For the second time this year, COVID-19 has interrupted Troy Barnies’ basketball season overseas.

Former Edward Little and University of Maine star Troy Barnies drives to the hoop while playing for BK Liepaja in the Latvian Basketball League last season. Submitted photo

Unlike last March, though, this time Barnies isn’t making immediate plans to come home after half of his team, BC Lietkabelis of the Lithuanian Basketball League, tested positive for COVID-19 last week.

Barnies was not among the six players, along with three staff, who tested positive after undergoing required testing upon returning from a EuroCup game in Andorra. But with the half of the team that tested positive placed in 10- to 14-day isolation due to league protocols, the Panevezys-based club hasn’t played since Oct. 27.

“I was one of the guys who tested negatively, thankfully, but it could happen to any of us,” he said.

Barnies and his teammates all had to be isolated for three days after the first tests came back positive, and team’s games were postponed. They have been tested every two days for the past week.

The entire team meets online for individual workouts, and Barnies and the others who haven’t tested positive were allowed to return to the court together for individual workouts and drills on Monday.

Fortunately, none of the players have experienced major complications from the virus. Those who experienced symptoms are feeling better and the hope is that, with no more positive tests, Lietkabelis can return to game action for its EuroCup game against Monaco on Nov. 11.

Lietkabelis, which is 5-2 and in fourth place in the LBL but 1-4 and in fifth place in EuroCup Group C, is about to reach a crucial point midway through its EuroCup season, Barnies said.

“It’s been a nice mental break, but it’s also, like, this can’t happen for too long because we have some big, big games in November,” he said.

“This is going to slow us down, that’s for sure,” he said.

The former Edward Little High School and University of Maine star said he wasn’t surprised by the positive tests since other teams have had to postpone their games due to positive tests. He expects more to follow as the coronavirus continues to spike throughout Europe.

According to the Lithuania Ministry of Health, the country has had 18,092 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 639 in the past day, and 182 deaths. Barnies said the government has mandated mask wearing indoors and outdoors and prohibited gatherings of more than five people in public spaces.

The LBL, which shut down its season with the initial outbreak in March, hasn’t hit pause on this season yet but is currently trying to reschedule any missed games. The league did allow some masked fans to attend games during the season before the government implemented its gathering limits.

A 6-foot-7 forward, Barnies has appeared in all 12 of Lietkabelis’ LBL and EuroCup contests. He’s averaging 5.2 points and 2.8 rebounds in 17 minutes per game, all off the bench.

He’s spent the majority of his playing time at the 3, or small forward, position, but also has logged some minutes as a 4, or power forward, when opponents have turned to smaller lineups.

“With this team, I’m a role player,” Barnies said. “I have to be ready to go in there to do my job defending, rebounding and hitting open shots.”

“If they need me to play the 4, I’ll do that,” he added. “I’ll do what they need me to do and do my job, which is not to complain too much and just help the team in any way I can.”

Barnies, 31, would love more playing time, of course, but he also has the perspective of a nine-year veteran of professional basketball overseas.

“I’m playing basketball right now in a global pandemic, so I can’t complain about the circumstances I’m in,” he said.

Barnies, who has his own apartment, is glad he can keep in contact with his family over Zoom while not having to worry about exposing them to the virus. Two months ago, his wife, Sandra Steffensen, visited him in Lithuania for two weeks before returning to her home country of Hungary to continue her medical studies. The couple hadn’t seen each other in person since last December.

Lietkabelis is still trying to sort out what lies ahead for the EuroCup and the LBL, but like last March, Barnies knows things can change in an instant because of the virus.

“We’re all just waiting to see what’s going to happen,” he said. “They still don’t have a concrete plan. Hopefully, we can get the whole team back together in the next few days.”

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