Phoenix Rising, GCU athletes self-isolating after testing positive for COVID-19

Phoenix Rising FC had four players test positive for COVID-19 this week. The USL Championship season is set to kick off July 11. (Photo by Owain Evans/Cronkite News)

Four players and two staff members on the Grand Canyon University men’s basketball team have tested positive for COVID-19. All 16 members of the team are in quarantine. (Photo by Sarah Farrell/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – First it was the Phoenix Suns and Arizona Coyotes. Now, just as sports were beginning to start up again, players on the Phoenix Rising and Grand Canyon University men’s basketball team have tested positive for COVID-19.

Phoenix Rising FC General Manager Bobby Dulle announced Wednesday that four players on the team tested positive for the respiratory disease. GCU announced that four athletes tested positive, along with two staff members.

The names of those affected were not immediately revealed, but all who have tested positive are self-isolating.

“The good news is those players are asymptomatic, they are feeling well and are under the care and guidance of our team physicians at Mayo Clinic,” Dulle said. “We have quarantined those who have tested positive and implemented our procedures for those that were in close contact.”

GCU announced that all 16 basketball players are in quarantine, and the two staff members who have tested positive will not return to the practice facilities for at least two weeks.

The Phoenix Suns announced that two players have tested positive for COVID-19, leading the team to temporarily halt all voluntary workouts. The Arizona Coyotes also have received one positive case in the past month. The NHL is set to return to workouts July 10, and the NBA is set to play the remainder of the season in Orlando, Florida, starting July 30.

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The United Soccer League allowed full training sessions with full contact to start Wednesday, but Rising staff thought it was best to cancel Wednesday’s practice and have the first full training day on Thursday.

“This was just an extra step that we decided as an organization that we felt was very important,” Dulle said.

Players across the USL are expected to follow strict social distancing guidelines and will be subject to testing on a weekly basis. Rising coach Rick Schantz says it will be up to the players to stay healthy.

“It’s their responsibility to stay negative,” he said. “These guys take care of their bodies better than anyone. I find myself being more of a father figure and telling the guys that you’re playing with our health and playing with our team’s success if you’re going to put us at risk. I’ve been so impressed by the leadership of the team.”

Rising coaches wanted to implement smaller team training earlier than other clubs in the USL because of players already being in close contact with each other.

“Our players share housing, so that is something to think about,” Dulle said. “It’s one of the reasons we went to small group training a little bit earlier than other teams because our players reside together.

The United Soccer League has a planned start date of July 11, and men’s college basketball still has about five months until nonconference play starts. As COVID-19 cases continue to see a rise in Arizona, players for all leagues across the state will face more testing than ever before to ensure that it is safe enough for teams to travel and play games.

Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Nicholas Barker is from the Los Angeles area and expects to graduate in fall 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. Barker is a sports reporter for Cronkite News.