Houston Cougars men’s basketball coach Kelvin Sampson said on a media call Thursday that every single player on his team has had COVID-19. Sampson revealed that news as the team prepares to play short handed against Alcorn State on Sunday.
Sampson explained the team — which hasn’t played a game since Dec. 5 — has been practicing with just six players the past couple days. He expects two or three other players to be cleared in time for Sunday’s game, giving Houston eight or nine players for the contest. The remaining players on the team haven’t been cleared to return yet.
When asked how many members of the team have actually tested positive for COVID-19, Sampson said, “All 15 players.” Sampson also said some of the coaches have tested positive for the virus.
Sampson and his son — assistant coach Kellen Sampson — missed the team’s Dec. 5 game against South Carolina due to COVID-19 concerns. The university did not reveal whether they were held out due to positive tests, or because they came into close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Two days after that game, Houston stopped all basketball activities to get the virus under control.
Sampson discussed the challenges involved with Houston’s situation, calling it “unprecedented.”
“The last time that I saw these kids in a game was Nov. 29,” Sampson said. “This is unprecedented, man.
He also admitted Houston’s players are not in basketball shape as a result of being in isolation for so long. Sampson added that while he believes the team will get more players back for the Dec. 22 game against Temple, it will be a while before every member of Houston’s team is cleared to return.
Houston still ranked No. 6 despite missing games due to COVID-19
Despite not playing in weeks, Houston is still considered one of the best teams in the nation. The Cougars rank No. 6 in the AP Top 25. Sampson said that number means nothing to him. Due to the team’s inaction, Sampson feels the Cougars “haven’t earned that” ranking yet. The team has gone 4-0 to start the season.
Sampson also admitted the team’s ranking is not his primary concern at the moment. “I’ve been more focused on getting our kids healthy,” Sampson said.
It’s unclear how soon that will happen. In the meantime, Sampson will have to make due with a limited roster. The Cougars’ depth will be tested, as Alcorn State kicks off a stretch where Houston plays four games in just 10 days.
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