Longhorns coach Shaka Smart will be back with No. 6 Texas when it takes on No. 2 Baylor on Tuesday night, having fully recovered from his bout with COVID-19.
Smart, though, said that experience wasn’t fun — as he battled “significant” symptoms.
“This was not a walk in the park for me, not saying it has been for anyone else,” Smart said Monday, via The Associated Press. “When you go through that kind of stuff, it certainly swirls some things around your mind.”
Texas never shut down after Smart tested positive
Smart missed Texas’ loss to No. 9 Oklahoma last Tuesday, as did three other players due to coronavirus protocols.
He said that the team had “several positive tests” a week before he tested positive, and that he ran a workout with only two players just days before he contracted the virus.
Still, despite their struggles, Texas didn’t shut down. Their game against Kentucky did get postponed, but that was due to coronavirus issues within the Wildcats program.
The Longhorns only had eight scholarship players available for their game against Oklahoma, two more than the Big 12’s requirement.
“We knew it was going to be difficult to meander through,” Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte said, via The Associated Press. “But we met the threshold and we continue to play.”
Smart, naturally, struggled with the idea of having to watch that game from home.
“If you talk to the majority of our guys, they want to play. That doesn’t mean there hasn’t been moments where some of them, they’ve been like, ‘Wow, this is really really strange,’ and thinking through what should we be doing?” Smart said, via The Associated Press.
“Everyone has their own rules about how these sorts of things are handled. I did not say we didn’t want to play. I wasn’t there. I think you can tell that was a very, very difficult day for me.”
Smart latest to contract COVID-19
Smart is just the latest coach to contract the coronavirus this season.
He joins Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, Nebraska’s Fred Hoiberg and more. South Carolina coach Frank Martin even contracted it twice.
Baylor coach Scott Drew had it just before Thanksgiving, too.
The country is now averaging more than 148,000 new coronavirus cases a day, according to The New York Times — which is significantly down from the record spikes the United States was recording at the beginning of January. Texas has recorded the second-most cases in the United States, and had almost 18,000 new cases last week alone.
Tuesday night’s game is the first between the two schools this season, as their first matchup was postponed due to a coronavirus outbreak within the Bears’ program. Though Smart is back with the team, and he said everyone should be available, it may be tough to just jump back in and knock off Baylor, which still hasn’t lost a game yet this season.
“I think it’s going to be a little bit difficult for them, just because of some of the people coming back from COVID,” Baylor guard Davion Mitchell said, via The Associated Press. “They’ve got to get that team chemistry back. But, it’s going to be a good game.”
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