The third-ranked Michigan Wolverines have not played a game in nearly three weeks due to a COVID-related shutdown in the athletic department. However, the wheels are back in motion to continue the basketball season.
Michigan returned to the court on Sunday and Monday after what head coach Juwan Howard called a “very challenging process” since the team’s last game on Jan. 22.
“It was a great day,” Howard said on “Inside Michigan Basketball” on Monday night, via The Detroit News. “It was great having our first official practice back in the building that we call home and that’s Crisler Center. We had a nice hour-and-a-half practice and I took a nice little nap when I got home.”
Michigan has flexed its muscle as one of the deepest and most talented teams in college basketball when it has been on the floor, which is what made the abrupt stop so frustrating in the building as they navigate playing through a pandemic.
“You’re playing and competing at a high level, doing well. Your team is off to a good start and then to have a pause like that, there’s a lot of doubts and questions that roll through your mind, and rightfully so,” Howard said. “They had every right to feel the way they felt at times and thinking, ‘Why me?’ At the same time, I always remind them that you’ve got to control the controllable, and right here is out of our control.
“The best thing is they’ve got to trust to the process and the trust comes from (athletic director Warde Manuel) and (president Mark Schlissel). They have a very tough job. Their job is to always try to keep not only the student-athletes but the staff safe, and they always look at our health as being No. 1. You can only appreciate that. Yeah, there are going to be times where you question it like is this the right thing to do? You put yourselves in their shoes. This is a tough decision to make and that decision, looking back on it, was probably the right decision.”
Despite the shutdown and concerns about rust, Howard feels like the team is in a positive spot. Just like everything else this season, the group bought into the challenge that was presented to them.
“Where we are right now, we’re in a really good place,” Howard said. “Our kids are excited that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. We know that we’ve got to look at this thing like we always have — game by game, not looking ahead of the schedule, keep winning the day, keep testing negative.
“I’m so happy that they listened to the plan as hard as it was. They sacrificed and bought in to just staying the course throughout that process of waiting to return to play.”
Michigan’s next scheduled game is Sunday, Feb. 14 at Wisconsin. The Wolverines blew out the Badgers in the first meeting of the season, a 77-54 win on Jan. 12.