Finding a degree has proven to be an on-going and extremely difficult process for John Brannen and the University of Cincinnati’s men’s basketball program.
Brannen was introduced in April 2019 as the 27th head coach in program history. The 46-year-old was only the third permanent trainer on the program in the past 30 years.
More:What you need to know about new University of Cincinnati basketball coach, John Brannen
Eleven months later, Brannen’s first season at the top was interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic in March.
“I think there was a sense of achievement for the boys, but a full shutdown has probably still not happened,” Brannen told The Enquirer on Monday.
Brannen led the Bearcats (20-10, 13-5 Americans) to wins in 10 of their last 13 games, a draw for the American Athletic Conference championship in the regular season and number 1 in the conference tournament.
But there was no conference tournament. There was no postseason. Several conference tournaments and the NCAA tournament have been canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The team learned that the AAC tournament had been canceled as it prepared to explore the tournament’s 8/9 seed matchup in Fort Worth, Texas. After the team got back to Cincinnati, they found that there would be no NCAA tournament.
Brannen called an immediate meeting in the Fifth Third Arena movie room.
“I’ve never gone into a room like this,” said Brannen. “As a coach, you’ve been involved in a lot of different scenarios, but I’ve never joined a team that just canceled the NCAA tournament and its entire postseason has been canceled. We all have the opportunity to play in in the postseason. ” some shape or fashion, and to us we felt it was going to go beyond the conference tournament. We felt like an NCAA tournament team. So for us there was no closure. “
Brannen said he spent the next 24 hours sitting down with each of his players, desperately trying to help them find that deal, even though he hadn’t found it himself.
“And then they were all sent home the next day. We haven’t seen them since,” he said.
Brannen has been away from his players for more than 100 days, relying only on Zoom Video Communications as he and the rest of the world continue to navigate the pandemic.
But there is a light. The NCAA Division I Council last week approved a plan to allow college basketball players to work with their coaches on July 20th. Required activities for both men’s and women’s teams can begin on that day and last up to eight weeks through September 15 or the first day of class, whichever comes first.
These activities include strength training, conditioning, and skills classes with coaches who supervise up to eight hours per week. Skills classes cannot exceed four hours per week and no days off are required.
Brannen said freshmen would arrive on campus on Wednesday while high school students would arrive over the weekend. The process of replacing players such as seniors Jarron Cumberland and Tre Scott, as well as junior Keith Williams looking to test the NBA draft waters is underway.
“I have to deal with my own frustration,” said Brannen. “Teams that make a lot come back and veteran teams will have an advantage right now. We’re a team that lost spring. Now hopefully we’ll get some of our summer back here. No question that the lack of team time on the.” Space and especially outside of the square was certainly something that I had a lot of excitement and energy for, now we need to take that excitement and energy and be intelligent and be able to maximize the weeks we have been with them. “
Although Brannen had only video communication and no personal ratings, he was able to secure the No. 1 recruiting class in the USA (rivals). The class consists of transfers like David DeJulius (Michigan) and Rapolas Ivanauskas (Colgate), the highly regarded striker Tari Eason, the 6-foot-10 Russian Viktor Lakhin, the fast point guard Mike Saunders Jr. from Indianapolis and the sharp-shooting twin brothers Gabe and Mason Madsen.
“With no personal assessment and no personal communication, I worry that for the 2021 class, both coaches and families will make the wrong decisions due to a lack of information,” said Brannen. “The thing I’ve protected my staff from is that we’re not going to play a guessing game. We’re not going to guess our way to our class in 2021. We’ll be firm, we’ll do it.” Be persuasive and we’ll make sure we get the reviews we need, even if it delays us a little. Well, we’ll do that. “