Great Alaska Shootout from A to Z

bbragg@adn.comNovember 17, 2012 

— A -- Anniversary. This is the 35th annual Shootout, the longest-running regular-season college basketball tournament in the nation.

 

B -- Belmont Bruins. The team from Nashville is one of the best in the men's field this year. It has gone to five NCAA Tournaments in the last seven years, including the last two, and returns two all-conference guards in Kerron Johnson and Ian Clark.

 

C -- Charlotte 49ers. The 49ers' presence in the tournament leaves just a handful of Division I teams from North Carolina that haven't played in the Shootout. Duke, North Carolina, Wake Forest, NC State, Charleston, Greensboro, and Appalachia State are all past participants.

D -- Damen Bell-Holter. He's "straight out of a village from Alaska," as his Twitter account says. A 6-foot-9 senior for Oral Roberts, Bell-Holter grew up in Hydaburg and played high school hoops at Ketchikan. Last season he averaged 7.9 points and 5.8 rebounds and had one of the plays of the season with his 70-foot game-winning buzzer-beater against Arkansas-Little Rock.

 

E -- Exemption. An important element in Shootout history, it's the NCAA rule that allowed teams to play three tournament games in Alaska but count only one of them against their season limit. Without it, there never would have been a Shootout. The exemption has since been extended to other tournaments, diminishing the Shootout's ability to attract prestige teams.

 

F -- Four. The number of men's teams from last year's Shootout that made it to postseason play -- Murray State, New Mexico State, Southern Miss and, in Division II, UAA.

 

G -- Giant killers. Also known as the Seawolves. The only Division II school in an otherwise all-Division I tournament, the UAA men are 33-69 and the women are 32-48 in the Shootout. The women have won six tournament titles, including four straight from 2006-09.

 

H -- High def. CBS Sports (not available on GCI cable) is covering the tournament and will provide the first live high-definition broadcasts from Alaska to the rest of the country. "There's been a lot of challenges along with that," UAA associate athletic director Tim McDiffett said, noting the need for new high-def cameras and more bandwidth than regular broadcasts. "It's been a big deal. It's groundbreaking for the state."

 

I -- In-state talent. Eight UAA players -- five women, three men -- wear the Made in Alaska label. For the women: Alysa Horn of Kodiak, Jordan Martin of East High, Jenna Buchanan of Galena, Alyssa Hutchins of Wasilla and Alex Brewster of South High (a sixth, Melissa Castle of Craig, is a redshirt). For the men: Kyle Fossman of Haines, Colton Lauwers of Dimond High and Christian Leckband of Nome (a fourth, Travis Thompson of Dimond, is a redshirt).

 

J -- Juggling conferences. Three Shootout teams switched conference this year -- Belmont moved from the Atlantic Sun to the Ohio Valley, Oral Roberts moved from the Summit League to the Southland Conference and Texas State moved from the Southland to the WAC. After this season, Texas State will move on again, to the Sun Belt Conference

 

K -- Kyle (as in Fossman) and King (as in Sasha). The two guards have emerged as leaders for the Seawolves. Fossman, a junior from Haines, is one of the men's top scoring threats and King, a senior from Norman, Okla., runs the women's team at point guard.

 

L -- Late nights. DVR the Daily Show, because you won't get home in time to watch it Wednesday or Friday. UAA and Belmont play Wednesday in a game scheduled to begin at 10 p.m., and Texas State and Charlotte play Friday at 9:30 p.m. To prepare, UAA has practiced at 10 p.m. at least once a week. "Once the game starts it doesn't matter what time it is," coach Rusty Osborne said. "You're not gonna be yawning on the bench."

 

M -- Marymount. Loyola Marymount is famous for averaging more than 100 points per game back when legendary Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble starred for the Los Angeles school in the late 1980s. But the current team is gaining fame too -- it's coming off a 21-13 season, its best since 1989-90.

 

N -- Northeastern and North Dakota State. The men's team from Northeastern University of Boston is at the Shootout for the first time since 1986, when Reggie Lewis (84 points in three games) starred for the Huskies. The women's team from North Dakota State is making its Shootout debut.

 

O -- Oral Roberts. One of the best men's teams in this year's Shootout, the Golden Eagles were snubbed by the NCAA Tournament last season despite 27 wins. They should contend again this season

 

P -- Prairie View A&M. The women's team is enjoying one of the best stretches in program history, having won two straight Southwest Athletic Conference championships. Everyone is back from last season's team.

 

Q -- Quote machine Pete Gillen. The former coach at Virginia, Providence and Xavier will provide analysis for CBS Sports. Among his gems, one that may be familiar to Jim Rome fans: "Certainly Duke is Duke. They're on TV more than Leave It to Beaver re-runs."

 

R -- Rick Byrd. The greatest college basketball coach you've never heard of. He ranks seventh in career victories among active Division I coaches with 637, including 545 at Belmont. Duke's Mike Krzyzewski is No. 1 with 927.

 

S -- Seawolves. Enough said.

 

 

T -- Texas State. The school used to be called Southwest Texas State, and it has strong ties to UAA basketball -- former coach and athletic director Harry Larrabee used to coach there, and current coach Rusty Osborne graduated from there. This will be the third Shootout for its men's team.

 

U -- Utah State. The women's team is coming off its first 20-win season and its second consecutive NIT appearance.

 

V -- Vito Ungaro. He's the owner of Vito's Auto Sales and the man behind the popular Million Dollar Shot contest, a halftime tradition of Shootout championship games since 1996. No one has ever hit the 70-foot shot worth $1 million, but many have won cars for hitting free throws.

 

W -- Wasilla's Jenna Johnson, a 5-foot-10 senior guard for Utah State who averaged 5.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game last season. In 2007, Johnson helped Wasilla to the Class 4A state championship.

 

X -- Exposure, or if you must, Xposure. A new deal with CBS Sports will put seven of the 12 men's games on nationwide cable TV. Unfortunately, GCI Cable doesn't offer CBS Sports, so most Alaskans will be out of luck. "I'd like to take care of our home state first, but we're gonna be in 54 million households and that's significant in terms of exposure," UAA athletic director Steve Cobb said. "We couldn't pass up on it." Both UAA women's games and the first UAA men's game will air on GCI cable, Cobb said, but as of Friday there were no plans for local or statewide coverage of the UAA men in the second or third round.

 

Y -- Youthful Highlanders. No Shootout team is younger than the UC Riverside men, who have eight freshmen, two sophomores, three juniors and one senior. It's the youngest team since Riverside became a Division I team in 2000.

 

Z -- Zagreb, Croatia. Home of two freshmen who could get plenty of playing time: 6-9 Marin Mornar of Loyola and 6-6 Ivan Nekovic of Charlotte.

 

Reach Beth Bragg at bbragg@adn.com or 257-4335.

 

 

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