a handful — Ochai Agbaji, Christian Braun, Tyon Grant-Foster, Dajuan Harris and Chris Teahan — who live within an hour or two of KU’s campus.

In some instances, depending on where they travel from, some of KU’s players may face a 14-day self-quarantine upon returning to campus.

Self said Virginia native David McCormack has been in St. Louis in recent weeks. Incoming freshman Bryce Thompson is a few hours away in Tulsa. And Mitch Lightfoot (Phoenix) and Gethro Muscadin (Louisville/Fort Worth, Texas) may need flights back to campus when they return.

Jalen Wilson and Michael Jankovich, along with freshman guard Latrell Jossell, are all coming from Texas, which, according to reports, has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases in recent days.

“We may have to think about (doing something different) with those guys coming back,” Self said of the Texas crew.

The one Jayhawk facing the biggest obstacle is sophomore forward Tristan Enaruna, who has been at home in the Netherlands and will not be allowed to return until the U.S. government lifts the travel ban into the United States.

According to a June 15 update on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, anyone who has been in the Netherlands, or 36 other countries on the list, in the previous 14 days may not enter the United States.

The CDC notes that there are exceptions to the travel ban, but it is not clear from the website whether Enaruna would qualify for those.

“We don’t know when he’s going to be able to get back with us,” Self said Tuesday during a special edition of his “Hawk Talk” radio show. “Of course, it’s not an emergency to get back now, but we’ll look forward to getting him back when we can.”

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