Tradition Never Graduates
The family feel at Mesa High drives the basketball program to success
By Michael J. Wilson | @pigskinopinion | Feb 21,
2017, 12:13pm PST |
is family right? I mean, thatís what any high school, college, and even
professional basketball player is going to tell you. Players like to say
itís 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.
Welcome to Mesa High School basketball.
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 playerís full blown attention.
This isnít 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 Burcarís Jackrabbit program has been
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 menís 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
The same can be said for the players in the Jackrabbit program with Coach
ďThe 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.Ē Burcar said.
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. Itís not only taught as a team concept, itís 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. Itís 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.
ďI thought we had something with this group that could be special.Ē Burcar
At Mesa High the thought is never about just getting to the playoffs, itís
about making a serious run at a state championship. Itís the same thought
that a Duke, Kentucky, or Syracuse have when the NCAA Tournament begins in
March. Those programs donít 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, itís all about getting to the
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.
ďThis is definitely a game that we can win and even dominate. I have
confidence that we can win after watching Sunnyside on tape.Ē 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. Donít
tell the Mesa players that any those factors mattered to them because it
Head coach Shane Burcar has always told his
players that they will play anybody.
ďI 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 donít have a chance. Those are the games that every basketball player
should want to play in.Ē 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 ďjust hang around and then make your run.Ē
The Basha Bears didnít 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
couldnít 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 otherís back, but more importantly, the
school and surrounding community have the playerís backs.