FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona men's basketball team opens practice Friday in preparation for the 2011-12 season Friday afternoon. The Lumberjacks return seven players from the 2010-11 squad and are excited to start the preparations for the upcoming campaign.
"There is always excitement for the first day of practice," said Head Coach Mike Adras. "You hope you are prepared. I think we have done a nice job of strength and conditioning up to this point. We are in good shape."
The Lumberjacks will be without leading returning scorer Gabe Rogers, who injured his shoulder last week and is expected to be out at least eight weeks. Rogers had surgery on Monday on his labrum.
"It depends on how he recovers and responds to the physical therapy," said Adras. "Knowing Gabe and talking to the trainers, he was ready to start yesterday. He has a very good attitude."
Rogers is going to be missed and was the leading returning scorer for the Lumberjacks. He was an All-Big Sky second-team choice in 2011 and received the Coaches Award at the team banquet last season. The Houston, Texas, native averaged 13.1 points per game with 2.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists.
"I am grateful for a lot of things in my life, the things I have taken for granted," said Rogers. "I am never going to make that mistake again. I am very optimistic and positive I can make a comeback this season."
He ranked second in the Big Sky and fifth in Division I in three-point field goal percentage at 47.1, the 10th-best single-season three-point percentage in school history, while listing second in the Big Sky three-point field goals made per game at 2.5 (65th in Division I).
"It is a significant setback and he is our lone returning Big Sky all-conference selection," said Adras. "It creates more opportunities for the younger guys. I feel bad for Gabe because he worked harder this summer than any player preparing for the season."
Adras welcomes seven newcomers to the roster in 2011-12 after losing starters Cameron Jones (20.0 ppg.) and Shane Johannsen (9.4 ppg.), as well as significant reserves Eric Platt (10.1 ppg.), Austin Smith (4.7 ppg.), DeAngelo Jones (3.4 pgg.) and Julian Olubuyi (1.3 ppg).
NAU posted a 19-13 record on the season and was the No. 4 seed in the Big Sky Tournament after finishing 9-7 in league play. The Lumberjacks advanced to the Big Sky semifinals before losing to eventual champion Northern Colorado 73-70 on their home court. The Lumberjacks made their sixth national postseason appearance in school history and first in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament, losing to eventual champion Santa Clara.
NAU opens play with an exhibition contest against Western New Mexico on Nov. 2 at 6:35 p.m. before starting the season at the 2011 Hilltop Challenge hosted by the University of San Francisco.