UAA's strong start to the men's basketball season has been noticed.
The 5-1 Seawolves, who own a win over a top-10 team, are ranked 21st in the season's first NCAA Division II Coaches Poll, released Tuesday.
UAA's biggest win came on the road earlier this month, when the Seawolves knocked off then-No. 5 Minnesota State 83-72 in a California tournament. UAA's only loss came the next day in an 88-81 defeat against Cal State Dominguez Hills, a game in which Teancum Stafford, UAA's leading scorer at the time, was absent.
"It's always nice, recognition for the kids, for their hard work and for the program," UAA coach Rusty Osborne said. "As of right now, it's validation for all our hard work, but it doesn't mean much as we move forward. We're excited, but we'll keep it in perspective and hopefully try to keep moving up."
UAA doesn't set goals involving rankings, Osborne said, focusing instead on more objective achievements, like winning the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, making the NCAA tournament, winning a West Region championship and having a shot at a national championship.
"Those are the goals we start out with every year and those are the ones we're shooting for this year," Osborne said. "If we close in on those goals, the polls will take care of themselves."
This season's squad is characterized by a strong bunch of guards and forwards, including senior guard Kyle Fossman, who led the team in scoring last season. Junior guard Travis Thompson, who is averaging 23 points per game to lead the team through six games, is coming off a redshirt season. Senior Colton Lauwers and sophomore Christian Leckband have returned along with Stafford, a junior. Brian McGill, the team's new starting point guard, is a transfer from Western Oregon and is helping the Seawolves take care of the ball to the tune of 8.7 turnovers a game.
"I think we've got really, really talented perimeter guys," Osborne said. "We really play hard, we shoot it well, we handle the ball well. Averaging less than 10 turnovers a game is pretty special."
Fossman, Thompson, Lauwers and Leckband are Alaska products who earned player of the year honors during their high school careers. Fossman, from Haines, and Leckband, from Nome, did so in Class 3A. Thompson and Lauwers are both played Class 4A ball at Dimond High.
UAA announced the signing of another Alaska player Tuesday -- Colony senior Damien Fulp, the team's first player to sign for 2014-15.
The 6-foot-1 guard averaged 14.4 points, 4.1 assists, 3.1 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.1 blocks per game for the Knights last season and was named the Northern Lights Conference's most valuable player after helping Colony achieve a 10-0 league mark.
"He has a good I.Q. for the game and he can really shoot it," Osborne said. "As people see, we like guys who can shoot it. As he makes adjustments, like all kids do to the college game, he's gonna be a good piece for us."
Fulp deciding to stay home to play continues a tradition of Alaskans helping to build a successful program and is a cause for excitement, Osborne said.
"Not only are we playing an exciting brand of ball, pushing the tempo and scoring points, but we're doing it with kids right from here," he said. "We hope people continue to come out and support these kids who decide to stay here at home. There's a lot of good things happening here."
Reach Jeremy Peters at email@example.com or 257-4335.
By JEREMY PETERS