No big-name schools are coming to the next Great Alaska Shootout, but two blue-chip players from Alaska will return home for the annual college basketball tournament.
Hydaburg's Damon Bell-Holter, whose 65-foot game-winning, buzzer-beating shot for Oral Roberts earned him national attention in December, and Wasilla's Jenna Johnson, who ended her junior season at Utah State with the first double-double of her career, will headline the Thanksgiving week tournament at Sullivan Arena.
The field of teams was announced Thursday by tournament host UAA.
The men's field features seven Division I teams, only one of which made this year's NCAA tournament -- Belmont, a Nashville school that made it to the second round before losing to Georgetown. Oral Roberts just missed earning an at-large berth in the tournament and lost in the first round of the NIT.
Joining Belmont (27-8 last season) and Oral Roberts (27-7) is another winner of 20-plus games, Loyola Marymount (21-13). The rest of the Division I teams will be coming off losing seasons --UC-Riverside (14-17), Charlotte (13-17), Northeastern (14-17) and Texas State (13-17).
Completing the field are the Seawolves, whose 23-7 season ended in the second round of the Division II tournament.
The companion women's tournament has just four teams, only three of which were announced Thursday -- UAA, Utah State and Prairie View A&M. A fourth team will be announced later, UAA said.
All three teams made it to the postseason this year. UAA's 30-5 season ended in the Division II national quarterfinals, Prairie View A&M (17-16) lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament and Utah State (21-10) lost in the first round of the NIT.
Bell-Holter and Johnson are both key players for their teams, so fans should see plenty of them.
Bell-Holter is a 6-foot-9, 245-pound forward who averaged 7.9 points, 5.8 rebounds and nearly one block per game as a junior.
He gained nationwide fame in December for his desperation buzzer shot that lifted Oral Roberts to a 58-55 win over Arkansas-Little Rock. Video of the three-quarter-court miracle got tons of exposure on ESPN and the shot was a finalist for the Geico Play of the Year award.
As a high school senior at Ketchikan, Bell-Holter averaged 28 points and 17 rebounds, and led the Kings to a runner-up finish at the 2008 state tournament. He spent the next season at a prep school in New Hampton, N.H., where he became a Division I prospect.
Johnson, a 5-10 guard, came on strong at the end of her recently completed junior season. She scored in double figures in six of her last eight games, and in the final game of the regular season she posted the first double-double of her college career with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
She averaged 5.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and was third on the team in steals with 47 in 31 games.
In high school, Johnson helped Wasilla to the 2007 state championship as a sophomore and was the Class 4A Player of the Year as a senior, when she averaged 20 points, eight assists and seven steals.
This year's tourney is scheduled for Nov. 20-24, opening with women's first-round action on Tuesday night and concluding with the men's championship on Saturday. Northeastern and Riverside are on the same side of the bracket as UAA.
The UAA men will open with a game on Wednesday, Nov. 21, against Belmont. Match-ups for the women's tournament will be announced when the fourth team is announced.
Reach Beth Bragg at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4335.
By BETH BRAGG
Anchorage Daily News