Basketball is family right? I mean, that’s what any high school, college, and even professional basketball player is going to tell you. Players like to say it’s the competition that gets their juices flowing or the roar of the crowd that gets them fired up. What if there was a place where the competition, the roar of the crowd, and the feeling of family all blended into one? That would be utopia for most basketball fans. Well, there is such a place.
The Jackrabbit basketball program is one of the more successful programs in the state of Arizona. When players come to play for head coach Shane Burcar the players know that the skill level they come in with will be 100 times better when they leave as seniors. Coach Burcar is a tough minded coach who demands nothing less than his player’s full blown attention. This isn’t any different than any other coach, but the family atmosphere that is fostered between Burcar and his players is really a sight to behold and is a big reason Burcar’s Jackrabbit program has been successful.
This family feel that you get with the program certainly brings me back to the North Carolina State team in 1983 that won the NCAA National Championship in men’s basketball. Coach Jim Valvano had a team that came together as a squad to overcome injuries, difficult game environments, and in the end, got to cut the nets down after beating a stacked University of Houston team. Those Wolfpack players would run through a wall for Coach Valvano.
The same can be said for the players in the Jackrabbit program with Coach Burcar.
“The players I have will run through the wall for my staff and I. The players have seen the past success and want to be part of that future success. The buy in from the players has been pretty easy. We have great kids.” Burcar said.
The feeling of family at Mesa High is something that makes these basketball players feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves. The basketball players feed off this energy and why the gym at Mesa High is always packed for games.
When these players come to Mesa High School the players learn quickly the meaning of family. It’s not only taught as a team concept, it’s taught as a school concept.
The school colors of purple and gold are constantly worn by staff and students any day of the week. When it comes to the athletics around the school the school colors are pronounced. It’s a source of pride for everybody associated with the school.
After the previous year of winning the state championship, the expectations for the team were mixed depending on who you asked around school. Not sure how many people asked Coach Burcar, but he thought he had a team that had a team that could surprise some people.
“I thought we had something with this group that could be special.” Burcar mentioned.
At Mesa High the thought is never about just getting to the playoffs, it’s about making a serious run at a state championship. It’s the same thought that a Duke, Kentucky, or Syracuse have when the NCAA Tournament begins in March. Those programs don’t necessarily look at the regular season as the barometer. The barometer for those kind of teams is how far they get in March Madness. The fans of those schools hold them to that standard as well. For the Jackrabbits of Mesa High, it’s all about getting to the dance.
This year was another good run for the Jackrabbits.
The first game with Sunnyside of Tucson was a game where Mesa had to travel to. It was a little earlier starting time, so the Jackrabbit faithful had to plan accordingly to make the 90 minute drive to the Old Pueblo.
“This is definitely a game that we can win and even dominate. I have confidence that we can win after watching Sunnyside on tape.” Coach Burcar said after I asked about his chances in this game.
The Jackrabbits made their coach look like fortune teller after their 60-40 road win. It was a dominating performance for the team. Mesa forced 18 turnovers and converted those turnovers into 26 points.
Zach Hobbs led Mesa High with 14 points, which included four three pointers. Mark Hatch, the Mesa point guard helped out with 12 points and seven assists. The Jackrabbits had three players in double figures and were starting to peak at the right time.
Heading into the Jackrabbits next game, the feel of Mesa being like a 1983 North Carolina State or even a 2010 Butler team was starting to feel real for people following Mesa basketball.
Next up for Mesa was a pretty talented team Basha High School team. Basha had some size, athletic ability, and the home court in their favor. Don’t tell the Mesa players that any those factors mattered to them because it didn’t.
“I have always told my guys that being a basketball player is wanting to play in the big games. Where things are on the line. Where people think you don’t have a chance. Those are the games that every basketball player should want to play in.” Burcar said.
Mesa played the way that people have grown accustomed to seeing them play. A team is a reflection of their coach. The Jackrabbits played tough, were making some clutch shots and heading into the fourth quarter were only down by six points.
I kept whispering to myself “just hang around and then make your run.”
The Basha Bears didn’t allow the Jackrabbits to hang around. In the end, the Basha Bears were a little too much for the Mesa Jackrabbits this time around. The Bears came out with a 62-45 victory.
One would tend to think that the season was a complete loss since they couldn’t pull off a back-to-back championship run. Not at all.
Basketball at Mesa High is family. Were the plays down about the loss? Of course, but when the team returned to school and their classes I heard people talking about how hard the team played and how well they represented themselves and the school. I even heard adults say that the program provides the pride for the community.
I would absolutely agree with that statement. The Mesa High community is hard working, much like their basketball team. I know I said that the team is a reflection of their coach, but the team is also a reflection of the parents and the surrounding community. Everybody in the city of Mesa should be proud of what this basketball program has accomplished. Title or no title, the players have each other’s back, but more importantly, the school and surrounding community have the player’s backs.