By Steven Shaff, NAU Media Relations
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Senior
Nick Larson will play his final regular season game at home at the
Walkup Skydome Saturday against Eastern Washington. But he is
hardly ready for his career to be over and will be looking to help
the Lumberjacks extend their season.
“What is going through my mind is we have to win,” said Larson after a recent practice. “We have to win to make the playoffs. They are big for me because they are my last home games but they are extremely big for the team.”
NAU, which plays against Portland State on Thursday, stands in sixth place in the Big Sky standings with a half game lead over Eastern Washington and a one-game lead over Idaho State for the final Big Sky postseason berth. The Lumberjacks have lost the last four games, failing to secure a postseason bid after a four-game winning streak had them at 5-3 in league play. The top six teams qualify for the Big Sky Tournament.
“We need to make the playoffs and I need to make the playoffs because I am done,” said Larson.
NAU is making a push to qualify for the Big Sky Tournament after missing the postseason last season. The Lumberjacks have never failed to qualify in two consecutive seasons under Mike Adras.
One of the reasons the Lumberjacks are challenging for a postseason spot has been the play of Larson during his final campaign.
“I am really proud of Nick’s play during his senior year,” said Head Coach Mike Adras. “He has done what so many guys have done in their senior years. They just step up and perform.”
As a senior, the Ventura, Calif., native has seen action in all 24 games with 20 starts while averaging 6.9 points per game and 5.6 rebounds per game. He ranks sixth in the Big Sky in rebounding and second overall in defensive rebounds in league play. He has recorded five games in double figures on the season, resetting his career high for points two times and rebounds three times. He also recorded his first career double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds against Northern New Mexico and notched a career-best 20 points against Northern Colorado with eight rebounds. Last week he had a career-high 12 boards at Idaho State.
“He is somebody that has been in the program for four years and has seen a lot of basketball,” said Adras. “He keeps setting new career highs for points and rebounds. He is among the leaders in the league in defensive rebounding and I don’t think you would have expected that three years ago out of Nick. It is really nice to see the development he has made throughout his career here.”
While Larson, who will graduate with a degree in construction management in December, hopes to create some lasting memories over the next few weeks, he has several good ones from his career. He lists the two Big Sky Championship games among his top moments.
“It would be those two championship games,” said Larson, who helped Northern Arizona tie for the big Sky regular season title as a freshman. “The first year we were so close. That one hurt the most to see Ruben Boykin and Tyrone Bazy and all the seniors that I looked up to break down after the game. We were real emotional after that one. It was also fun to play in the Rose Garden against Portland State too. Last year kinda sucked but we have a chance this year.”
And that is all Larson and Lumberjacks are hoping for is a chance. By clinching a berth, NAU will be back in a familiar place having qualified for 11 of the last 13 Big Sky Tournaments and will then be one of six teams vying for a berth in the NCAA Championship from the conference.
Larson could also tie a school record if the Lumberjacks are to extend the season that far. He has seen action in 112 career games, the ninth-best total in school history. With three regular season games remaining and three potential Big Sky postseason games, Larson could challenge the Ruben Boykin’s school-record mark with a deep postseason run.
“I played a lot of games and tried to stay healthy,” said Larson.
Here is hoping he gets to keep playing. The push starts tonight.