Thursday's notes from the Carrs/Safeway Great Alaska Shootout

Jeremy Peters,Beth Bragg
Bob Hallinen

As a player, coach and broadcaster, Pete Gillen has spent a lifetime in basketball and the game has taken him all over the world to places like China, France and Scotland.

This week, the game carried him to Anchorage for the first time, where he is serving as a color commentator for CBS Sports Network during broadcast of the Great Alaska Shootout.

"I was excited, having never been to Anchorage before," Gillen said. "The people are wonderful here."

Gillen, 65, visited Alaska twice in the 1990s, coaching Providence and Virginia in Fairbanks' Top of the World Classic. The bulk of Gillen's Division I coaching career took place at Xavier from 1985-94.

When all was said and done, he amassed 392 career wins and a .639 winning percentage. Counting his years as an assistant coach, Gillen said he spent 30 years coaching college basketball.

"We had some success, but we tried to do it the right way," he said. "It's a game, it's not life or death."

Now in his eighth year of broadcasting since leaving Virginia in 2005, Gillen has embraced the challenges in his latest profession.

"There's still pressure and you gotta prepare and you gotta study," he said. "I love basketball, that's my element, I love being around basketball."

Another big part of his role as broadcaster is to give viewers a taste of local life, doling out some of the information he gathers during his broadcasts. There are also 90-second segments that run during halftime called Gillen Gone Wild.

"I didn't make the name up," he said. "We are trying to show the Alaska experience, the beauty of the place, the friendliness of the people."

Some of the things fans will see in the segments are Gillen visiting the Alaska Zoo, learning about the history of sea planes or enjoying local restaurants like Glacier BrewHouse or Simon and Seafort's.

This is the first year for CBS Sports Network broadcasting Shootout games. The usual production truck used in the Lower 48 was too expensive to ship to Alaska, Gillen said, so the broadcast team is making due with a more basic set of equipment. The arrangement has come together nicely, Gillen said, and he thinks the Shootout is a quality tournament with potential to regain some of its past glory.

"I think in time, we'll get more and more fans there," he said. "It's great being here and I hope to come back again in the not-too-distant future."

 

All-tournament team

A performance both dominating and clutch made Utah State guard Devyn Christensen the Most Outstanding Player at the women's Shootout.

Christensen, a 5-foot-6 senior, racked up 56 points, 14 rebounds, 11 assists and six steals in two tournament games at Sullivan. She hit the game-winning 3-pointer in Utah State's 67-66 first-round win over Prairie View A&M and pumped in 32 points in a championship win over UAA.

Two Seawolves earned spots on the all-tournament team -- Alysa Horn, a senior post, and Kylie Burns, a junior guard.

Joining them on the all-tournament team were Katie Birkel of North Dakota State, Franny Vaaulu of Utah State and Latia Williams of Prairie View.

Horn and Burns helped the sharp-shooting Seawolves set two tournament records and tie another for 3-point shooting. UAA set records for 3-pointers made in two game (24, shattering the previous record of 17 set by both Iowa and Gonzaga in 2001 and equaled by UAA in 2008) and 3-point attempts (68, breaking their 2008 record of 49). The Seawolves tied the record for most 3-pointers in a single game when they drilled 14 in a 73-47 first-round win over North Dakota State, tying the 1994 mark set by Providence.

Four other records were set or tied this year:

• Vaaulu, set record for highest tournament field goal percentage (9 of 11 in two games, or 81.8 percent)

• Christensen, set record for most 3-point attempts in a tournament (28)

• Jessica Madison, UAA, tied record for highest 3-point field goal percentage in a tournament (6 of 8 in two games, or 75 percent)

• North Dakota State, set record for highest tournament free throw percentage (19 of 20, or 95 percent)

 

Duel from down under

A pair of 6-foot-10 Aussies will go head-to-head in the paint when UAA meets UC Riverside in a consolation game at 1 p.m. Friday.

UAA's Liam Gibcus, a 245-pound center from Lysterfield, will battle Chris Patton, a 246-pound junior from Melbourne.

"We both tried out for the Australian Under-19 team," Gibcus said. "We went to the same camp after my freshman year in college."

Neither player made the team, said Gibcus, who is averaging 10.2 points and 4.8 rebounds for the Seawolves (4-1). Patton is averaging 9.3 points and 7.0 rebounds for Riverside (1-4).

Gibcus said he's looking forward to the meeting.

"It'll probably be good fun," he said. "It's always good fun to play another Aussie in America."

 

Money for mustaches

Some members of the UAA men's basketball team are sporting thin mustaches this week. They aren't making a fashion statement. They've stopped shaving for charity called Movember.

Men around the world grow mustaches during November to help raise money for prostate and testicular cancer causes. They start clean shaven on Nov. 1 and let the mustaches grow until the end of the month.

Liam Gibcus and Colton Lauwers both have pages called mospaces on movember.com, where people can make donations and get more information.

Gibcus thinks he has the better mustache, but he said he'll be glad to get rid of it when the month ends.

 

 


By JEREMY PETERS and BETH BRAGG
sports@adn.com