Basketball returns to the Dome
BY KEVIN BERTRAM —
They say there is not place quite like home.
For the past two seasons, both the men and women’s basketball teams called the Rolle Activity Center that place, as the Walkup Skydome — their traditional home — underwent significant renovations.
SENIORS PREPARE TO CAP OFF THEIR CAREER
As such, only the seniors on both teams remember what playing in the Dome was like.
“I’m super excited because I played there my freshman year and I enjoyed it a lot,” said senior guard Amy Patton. “I think the girls are really excited to play in a bigger arena.”
Senior men’s guard Gabe Rogers said while Rolle has been a good place to play, he is excited to return.
“The first thought that comes to mind is that it is a nice facility,” Rogers said. “Rolle is nice — with the bleachers and all — but it just doesn’t have that atmosphere. The Dome is big and it can seat a lot of people, and it just feels good.”
The renovations — which cost approximately $28 million — were completed near the end of the summer of 2011, allowing the football team to play their 2011-2012 regular season home games in the stadium. However, both of the basketball teams remaining in Rolle during that time.
Men’s basketball head coach Jack Murphy said playing in Rolle did have its advantages.
“I think they enjoyed playing in Rolle because of the excitement the crowd brought because it’s so small,” Murphy said.
In the Rolle, Patton said, the crowd’s intensity is magnified by the size of the arena, but she is optimistic that there will be decent turnout in the Dome.
“You can tell in Rolle, because it’s more enclosed, but we hope to have a lot more people coming to the Dome because it is bigger,” Patton said. “Hopefully, we can fill more of the seats and get a ‘big arena’ experience like that at other schools.”
FRESHMAN GOSAR’S MEMORIES
Freshman guard Bryce Gosar of the men’s team had never played in the Dome prior to this season. However, he’s familiar with the stadium: his parents — both NAU alumni — had brought him to watch football games in the Dome when he was young.
“I used to come here when I was about five [years-old],” Gosar said. “My parents used to take me to football games and stuff, but I’ve never actually been to a basketball game in the Dome. This is going to be my first time playing in the Dome.”
Gosar said he and his teammates hope that moving back into the Skydome will bring larger crowds.
“It seems like the team is excited to move back into the Skydome because it attracts more fans,” Gosar said. “We need more fans. We’re going to be a lot better this year.”
In talking to two of the seniors on the team, Gosar said he felt prepared to begin playing in a new arena.
“I talked to Stallon [Saldivar] and Gabe [Rogers] and they told me it’s a much different atmosphere — many more lights,” Gosar said.
Some of the players on both teams expressed concerns about moving from the enclosed Rolle to the more expansive Skydome. Patton said shooting in such an arena is tricky because of the way an open stadium can throw off depth perception.
“It’s definitely different,” Patton said. “It’s a dome, so you have less perception of the backboard — you can see through it — while in Rolle, it’s a wall [behind the basket]. “We’ll be practicing in there, though, so we’ll get used to it.”
However, Patton noted that her team should be able to adjust to the changes.
“We’ve played in places like that, so it’s not that big of a difference,” Patton said. “Just to get in there and shoot, because it’s different than playing in Rolle — it’s more enclosed than the Dome.”
Murphy said the Dome can present challenges, but it is likely that the Jacks will be more well-adjusted to them than their opponents as the season moves on.
“It’s a fantastic facility for the football team, and, as far as the basketball team is concerned, it’s an unique, home environment,” Murphy said. “It’s big and cavernous at times, but I think that gives us an advantage: we’ll be used to shooting in those confines. It also presents something awe-inspiring to the opponent when the walk in.”
NEW DOME, NEW TEAM
Although both the men and women’s teams boast many returning players, both Murphy and women’s head coach Sue Darling are hoping that their return to the Dome helps boost their teams this season.
“I think they enjoyed playing in Rolle because of the excitement the crowd brought because it’s so small,” Murphy said. “There are only a handful of guys on the team — two or three — who actually played in the Skydome, and a lot of them came here thinking they were going to. So, I think they’re looking forward to getting out there and getting to play in the Dome, and I think the guys who used to play in it are excited to get back.”
Murphy said the Dome has other advantages: being more physically imposing than the Rolle, it has served to help the coach and his staff nail down several recruits for next year.
“It already has helped,” Murphy said. “I think it helped us get some of the guys we got in the spring who are currently on the team. I think the guys we’re recruiting for 2013 came onto campus and really liked going to the Dome.”
In the end, Rogers said he is willing to play anywhere, but that he is excited to be back where his career once began.
“It’s basketball — no matter where you play,” Rogers said. “But, it is a plus to be playing there for my final year. Rolle was great to us; my sophomore year, we hosted a playoff game here and it was great: we filled the house. The Dome just feels like a college arena.”