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Anchorage hoopster Abdul-Bassit follows his dad's footsteps to Division I

Beth Bragg

An Alaskan playing Division I men's basketball is a rarity on par with the four-point play, and now there is something even rarer: An Alaskan playing Division I men's basketball just like his dad did.

More than 30 years after his father became one of Alaska's first D-I players, Anchorage's Jalil Abdul-Bassit will play at college basketball's highest levels next fall as a member of Sweet 16 team Oregon.

A 6-foot-4 guard, Abdul-Bassit is the son of Anchorage hoops legend Muff Butler, who starred at East High before finding success at D-I New Orleans in the early 1980s. They are Alaska's first father-son D-I hoopsters.

Abdul-Bassit, who won a state championship at West as a junior and was an all-conference player at East as a senior, followed a path similar to Butler's -- both made stops at North Idaho College before moving to Division I.

Abdul-Bassit was an All-Region pick this season as a sophomore for North Idaho, averaging 13 points and 2.7 rebounds per game while shooting better than 45 percent from the field and 38.5 percent from 3-point range. The lofty shooting percentages are reminiscent of his dad, a guard whose smooth jump shot once netted him 35 points in a game at North Idaho.

Abdul-Bassit said he considered Washington, Washington State and Utah before choosing Oregon after an early December visit to Eugene.

"They want me to come in and play right away, so hopefully I can come in and help them win," he said Friday.

He's the second Alaskan this spring to sign with a Division I men's team. Ryden Hines, a 2012 Dimond graduate, will join Iona next fall after spending a season at the Impact Basketball Academy in Las Vegas, the same place former West star Devon Bookert spent a season before joining Division I Florida State last fall.

Hines helped Dimond to the 2012 Class 4A state basketball championship. He told the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame that during his time at the Impact academy, he went from 205 pounds to 230 while honing both his skills and basketball IQ.

"Impact was huge for me," Hines told the website. "I can jump higher. My shot has come along better."

Abdul-Jalil said his time in junior college helped him gain Division I attention that didn't come his way while he was playing in Alaska.

"I think I slipped through the cracks coming out of Alaska," he said. "I didn't get as much exposure as other players coming out of the Lower 48."

But he got good coach here. At West, he played for Chuck White, perhaps the most successful high school coach in Alaska history -- and the man who coached Abdul-Bassit's dad back in the 1970s at East.

"I learned a lot about the fundamental side and defensive side (from White)," Abdul-Bassit said.

His world in Alaska was populated by many of the state's basketball elites. He played youth basketball and remains friends with Bookert and Damon Sherman-Newsome, the former Bartlett star now playing at Division I Colgate. His older sister Jelila played Division I basketball at Maryland-Eastern Shore. And then of course there's his dad and his connection to White.

Eight Alaska men played D-I this year. There are no historical records for such things, but eight in one season is unquestionably a banner year.

One of those D-I players, Oral Roberts senior Damon Bell-Holter of Ketchikan, tweeted congratulations to both Hines and Abdul-Bassit upon hearing of their Division I commitments. His message to Abdul-Bassit: "way to keep the d1 pipe line going from AK. You're apart of a small group. Keep grindin!"

 

Reach Beth Bragg at bbragg@adn.com or 257-4335. Jeremy Peters contributed to this report.


By BETH BRAGG
bbragg@adn.com