There was something noticeably different about the NAU men's basketball team's practice earlier this week.
None of the players were dressed in any of their normal Lumberjack practice gear.
Instead of wearing the nice practice jerseys and shorts that Adidas provides for the team, senior forward Nick Larson, a Ventura, Calif., native, was sporting a Manny Ramirez Dodgers T-shirt jersey. Junior guard Cameron Jones was wearing a plain navy blue T-shirt with a pair of generic athletic shorts.
There was no Louie the Lumberjack present on any of the players attire and there was definitely a reason for that following NAU's 25-point home loss to Weber State last Saturday.
"There has to be a lot more pride in wearing NAU on their chest than there is," Jacks coach Mike Adras said of the decision not to let his players wear NAU gear. "There's too many proud guys that have done a lot of good things wearing this uniform that have misrepresented lately.
"They heard that the other night after the ballgame."
That was just one of the many things the players heard following the team's largest loss to a Big Sky opponent in 10 years. NAU hadn't lost by more than 25 points to a league opponent since losing to Portland State in 2000, 101-75.
After that sizable setback, that NAU team went on to win 11 straight games and won the Big Sky Conference Tournament, earning a bid to the NCAA Tournament.
This year's Lumberjack squad will have to wait and see if Saturday's loss has that type of impact. Before they can think about that, the players insist they must start maturing first.
"We have to grow up as a team," Larson said. "We had a good practice the day before the Weber game, but then we didn't come together as a team."
Adding to the frustration for NAU was two days before the debacle against Weber State, the Jacks played one of their best games of the season, topping Idaho State on the Walkup Skydome court by 12 points and doing it with aggressive defense and intense play.
"Coach showed us tape of the Weber game and then the Idaho State game and it was like watching two different teams," Larson said. "We didn't come out ready to play against Weber like we did against Idaho State. As a team, we have to learn to be more consistent."
Following Saturday's loss, Adras and his squad stayed in the locker room for well more than an hour. Adras said the team talked about a lot of different things, but effort was something that surfaced several times.
The coach was also unhappy with NAU's rebounding. The Jacks were outrebounded 43-31, something that specifically irked Adras, who puts a tremendous amount of emphasis on rebounding and being one of the top rebounding teams in the Big Sky.
"I thought that Weber State played with a much greater sense of urgency and it definitely appeared that they wanted to win a lot more than we wanted to win," Adras said. "I must give them credit for coming out there and playing that way. I didn't have any indications we wouldn't play that way. I thought the walkthrough the day before was very good. We were coming off a good performance against Idaho State. I was feeling good about a lot of that stuff."
Like Larson, what frustrated Adras even more is that the Jacks were coming off one of their better games of the year.
"That definitely added to it," Adras said. "When I showed them video of both games, I think it was pretty clear to them what we look like when we play with a purpose and what we look like we don't play with a purpose."
Adras is certainly hoping his team plays with a purpose on Friday when the Jacks travel to Eastern Washington. That tip-off is set for 6:05 p.m.
Daniel Berk can be reached at email@example.com or 556-2251.