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Men’s basketball pauses team activities due to COVID-19

Bradley basketball’s practice facility sits empty in March 2020. Photo by Larry Larson.

On Wednesday morning, Bradley men’s basketball announced that its two-game series with Loyola-Chicago on Jan. 3 and 4 has been postponed due to positive COVID-19 tests within the program. Team practices will be on hold until at least Jan. 7. 

The Braves haven’t played since Dec. 22 at Missouri. Their first Missouri Valley Conference series with Valparaiso, originally scheduled for Dec. 27 and 28, was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns within the Crusaders’ program. 

Head coach Brian Wardle stated he could not indicate how many individuals within the program tested positive and who those individuals were. In a statement, Bradley Athletics said the results came within the team’s tier-I personnel, which includes student-athletes, managers and staff. 

“Every team’s gone through it,” Wardle said on Wednesday afternoon. “We’ve been very fortunate to play nine games and we haven’t had anything happen yet during the season. This is our roadblock and …  we’ll get through it, and hopefully not have more.” 

Following the team’s loss at Mizzou, the team was given a few days off in order to have the opportunity to see their families over Christmas. 

“Christmas is about family and it’s very very important,” Wardle said. “We will always, for the student-athlete wellbeing and the mental wellbeing of the student-athletes, always try to give them a Christmas break when we can.” 

Despite the pause in practices, the team facility is not closed and is open for workouts to players who are not in quarantine. 

Currently, Bradley is scheduled to return to play on Jan. 10 and 11 at Northern Iowa. The start of the series was pushed back following the postponement of the Loyola series. 

To fill the gap between game action—which will eventually total to 18 days—Wardle is doing his best to keep the team in basketball shape. 

“Watch the NBA, watch college basketball, send them film, send them playbook things to watch,” Wardle said. “We’ll be sending them motivational things and a lot of things to keep them engaged with basketball during this time.” 

Cases within the Bradley and Valparaiso programs have created holes across the Valley’s conference schedule. The Braves and Crusaders now have to make up four games, and Illinois State and Loyola have to make up two apiece. 

Despite the issues, Wardle has high hopes the team will play all of its scheduled games. 

“We talked about this in the summertime and in fall meetings, that this is going to happen, probably, this conference season,” Wardle said. “That’s why we were doing the back-to-back [games]. We kind of have some open dates in the middle, so we’re hopefully going to be able to fill these games in … We definitely want to play them and we’re looking forward to the opportunity when it presents itself.” 

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