FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Shane Burcar sits front row in the large auditorium as a thunderstorm rolls over the San Francisco peaks of Flagstaff on campus in North Arizona.
The wall of windows on the north side of the room provides a perfect view of lightning strikes and approaching rain moving through the pine trees.
The building in which the auditorium is housed, the new $47 million student-athlete high-performance center, offers Burcar something he has never had in four years as a North American coach. Arizona: A high-end facility to show off potential basketball recruits.
“It’s really a game-changer,” Burcar said. “When we are competing against a (similar) school, nobody has better facilities than us. I’m not saying this to brag or say anything negative about another school, but there’s no one who has this right now.
The Performance Center, which opened in April, could be the missing piece Burcar needs to get NAU back on track. The Lumberjacks haven’t entered the NCAA Tournament since 2000 and have won five of the past seven seasons.
Burcar was named interim coach in 2019, when Jack Murphy left to coach at his alma mater in Arizona. The Lumberjacks won 16 games in Burcar’s first season, earning him the permanent job, but were unable to maintain that pace.
Northern Arizona went through a pandemic-altered 2020-21 season — like many other programs — to win six games and went 9-16 last year with one of Division I’s youngest teams. .
The Loggers might be about to turn the corner to a brighter future.
This year’s team returns all five starters, bringing a year of experience with them.
Junior guard Jalen Cone averaged 18.8 points last season after transferring from Virginia Tech and is expected to take on more of a leadership role. Nik Mains, a 6-foot-8 striker, opted to return instead of hitting the transfer gate after averaging 11.5 points last year. Junior forward Keith Haymon is also back for his fourth season in Flagstaff after averaging 9.8 points a year ago.
Burcar dove into the transfer gate to land South Dakota guard Xavier Fuller, Grand Canyon guard Liam Lloyd – the son of Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd – and Connecticut Central State guard Trenton McLaughlin.
Northern Arizona also added freshmen CJ Ford, Oakland Fort, Preston Kilbert and Jack Wistrcill, all of whom are expected to impact the program this season and beyond.
“The trajectory is absolutely to move up the standings,” Burcar said. “I would say if we don’t win everything, we’ll definitely have a bye to the first round of the Big Sky tournament. I don’t think it’s a chimera at all.
The new performance center could continue to fill the talent pool.
Northern Arizona coaches could still sell the school’s scenic campus, but the facilities weren’t up to par. The Lumberjacks play most of their early-season home games at the Rolle Center, which is shared with several sports and physical education classes, and the massive Walkup Skydome once the football season is over.
The three-story, 72,000-square-foot performance center features two full basketball courts with a video screen in between, huge weight and workout rooms, academic and nutrition centers, and multiple gyms. meeting.
It also has the room with a view.
“The kind of building sells,” Burcar said. “We’ve seen it with our camps this year, the high school coaches showing up and, ‘OK, they’re serious about winning.’ You can see pictures of it, but when you get here, touch it and step on it, it’s a whole other story.
Burcar has an unobstructed view of the program and it’s not just the one from the rear auditorium window.