The Florida State men’s basketball team was supposed to play its first-round NCAA Tournament game today in Tampa.
Obviously, that isn’t happening. No sports are happening. The coronavirus outbreak has caused a different type of madness this March — one that has left college basketball players and coaches with no real sense of when things will return to normal.
Longtime Florida State associate head coach Stan Jones has spent the last few days trying to finalize the Seminoles’ schedule for next season and continuing to recruit (by phone calls and texts only). But there is so much uncertainty about the world of college athletics right now that it’s impossible to have any real idea when and if he can turn his attention to the 2020-’21 team.
«All of those questions are moving parts right now,» Jones said. «Nobody really has any history or reference points to give a lot of advice. I mean, they’re not allowed to be doing any kind of group workouts. They’re not allowed to play pick-up or anything in any of our facilities.
«So some of them have gone home. And they’re going to be home until they’re allowed to come back. And some of them are in town because they haven’t gotten any issues. They can use the facility and come in on their own by themselves. They can do a voluntary workout with a strength coach watching it, with social distancing issues in there. But it’s a really fragile time in terms of what you feel comfortable allowing a player to do.»
The ability to use the facilities only goes for players who have stayed in town throughout the last week.
«As long as they have not left Tallahassee, they’re allowed to be on campus,» Jones said. The ones who have been traveling are not allowed to return.
Obviously, the recruiting aspect of the job has changed as well.
There are no in-home or official visits taking place, of course. And Jones said two of the weekends on the recruiting calendar for April have already been canceled.
«Everything in terms of athletics and basketball for us is up in the air all the way into June,» Jones said. «The NBA stuff for any of our guys, including seniors, that would be going through workouts, the agent process, all of that stuff has kind of ground to a halt. Nobody knows what the future might hold.»
Florida State is losing two seniors in point guard Trent Forrest and center Dominik Olejniczak. Two underclassmen — freshman Patrick Williams and sophomore Devin Vassell — are on the radars of many NBA teams and could also test the draft waters.
But when will those waters be available for testing?
There is talk of the NBA season, if it resumes, going all the way into August. Maybe even September. The draft is usually held in June. So the typical process of turning professional has been drastically altered. Nobody knows when the draft will be held or when the next NBA season will start.
«I think that’s going to have a lot of impact (with underclassmen),» Jones said. «Because there’s a lot of kids that, if the virus escalates, there may not be a combine. There may not be a small group for pre-draft workouts. … The timeline might be very tight. And the NBA is going to have to make decisions on the draft with what they saw on film and what they saw coming to games and practices this year.»
Jones said he doesn’t know what Williams and Vassell will ultimately decide. But he hopes they’re able to gather as much information — and present themselves in the best possible light — as players in other years.
«We’ll just have to see how this timeline plays out for them,» Jones said. «And we’ll do our best due diligence, call our contacts in the league and have a conversation with them and make sure we get real information for them.»
Jones said he always gives the same advice for any underclassmen thinking about entering the draft.
«As I tell all of our guys, it’s not about being ready to get into the NBA,» Jones said. «It’s about being ready to stay in the NBA. A lot of people, I think, get so enamored about getting that first paycheck and thinking they’re home free. I tell them all the time, ‘If you’re not in the league where you get a second contract, you’re going have to get another job some day.'»
Whether Vassell or Williams — or both or neither — are on the FSU roster next year remains to be seen. But that’s par for the course these days. Everything remains to be seen.
The Great Unknown has its tentacles all over the sports world.
«Usually when the season is over, you kind of have a plan for what you’re doing with the guys that are graduating, what you’re doing with the guys that could potentially be moving on professionally,» Jones said. «And with the returning guys, you’re already putting in plans for next year. You’re seeing them every day. And right now that’s not the case.
«So for coaches, we’re all a little crazy anyway, it kind of gets your mind going crazy, running around and making sure nothing is wrong. … As the saying goes, ‘Idle time is the Devil’s workshop.’
«It’s a very unsettling time for all of us as coaches.»
Warchant.com soon will publish an extensive Q&A with Jones, including his thoughts on how FSU would’ve fared in the NCAA Tournament and why the Seminoles were so special in 2019-2020.