Despite a first-game loss and some positive COVID-19 cases at the beginning of their season, the BJU Bruins basketball teams remain excited about the future of their athletic programs.
The men’s basketball team opened with a loss of 88-64 against Piedmont College, while the women’s basketball team could not play their first game after several members tested positive for COVID-19.
Going into their first game, the men’s basketball team faced several challenges. The current starting lineup is the youngest in program history. Eighteen of its 20 players are freshmen or sophomores, and only one player, Chapman Harwood, is a senior.
Additionally, according to the NCCAA guidelines the coaches were not allowed to begin practices with the athletes until mid-October. This rule restricted men’s basketball head coach Burton Uwarow’s ability to prepare for the season. Uwarow hopes to get the team playing with a faster tempo than Bruins teams have done in the past, but he has not had much time for practices.
The Bruins teams’ ability to practice and stay in shape will also be hampered by the seven-week break between semesters. The break this year, spanning from Thanksgiving to mid-January due to COVID restrictions, is the longest in Bruins history.
However, Coach Uwarow said he does not accept excuses from the players or himself. “You know when you get to your first job, nobody’s going to give you a ton of breaks because you’re just out of college and you’re only 22,” Uwarow said. “That’s not real life. What you do in one area of your life carries over. How you do small things is how you do all things.”
During the men’s basketball team’s first game, several freshmen stepped up to help the team. Freshman Dominic Owen scored 12 points and freshman Kenney Garrick had 10 points and four rebounds.
“[The freshmen have] done a really good job of taking care of business in the classroom and doing the little things,” Uwarow said. “They’ve been really good teammates. They’ve really supported each other.”
The women’s basketball team, coached by Mike LeViere, was scheduled to play their first game on Nov. 7. However, after several players and Coach LeViere tested positive for COVID-19, the BJU COVID Medical Task Force canceled all their games through Nov. 14 to allow for the full-team two-week isolation period in the NCCAA health guidelines.
“Our goal in this decision is to protect these young ladies and to mitigate the spread of the virus as we look to provide a safe environment for our student-athletes to compete,” Dr. Neal Ring, the Bruins director of athletics, said.
The women’s team also includes several new players after five players graduated last year. This semester the team added four freshmen to their roster as well as a new team manager.
“We’re excited for each [basketball team] member of this year’s incoming freshman class to join our team,” Head Coach Mike LeViere said. “They come from different backgrounds and varied parts of the country, but they each have a love for Christ and a desire to be here at Bob Jones University.”
Coach Uwarow is very grateful to the people who worked hard to make sure the Bruins are able to play this year. “Since nearly 200 student-athletes attend Bob Jones [University], ending the athletic program would have had a major impact on the student body.”
BJU is a provisional member of NCAA DIII and an NCCAA member. Previous versions of the men’s basketball schedule included five games against NCAA DI teams, including several livestreamed games against major teams. Unfortunately, all those plans were scrapped, in part due to teams deciding not to play. “We’ve gone through I think six or seven different versions of our schedule,” Uwarow said.
Throughout the season, games will continue to follow precautions to minimize COVID-19 transmission. Audience members will be restricted to the campus community. Students and faculty will need to present their green screen and family members will have to complete a health check before attending games.