Wednesday marks the first time the Northern Arizona Men’s basketball team will play since the death of Joe Rolle in the same arena named in his honor.
Rolle, or “Mr. Lumberjack” as he was known to many students, is one of the most iconic figures in NAU history. As a former dean and charter member of the NAU Athletics Hall of Fame, his death is being felt around campus.
“For this community and our institution, it will be a very significant night because Dean Rolle wore so many hats here at NAU,” said Head Coach Mike Adras. “The building is named after him and I do not know how you cannot get caught up in the emotional aspect before the game. His presence will be felt.”
Senior guard Cameron Jones, who has received the Joe Rolle MVP award the past two seasons also knows of Rolle’s impact on the university.
“To receive anything in his name is an honor,” said Jones after practice on Monday. “We are playing in his gym and it is an honor to play here.”
A moment of silence to remember Dean Rolle is scheduled before tipoff. Both the men’s and women’s teams also plan to wear a patch honoring Rolle for all remaining home games the rest of the season.
Wednesday though, the Lumberjacks will also try to concentrate on the task at hand: Eastern Washington. The team is playing for a Big Sky Conference Tournament berth and the chance to potentially host a postseason game.
The top six teams in the conference make the tournament. NAU currently sits at fourth with a 6-6 Big Sky record. Eastern Washington is only one game back at 5-7 and this is the two teams’ final head-to-head matchup meaning this could be the tiebreaker.
“In every game in every league, teams are playing for their postseason lives,” said Adras. “This game is no exception for us, as has every game we have been playing lately. They beat us at their place and we would like to return the favor. There are a lot of implications for conference standings, seedings, etc., by the outcome of this game.”
Wednesday’s tipoff is scheduled for 6:35 p.m.