Navigating new unknowns, Bulls prepare to tipoff 2020-21 season


Buffalo’s Jayvon Graves celebrates after making a basket during the first half of a first round men’s college basketball game against Arizona State in the NCAA Tournament Friday, March 22, 2019, in Tulsa, Okla. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The UB Men’s Basketball team is just five days away from opening up an unprecedented 2020-21 season, and much like everything else this year, the journey to get to this point was unlike anything the Bulls have dealt with.

“Obviously it’s been unusual, but our guys have done a pretty good job overall. Our kids came back August 10th then they quarantined, then we’ve been slowly going through the progressions like everyone else of getting back to the floor,” UB head coach Jim Whitesell said. “It’s been a slow roll, but it’s been a good one. Once school started, that’s when our kids came back, since they stayed home during the summer.

“So far practice has been good, we’ve been healthy, keep trying to get better each and every day. Along with it, just be grateful that we have the day. That’s the other thing we see across the country, so many interruptions and pauses, that’s going to happen, so we’re just going to enjoy it, and have an appreciative attitude towards the whole thing.”

With so many unknowns, players and coaches are dealing with the fluidity of the season, and Coach Whitesell says it’s going to be necessary to stay focused on just what’s directly in front of them, rather than trying to look too far into the future.

“I think the big thing is going to be to continue to improve, and not worry about all the other things that go around you. Just keep moving, keep staying safe, that’s the biggest challenge that we’re going to have that way,” Whitesell said. “We just try to compartmentalize, it’s over a 24 hour period, then we move on to the next day. Don’t look too far ahead. We really haven’t talked about the schedule much, other than we’ve had to talk about our first game and Mohegan Sun because they’re so close, they’re lumped in together, so we’re like okay here’s what the plan is, then after that we really don’t even have the schedule completed yet. Finding that inevitable, just not worrying about the future, that’s probably the biggest challenge for all of us, coaches included.”

After hosting Gannon next Wednesday, the Bulls plan to head to Uncasville, Connecticut in the “Bubbleville Tournament,” hosted by Mohegan Sun on November 30-December 1. With opponents changing almost daily, UB is just ready to get there and start playing games.

“We just want to play and we’re trying to work with them in terms of who else is available to play, what makes sense. We’re still planning to go, we had a Zoom call with them yesterday in terms of the medical procedures, they’re testing, it looks really safe. They’ve done an incredible job of dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s,” Whitesell said. “You go in there, get tested, quarantine, the challenge really is getting there, and getting to that point. Once you’re there, you’re going to feel safe.”

UB hosts Gannon on Wednesday to kick off the 2020-21 season. Tipoff is set for 4pm at Alumni Arena.

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