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Texas A&M men's basketball team being cautious about virus on first road trip of season
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Texas A&M men's basketball team being cautious about virus on first road trip of season

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Texas A&M vs. Tarleton State

Texas A&M sophomore guard Andre Gordon (20) drives past Tarleton State freshman Shamir Bogues. The Aggies defeated the Texans 73-66 at Reed Arena on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020. (The Eagle/Cassie Stricker)

Throughout Buzz William’s first season as head coach of the Texas A&M men’s basketball team, Williams referred to each new experience the program faced as a “first rep.”

Now in his second season, Williams will lead the Aggies through another first rep as they make their first pandemic-era road trip to Dickies Arena in Fort Worth where they will face TCU at 1 p.m. Saturday.

“Obviously, we haven’t done it,” Williams said of travelling this season. “I think we have tried, like everything else in our program, to handle everything very seriously and try to think through things that are unseen.”

Williams noted that many COVID-19 related issues in college athletics this fall have come as a result of travel. The Aggie football team postponed two games earlier this season due to COVID-19 issues that resulted from the program’s trip to South Carolina to face the Gamecocks.

The A&M men’s basketball team will socially distance when it travels and change the format of how team meals are served on the road. The Aggies (3-0) also will not hold a morning shootaround despite playing their first Power Five conference opponent of the season.

“We will be as protective and safe as we can possibly be, but we haven’t done it yet,” Williams said.

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A&M’s trip comes on the heels of one of the nation’s powerhouse programs, Duke, deciding to cancel the rest of its nonconference season.

Last Tuesday after Duke lost to No. 6 Illinois, Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski called for NCAA officials to “assess” the state of the pandemic and the safety of playing while it continues to spread across the country. Then on Thursday, Duke announced it had canceled the rest of its nonconference games “out of an abundance of caution due to the COVID-19 pandemic and to allow Blue Devils’ student-athlete time over the holidays to spend with their families,” the school said in a statement.

Alabama head coach Nate Oats questioned whether Krzyzewski’s motives were over concern for the pandemic or for the consecutive losses the Blue Devils suffered through early nonconference play.

“Do you think if Coach K hadn’t lost his two nonconference games at home that he would be saying that?” Oats said Thursday.

Williams has his own opinions about playing during the pandemic, but now he said his focus is solely on producing the safest environment for his players and staff as they navigate the various protocols in place for the 2020-21 season — a campaign that will be full of “first reps.” He also said he’s seen the strain and stress the pandemic has caused his players trying to perform at their peak while uncertainty presents itself daily outside the walls of the Aggie basketball facilities.

“This is what I’m for: I’m not going to make a decision based on a game,” Williams said. “I want to make a decision based on what is best for their life, what is best for their heart and what is best for their soul. And I want history to judge how I handled this amidst COVID and amidst social injustice. I want history to judge my heart that I did right by their hearts and that their parents look at what we tried to do and how we did it and said, ‘Man, thanks for taking care of my boy.’”

NOTES — Saturday’s game is billed as the Lone Star Showdown with the teams playing at a neutral site. ... TCU (4-2) opened the season with four straight victories but has lost its last two, falling at home to Oklahoma 82-78 on Sunday and Providence 79-70 on Wednesday.

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