NAU Men’s Basketball Summer Camp a hit with the local hoops community | Local

ERIC NEWMAN Solar Sports Editor

Young children sprawled on three basketball courts at the Rolle Activity Center, all wearing NAU Lumberjacks shirts, as music played and male basketball players from northern Arizona acted as coaches for the children.

Lumberjack guard Jayden Jackson smirked as two boys held his hand to get his attention. The Ezekiel Richards Center brainstormed a riddle with a child who ate a packet of Skittles during a timeout. Forward Carson Towt shouted “Pass!” while the younger group – many of whom were about as tall as the knees of the 6ft 7in red-shirted runner-up – played on shorter hoops. Some of them had never even dribbled a ball before the start of camp earlier in the week.

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It was overall a fun environment at the NAU Men’s Basketball Summer Camp, which ended Thursday. The team taught kids the basics of basketball while giving them the opportunity to interact with the players and coaching staff in Northern Arizona. There were 164 young players from all over Arizona – really all of the Southwestern United States – in attendance, a marked improvement from last year’s 100 attendees.

Northern Arizona Lumberjack center Ezekiel Richards talks to a young player at the NAU Men’s Basketball Camp Thursday at the Rolle Activity Center.

ERIC NEWMAN, Arizona Daily Sun

“When I came here as an assistant, we had 38 people,” Lumberjacks coach Shane Burcar said. “And then COVID hit and last year we might have a maximum of 100. We released it and we thought, ‘Maybe we’ll have about 25. But we capped it at 100. Now that things are clearing up a bit, hopefully we had 164 this year, and 125 are already signed up for the next one.

Attendees were also able to experience basketball in the newly opened Student-Athlete High Performance Center, a rare experience even today for anyone not on a Lumberjacks sports team.

After years of low camp attendance and the shutdown of almost all off-season activities in 2020, the model is proven to appeal to younger players in the future. It also serves the loggers.

Jalen Cone at Camp

Northern Arizona Lumberjacks goaltender Jalen Cone cheers on the players during a camp Wednesday at the Rolle Activity Center.


Burcar said he thinks the Lumberjacks will be a major contender in the Big Sky in the coming season — Northern Arizona is the only team in the conference that expects to return to its full starting roster. He added that one of the goals of the camps is to increase attendance at winter home games while giving back to the community.

The players, who have had to alter their own training schedules to make time to coach children, also have a chance to grow as young men.

“I hope the kids can fall in love with the game if they haven’t already, and I hope they’ll be part of the crowd at home games. And parents see the character of our players. They come here to train at 6 or 7 in the morning, then 8:30 to 2:30 every day, and a lot of these guys will have new fans,” Burcar said.

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