When COVID-19 pause ends, Georgia Tech could be missing players

When Georgia Tech does return to the court, coach Josh Pastner may not have his full complement of players available.

“Everything’s still up in the air,” Pastner said Monday on the ACC coaches teleconference, a day after the Yellow Jackets’ Wednesday home game against Pittsburgh was postponed. “We might only have half our team back before we get our full team back. I just think it’s probably going to be a little time before we get everyone together to be fully cleared based on the situation right now.”

Tech originally went on pause last Tuesday, a day before the Yellow Jackets were to play Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., because of a positive test within the team and subsequent quarantining and contact tracing. In following days, the Jackets’ Saturday game at Louisville was postponed and the game against Pittsburgh was moved from Tuesday to Wednesday before it was ultimately also postponed.

The delay and then postponement of the Pitt game would seem an indication of additional complications beyond the initial positive test or Tech’s medical team being especially cautious. The team’s next scheduled game is Saturday at N.C. State.

Asked how much of the postponements was due to positive tests and how much to contact tracing, Pastner replied, “Both.”

By the NCAA protocol for COVID-19 updated in December, athletes and staff members who are quarantined for contact tracing can return after seven days if they test negative and no symptoms were reported during daily monitoring. Athletes and staff who test positive can return from isolation 10 days after their positive test if they are asymptomatic. If they have symptoms, they have to wait at least 10 days from the onset of symptoms and at least one 24 hours after the resolution of any fever.

“For Georgia Tech, our first order of business is to get back to the floor at some point,” Pastner said. “And then the second order of business is to get ourselves fully healthy, and then the third order of business, once we get healthy, hopefully we can then win some games.”

Pastner said that select players have been able to be in the gym for workouts on a non-contact basis.

“Until we can get past a certain point within our protocols, we’re at limitations right now,” Pastner said. “But hopefully at some point this week, we can be full go and not have to worry about it. But that’s to be determined. It’s one day at a time is really how we look at it.”

If Tech can play Saturday against N.C. State, the Jackets will have three league games to try to make up over the ensuing seven weeks. (They’ve played three conference games and are 2-1.) On the teleconference, coaches spoke to their eagerness to try to find ways to play makeup games.

“It’s going to be difficult,” Pitt coach Jeff Capel said. “The league will try to do it. We’ll try to do it. But I think every week, you’re going to see who’s available to play, and I think there could be a shakeup every week.”

N.C. State coach Kevin Keatts spoke of communication between the conference and administrators for each team (Tech’s is senior associate athletic director Marvin Lewis) about possible dates for makeup games.

“We all are trying to find a good time (to play) if those games can be made up,” Keatts said. “We all want to make them up. We all want to play the games.”

Tech doesn’t have any games scheduled Jan. 30 and Feb. 6. Additionally, the Jackets have three-day gaps between games on five occasions — such as a Tuesday game followed by a Saturday game — which could potentially allow for a game to be squeezed in without needing to play on back-to-back days.

Further, the ACC has already been flexible in moving games already scheduled. Chances are, the Jackets will have additional openings if an opponent can’t play because of its own COVID-19 issues, which could create the potential for a makeup game.

Tech had won four games in a row at the time of the pause.

“Momentum is a big thing,” Pastner said. “To try to get that back, it’s going to take a little time, obviously, but that’s just the way it is in the time we’re in right now.”

Pastner did receive some good news on Monday. Without playing a game, Tech improved 18 slots in the NCAA’s NET ranking, from No. 96 to No. 78.