Van Williams | Alaska Sports Hall of Fame

Dick Mize just wanted a place for kids to ski. John Brown just wanted to play basketball. Michaela Hutchison was just following in her family’s footsteps. What started as small ideas turned into something big. Mize, Brown and Hutchison joined Nancy Pease and the Iron Dog to make up the Class of 2015 for the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame. Those five, plus the recipients of four Directors Awards, were honored Thursday night at the Anchorage Museum. “It’s a huge honor,” said Mize, the revolutionary designer of nordic ski trails in Anchorage. “The Alaska Sports Hall of Fame is one of those things you look up to, but you don’t think too much about being there yourself until it happens. I’m real honored to be there.” The evening was a celebration of awesome athletic achievement. Brown was the...Van Williams | Alaska Sports Hall of Fame
As one of the hardest throwers in Alaska, West High pitcher Dalton Chapman was able to intimidate most batters with just one pitch -- his fastball, which has been clocked at 89 mph. Then the 6-foot-5 right-hander added a 12-to-6 curveball to his arsenal and he became almost untouchable. His strikeouts went up from 55 last season to 77 this season. "In counts where people assumed I'd throw a fastball, I'd mix it up and throw my curveball," Chapman said. "I think that's the reason why I struck out a lot of batters. I just kept them guessing." There is no guessing when it comes to the best baseball player in the Cook Inlet Conference. Chapman, who dominated on the bump and in the box, was the unanimous choice for the 2014 Don Rabung CIC MVP Award in a vote by league coaches. The ace of the...Van Williams | Alaska Sports Hall of Fame
Jack Hobbs admits he wasn't ready for college basketball when he graduated from South High a year ago. So he went to the Impact Basketball Academy in Las Vegas and came out a man. Now the 6-foot-7 forward is headed to the University of Hartford, where he'll be one of a record 11 Alaskans expected to play NCAA Division I men's basketball in 2014-15. Of those 11, six spent several months at a prep school between high school and college. Hobbs said that for him, prep school was a necessary detour. "I wasn't big enough, I wasn't good enough," he said. Hobbs, 19, was a third-team all-state selection as a senior at South. He said he improved every aspect of his game and became a Division I prospect while at the Las Vegas academy. "I was training seven months in and out every day," he said. "I...Van Williams | Alaska Sports Hall of Fame
Eagle River’s Amy Winczura of Texas Woman’s University ended her college career in style, hitting seven of seven routines at USA Gymnastics Nationals over the weekend in Providence, R.I. The senior was her team’s most consistent performer during the three days of competition, with her final floor routine serving as a last dance. Winczura, an East High graduate, capped her career with another trip to nationals, where Texas Woman’s University finished second in a bid for the school’s 10th national title. On the first day, Winczura scored 9.75 on vault, 9.775 on bars and 9.775 on floor, qualifying to Sunday’s individual event finals on floor. TWU won the session with a season-high 194.375. In the day two team finals, Winczura scored a 9.75 on vault and tied a career-high with a 9.8 on bars...Van Williams | Alaska Sports Hall of Fame
After playing possum early, Anchorage’s Hans Roelle of Eastern Oregon University picked up the pace late to win a big 800-meter race at the WAR VII track and field meet in Spokane, Wash. The junior sat back in the pack for the first lap before unleashing a killer kick that saw him post a personal-best time of 1:51.17 en route to beating a Gonzaga runner in a photo finish. Andy Phillips was second in 1:51.83, a Gonzaga record. Roelle’s time ranks No. 2 in Eastern Oregon history. Roelle, a West High graduate, ran the first lap in 55.6 seconds and the second lap in 55.5 on the second lap. “Running that even at that speed in an 800 is pretty tough,” Eastern Oregon coach Ben Welch said. Roelle’s time is the second-fastest in the NAIA this season as he hit the association's “A” standard for...Van Williams | Alaska Sports Hall of Fame
Collegiate basketball players from the 49th state have often had success in the NCAA Tournament, with Alaskans playing on the winning squad seven of eight potential title games in the men’s tournament. Maybe Alaska’s good luck will rub off on today’s crop of Division I basketball talent. Five Alaska men are in the hunt for postseason titles this spring, notably Anchorage’s Jalil Abdul-Bassit of Oregon and Eagle River’s Eric Roberts of Creighton in the Big Dance. Anchorage’s Devin Bookert of Florida State and Ryden Hines of Iona will play in the NIT, and Wasilla’s Connor Devine of South Dakota State will participate in the College Basketball Invitational. Let’s start with the NCAA Tournament, the granddaddy of them all. Since 1987, seven national champions have featured a player from...Van Williams | Alaska Sports Hall of Fame
Geno Morgan grew up in Chicago, but it was Anchorage where he became a college basketball star and a successful high school coach. An NAIA All-American at Alaska Pacific back when the school had an intercollegiate sports program, Morgan launched his coaching career here after his playing days ended, winning a state championship with East in 2000. Morgan will return to the place that shaped his future this week as the coach of Utah's Wasatch Academy, one of eight teams competing in the Alaska Airlines Classic at West High. "Alaska is still home," Morgan said. "I still have family there. I have a mound of friends who are still there. I think about Alaska often." At the tournament, Wasatch will join five boys basketball teams from Alaska and two from the Lower 48 -- West, Wasilla, ACS, Nome...Van Williams | Alaska Sports Hall of Fame
There was no celebration when Anchorage basketball player Ryden Hines of Iona College was named Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Rookie of the Week. He did what he always does. He went to the gym. Working on his game helped Hines reach the highest peak of his basketball career, and he wasn’t about to let up now. “I’ve been here since May and every single day, nonstop, you’re in the gym or lifting weights,” Hines said. “Stick with what’s working.” The 6-foot-10 freshman forward earned weekly honors in the conference after his career-high 19-point performance against Northern Iowa, a marked improvement from the 17 points he scored in his first seven games. This was the first time Hines was in the starting five, a reward from the Iona coaches for his patience, perseverance and practice...Van Williams | Alaska Sports Hall of Fame
Not even his best effort is good enough for Devon Bookert of Anchorage. His expectations are higher. “I don’t think I’ve played a complete game,” said the former West High star who’s now a sophomore at Florida State University. “I want to.” If anybody could shoot for the stars and make it, though, Bookert is your guy. He’s arguably the best shooter in the ACC -- the only player in the conference with extended playing time who converted at least 50 percent of his 3-pointers and 80 percent of free throws last season. Already this year he’s been recognized as one of the best point guards in the country by virtue of his selection to the 2014 Bob Cousy Award watch list. Recently, at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, he pumped in a career-high 18 points against the nation’s 10th-ranked team one night...Van Williams | Alaska Sports Hall of Fame
In an effort to stay close to his NBA dream, Damen Bell-Holter of Hydaburg, Alaska, will remain in the fold of the Boston Celtics by playing for the team’s affiliate in the D-League. The 6-foot-9 forward decided to play for the Maine Red Claws after getting cut by the Celtics a week ago after training camp and then turning down offers to play in Europe. “It felt like a good decision and situation,” he told me. “I could get call-ups with them and other [NBA] teams. Bell-Holter, of Ketchikan High fame, is among a trio of players who will play in Maine after getting released by the Celtics after camp. He saw action in three preseason games for Boston. By playing in the D-League, Bell-Holter will be able to develop his skills on the pro level while learning Boston’s system. D-League players...Van Williams | Alaska Sports Hall of Fame