For VCU and Richmond, reaching first practice a milestone in itself

For VCU and Richmond, reaching first practice a milestone in itself
Richmond's Queally Athletic Center opened in October of 2020. (Source: WWBT NBC12)

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Recent years have found the fanfare of the first official college basketball practice wear off a bit. With all of the offseason work teams are permitted to do, it’s become just another day on the calendar. 2020, however, is different.

“This year is very significant,” Richmond head coach Chris Mooney said before the Spiders' practice on Wednesday. “There’s been a lot of work going on everywhere - on our campus, around the country, the NCAA offices, all of those things, to ensure that we could have a safe return to basketball, and hopefully projecting a full season.”

“Just knowing you have a first official day of practice and it’s going to happen,” added VCU head coach Mike Rhoades. “I think the whole country is excited for college basketball.”

The Rams and Spiders both began their preseason schedules on Wednesday, roughly six weeks before game action is permitted to start under NCAA guidelines. Both coaches say they have full and healthy rosters, but now the trick becomes keeping it that way. The programs continue to hammer home being diligent with safety measures and know in the back of their minds that somebody could catch COVID-19 even if they are doing everything the right way.

“You hear of all the stuff in sports with people getting COVID and all of that,” Rhoades noted. “We’re just going to do the best we can by what we can control, and if that changes your day or changes your week or changes a 14 day period, we’re going to make the best of it and go from there.”

“Our guys have been good," said Mooney. “I think the university as a whole had a great plan coming in, there’s been really good communication, and then our job is to really support that communication and try to make these guys understand how important everything is.”

Mooney and his Spiders are a little more than a week into their brand new Queally Athletic Center, a basketball facility featuring practice courts, academic support areas, athletic training facilities, film rooms and more. The gyms are complete and the full building is set to be finished at the end of the month.

Both VCU and Richmond enter with clear goals. The Rams hope to improve on a ninth-place finish in the Atlantic 10 last season, while Richmond feels it was robbed of its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2011, and rightfully so. The Spiders finished the campaign 24-7, 14-4 in league play, and were the second seed in the Atlantic 10 Tournament before it was canceled.

The NCAA has set Nov. 25 as the first day of competition for basketball. Richmond has nine non-conference games planned and the Spiders' schedule continues to be finalized. Games at Kentucky and West Virginia are confirmed. VCU’s schedule is being finalized as well. Each college team can play as many as 27 regular-season games.

Both teams' schedules are set to be released in the coming weeks.

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