The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Houston basketball coach says all 15 of his players have tested positive for the coronavirus this year

Houston Coach Kelvin Sampson had to miss the Cougars' most recent game due to contact tracing protocols (Michael Wyke/AP)

University of Houston men’s basketball Coach Kelvin Sampson revealed Thursday that every single player on his roster, 15 to be exact, has at one time or another tested positive for the coronavirus this year. Some members of Sampson’s coaching staff have also tested positive, he said.

Just over a third of Sampson’s team returned to the practice court on Tuesday after a recent outbreak forced the program to halt workouts last week. Sampson held practice with just six players from Tuesday through Thursday and expects to have eight or nine available when the Cougars (4-0) are scheduled to return to the court on Sunday to host Alcorn State.

Houston hasn’t played a game since its Dec. 5 win over South Carolina. Sampson, 65, watched that game from his living room because of coronavirus contact tracing protocols after his son and assistant coach, Kellen Sampson, tested positive. Games against Sam Houston State and Rice were postponed earlier this month and Saturday’s game against Alabama was canceled.

“The benefit is just try to get some rhythm going into conference play,” Sampson said on Thursday’s media call. “The guys that are healthy are healthy, there’s no reason why they can’t play. Most of them have already tested positive, they’ve gone through isolation, and they’ve passed all the tests and then they’ve had consecutive negative tests after that.”

Sampson said players will take myocarditis tests on Friday. He expects to get a couple players back in time for Sunday’s game, although he’s come to terms with their likely lack of fitness.

“The guys that have been out for 10 days, they're out of shape, it’s simple as that,” he said. “It'll take a while, but that's why this year is what it is. There's nothing you can do about it. When you're isolated in your room, I don't know what you can do to stay in shape.”

The same day Sampson missed the first game of his coaching career, Towson and North Carolina State suspended their seasons, joining at least two dozen other programs that have paused or shut down. Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski announced that the Blue Devils would forgo their remaining nonconference games last week.

Against that backdrop, Houston’s No. 6 ranking is meaningless to Sampson.

“Let’s face it that means nothing, we haven’t earned that,” he said. “We’ve been ranked enough over the years to know that if you don’t play, it means you don’t lose.

“The last time that I saw these kids in a game was Nov. 29. This is this unprecedented.”

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