When the Clemson men’s basketball team returned to campus this past June, three players on the team contracted the coronavirus, including star forward Aamir Simms.
“Honestly, at first I was fine. I was rooming with two football players. I actually lost my smell and taste for a while,” Simms said. “I probably could not smell or taste for like a month. And sometimes it is still very faint today, but that is probably about it.”
Simms did not play basketball for a little while afterwards and he said his body was a little sore, but other than that he came out of the experience okay. The senior said, even though he experienced COVID-19 firsthand, he was never worried about the 2020-’21 season being canceled.
“Basketball is too big to kind of sideline,” he said. “There is a lot of money that goes into it and a lot of people’s job’s depend on it, so I think the NCAA has done an unbelievable job to where we are allowed to play.”
Though Simms is not worried, his head coach is.
“I am nervous as a cat that something is going to happen to our team in the middle of the season and then all of sudden you are out two weeks because you have multiple guys out and you are trying to build your rhythm back and that can be really, really hard,” Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said.
Brownell has tried to be as optimistic as he can around his team but watching college football have the success it has had has helped. But he admitted with so many games being canceled this week, including three games in the SEC, it has scared him.
It also did not help seeing the Miami basketball team canceling their game with Stetson due to COVID-19 issues.
“I think there is going to be some of that certainly,” Brownell said. “I think when football started, and you started to see it was possible to play games. I think what has been encouraging is that it does not seem that COVID is spreading through the play of the football games. Every time you hear of outbreaks, it something that has happened away from the football facilities or games. I think that part is encouraging. I think that part has been encouraging for sure.”
The basketball team’s outbreak in the summer has also helped ease Brownell’s mind a little because it was the wake up call his players needed to see so they could see how serious the situation really was and how fast it can take away their season or part of the season.
“It set us back a little bit, but it was early enough in the summer that it did not affect too much. But it served as a warning,” Brownell said. “We have talked about it a lot. I have talked about it almost every day, if not every other day. Certainly, with any off day, we talk about it a lot on what could happen.
“You are just encouraging your guys to make good choices and do the best you can. There is just so much COVID around now, you are just nervous.”
In his opinion, Brownell feels young people in general have been extremely reckless regarding the virus and that is why he is so worried. However, with that said, he does not want his players to feel like they have to live in a bubble all the time.
“I don’t expect our guys to just sit in their dorm rooms or apartments,” he said. “I think you can go with a friend to a restaurant or a teammate and wear a mask and do what is appropriate, eat and get out of there. You can still live as much of a normal life as you can to keep mentally sane during this.
“I think the mental health of these kids, at this time, is as much of an issue for us as coaches as the physical health. That is one of the things when we were all waiting to see and understand if it was safe to play, these kids need to play. These kids need the gym. They need to practice. They need access. They need things to do. I think that is one thing that has been really good for our players. Watching our players over the summer, you got to see them come back after being gone for a couple of months, you could see how much guys missed each other. How much I missed them. Being around them and our staff. These guys keep us young. They keep us excited. You could see it amongst the players, what basketball means, weather it is just coming in and those guys playing pickup games or having a chance to shoot by themselves or whatever. I think there is a mental approach as a coach that we have to have through all of this to keep your guys in a good place. So, we are really talking about that and encouraging guys to make good decisions, but at the same time not expect them to live under a rock.”
Clemson is scheduled to tip off the season on Nov. 25 against Mississippi State as part of the Space Coast Challenge in Melbourne, Fla.
It is time to get ready for another great Clemson Christmas. The best collection of Clemson ornaments and other fine gifts are available at Clemson Variety & Frame