East Carolina’s men’s basketball team resumed individual workouts Wednesday, team media relations representative Jody Jones confirmed, and is hoping to play Sunday led by associate head coach Steve Roccaforte.
Head coach Joe Dooley tested positive for COVID-19 last Saturday and is scheduled to remain in isolation through the weekend, leading to Roccaforte serving as a fill-in head coach for Sunday’s potential matchup against Memphis at 4 p.m. in Minges Coliseum and televised on ESPN2. ECU hasn’t played since Jan. 9, which was followed by three straight games postponed by COVID-19 protocols.
This is Roccaforte’s third season under Dooley and his first as associate head coach.
The American Athletic Conference works with schools on a game-by-game basis, deciding if a contest can be played as scheduled or needs to be postponed based on COVID-19 cases and contact tracing within both teams.
ECU (7-3, 1-3) paused all team-related activities last Thursday and postponed two games before the university on Friday said it identified a cluster of five COVID-19 cases within the team. ECU has played four league games and had four postponed.
“There are some basketball components to it, but also some conditioning components because you can’t have guys sit out for a few days and expect them to come back,” Dooley said last Thursday when the Pirates announced they were paused. “My biggest concern about rescheduling is trying to jam these games in here. You can go from playing three games in 30-something days to four games in eight days. ... There’s an injury component and the NBA guys are already complaining about it that you can’t simulate the speed of the game, but then you start going with four games in eight days.”
East Carolina’s statement Sunday said Dooley was in self-isolation and not experiencing symptoms from a Saturday positive polymerase chain reaction test.
The original schedule for Wednesday night included four AAC games, but only one was played, with Tulsa at No. 8 Houston in a matchup of the league-leading Cougars hosting the third-place team in the AAC standings.
Memphis (6-5, 2-2) had its first three games in January postponed and returned to game action Sunday with a 58-57 loss at Tulsa. The Tigers are scheduled to host Wichita State today at 6 p.m. and will reset their testing and protocols before planning to make the trip to Greenville for Sunday’s game.
After the Memphis contest, ECU is scheduled to play at UCF next Wednesday and home versus Tulsa next Saturday as part of a men’s-women’s doubleheader.