COLUMBIA — As John Burns scanned the crowded room of future Battle High School students Wednesday night, he asked one question.
"Are you ready to battle?"
Burns, the recently named Battle High School boys basketball coach, traveled from his current home in Arizona to make the first boys basketball informational meeting, held at the Neil C. Aslin Administration Building.
The journey to Columbia felt like a journey home, he said.
"When my family lived in Kansas City, my dad and I would take trips to Columbia for football and basketball games," said Burns, a former Missouri basketball player and Hickman High School coach. "This is a part of me, and who I am. It feels like home."
Burns spent the 2012 to 2013 season as head coach for Basha High School in Chandler, Ariz. He coached the previous two seasons at Mesquite High School in Gilbert, Ariz.
Before the move west, Burns led Hickman to a 17-9 record in the 2009 to 2010 season, and was named District Coach of the Year. The wins were the most Hickman had seen in seven years.
Burns felt like a perfect fit for the program, Battle athletics director Matt Hale said.
"He is all about student success," Hale said. "Not only athletically, but later on in life as well."
A summer practice schedule will be online soon and Battle will begin as a 4A program. Burns said he and his family would make the move to Columbia on June 1.
Though it will take time to build the program, Burns said, this is the opportunity he has been waiting for.
"We're going to find how good, personally, I can build a basketball program," Burns said. "There's no, 'Oh it's hard to change the culture.' We will establish the culture. That will set the tone for who we are."