(WBNG) -- When the State University of New York Athletic Conference canceled the winter sports season Monday, SUNY Oneonta assistant basketball coach Mike Freilich said he wasn't necessarily surprised.
"It's hard to have competitive sports that are physical in nature when there's a serious pandemic going around," he said.
While it wasn't a shock, it was still difficult news to take in.
"It means a lot to these student athletes that they would be able to compete in their sport and now they can't," said Freilich. "It's one of those things when it's taken away from them, it's a tough situation."
SUNY Oneonta's campus was hit with a COVID-19 outbreak when students returned to campus.
"There are 61 I think, or 62 SUNY campuses. There were 1,100 cases and we had over 700 of them," he said. "It's hard for me to not think that that didn't play a role."
While he believed it may have impacted the cancellation, Freilich said it came down to what was best for everyone.
"It wasn't just about Oneonta. It was about the well-being and the safety of the athletes at every school," he said.
The team didn't get the chance to practice together this semester, and only had a few in-person meetings before students were sent home.
"I think one or two team meetings the first week or two of school. We did them socially distanced, with masks outside," said Freilich.
With a number of freshman on the roster, Freilich said it's been difficult to develop a bond when they have to rely on getting to know each other on Zoom.
"It's tough to ask a 17, 18 year old kid to become part of a college program via a computer screen," he said.
The coaching staff has come up with unique ways to keep everyone involved.
"We give them activities. Today was, we had to interview a teammate, get to know your teammate," he said.
While the year brings a number of challenges for the freshman, Freilich said the coaching staff is encouraging them to make the most of the situation and treat it as a red-shirt year.
"That is a year that won't count against your eligibility. Sure yourself up academically, get to know your teammates."
With resources limited and not every player having access to a gym, Freilich said they there's only so much the coaches can do to guide the team with workouts.
"It is tough, we can't really do much with them," he said.
For now, the team is holding out hope they'll be back on campus next semester and able to return to the court.
"If we come back in the spring, hopefully the gyms will be open the guys will be able to play and see each other," said Freilich.