UVU women’s basketball coach Dan Nielson has told his team all year that they have to treasure everything they get this season, whether that is games or practices or even just workouts.
“It’s important to appreciate the normalcy of the days you get to have at practice or conditioning or traveling for a game or whatever it is,” Nielson said in a phone interview on Thursday. “Things in a normal season might become a little mundane. You get to be around each other and build those relationships. As frustrating as the process is, we’d all much rather have some games and some competition and some practices then where we were at almost a year ago at the end of March where we were all just sitting at home because we didn’t know what was going on.”
Nielson’s Wolverines have only played in seven games so far in 2020-21, including having to postpone this weekend’s scheduled games at Tarleton State in Texas.
But Nielson now has a new perspective, beyond just the challenges of scheduling, testing and quarantining in the COVID-19 era.
He is a survivor of the disease.
“I didn’t feel great but I feel lucky and kind of humbled that I just had symptoms like what you think of with the common flu. There are some of guys who aren’t that much older than I am who passed away this week from it. It’s kind of a sobering thing and a good reminder that it’s not always just about getting back out playing basketball. It’s more about making sure your people are taken care of.”
He said that a couple of UVU athletes also tested positive but they are also doing well at this point.
“It’s concerning because it’s not just you,” Nielson said. “It’s also the people you’re around. You want to make sure people’s families are safe. I know a lot of people say it’s not a big deal but it’s not worth even getting one extra person sick because they could get get it bad. It’s definitely been a good reminder on perspective.”
Nielson’s first day back was Thursday but he credited his staff and his players for doing everything they could while the team was shut down.
“I missed being around my team and around my coaches the last couple weeks,” Nielson said. “We had a really nice weekend a couple weeks ago against Seattle and got two wins. It felt like we were building some momentum back up and then all of a sudden the next thing we know a couple days later we’re shut back down. Big, big credit to the girls for how positive they stayed and to my staff for all the extra things they’ve done to try and keep the kids who aren’t in quarantine in shape. They’ve worked to find ways to get them shots and watch film over Zoom. It’s definitely been a different year but I think it’s forced us to be creative and come together more as a team.”
His hope is that now that the majority of his team is back and healthy, the Wolverines will be able to get things rolling when they get back to playing in February.
“As of Saturday, everybody should be able to get back out and we should be full go come Monday,” Nielson said. “Right now we’re planning on playing Chicago State at the end of next week. We do have enough players now in the window, plus myself, to make it where we should be fine the rest of the year.”
He acknowledged that other teams could have issues, so he’s planning on trying to be as flexible as possible.
“Even if we do lose a game or two because of other people, we’re always on the lookout for more games,” Nielson said. “I’ve talked to all the local coaches and we’re all kind of on alert. If somebody needs a last-minute game, hopefully we’ll find a way to still play.”
UVU is slated to get back on the floor when the Wolverines host Chicago State at the UCCU Center in Orem on Feb. 5 with a 5:30 p.m. tipoff. That game can be seen on the WAC Digital Network.