By John Bohnenkamp
Drake hasn’t played a men’s basketball game since January 4.
The Bulldogs’ 13-0 start to the season was put on hold because of COVID-19 issues within the program. Five of Drake’s games have been postponed since then, but the plan is to return for a two-game road series at Missouri State beginning Tuesday.
“We felt like we were playing well (before the pause),” Drake coach Darian DeVries said on Tuesday. “The good part is, we’re still playing well — we haven’t lost. It’s just what it is.”
Drake leads the Missouri Valley Conference with a 4-0 record, but the Bulldogs’ schedule is going to get crowded in the next few weeks. The Missouri State series was rescheduled after the January 17-18 games were postponed. The Bulldogs were supposed to play at Northern Iowa tonight, but that game was rescheduled for February 17. A two-game series at home against Loyola was rescheduled for February 13-14.
“The timing’s not ideal for anybody,” DeVries said. “But we’ll do what we can to make the most of it.”
The Bulldogs went a week with no workouts at all after the first positive tests. Players who didn’t test positive have been doing individual workouts. Once the players who did test positive pass their cardiac tests, they’ll be able to resume workouts.
DeVries was hoping to begin practices this weekend with those players who were available.
“We’ll approach it as we should be fresh,” DeVries said. “That’s how we’ll go about thinking about it.”
DeVries said getting back to basketball will be important, especially for the players who have been in quarantine.
“It’s a long time to be by yourself locked in a room, basically,” DeVries said. “I know the guys that are working their way out of it, they’re excited to be around people again. So that’s good.”
The Bulldogs opened conference play by sweeping Indiana State on the road and Southern Illinois at home.
Drake has three players that average in double figures in scoring, led by ShanQuan Hemphill’s 14.2 points per game. The Bulldogs are deep — nine players average 12 or more minutes.
DeVries knows how his team can keep its momentum going.
“It’s just remembering why we were where we were, and trying to emphasize those things,” DeVries said. “I thought the mindset we played with on both sides of the ball was what got us to that point. We just need to make sure we’re working our way back into that, getting into the right frame of mind before we start playing again next week.
“It’s what everybody’s gone through. Everybody’s dealing with it. So we’ll try to stay positive, make the most of it.”
Photo: Drake’s Roman Penn drives to the basket during a game against Southern Illinois earlier this month. (Photo courtesy of Drake University athletics)