The frigid north has never been known as a breeding ground for elite basketball talent, but several Division I players who attended high school in Alaska are enjoying successful seasons.
Chief among them is Ruthy Hebard of Fairbanks, whose Oregon team is likely to be a No. 2 seed in the women’s NCAA Tournament. The Ducks were poised to earn a No. 1 seed before losing to Stanford 64-57 in Sunday’s Pac 12 championship game.
“She is such an important player and I think the most dominating player in the conference," Oregon coach Kelly Graves said about Hebard, a West Valley alum, in a press conference following their Feb. 24 win over USC.
Hebard isn’t the only player rocking Division I. Devonaire Doutrive, a former West High player, recently went viral on social media for his game-winning buzzer beater in Arizona’s win over Oregon State.
Here’s a look at Division I hoopers representing the 49th state this season.
Jeremiah Bailey, Pacific
6-6 sophomore forward
5.3 points per game, 2.7 rebounds per game, 0.5 assists per game
Bailey has started 12 games and played in 30 this season for the Tigers. He has seen valuable rotation minutes all season, averaging just under 20 minutes per game. He also is among the team leaders in 3-point percentage. With the departure of Pacific’s leading scorer, senior guard Roberto Gallinat (15.3 ppg), Bailey could be looking at big minutes next season.
Jacob Calloway, Southern Utah
6-8 junior forward
9.6 points per game, 4.1 rebounds per game, 1.1 assists per game,
Calloway has started in majority of the Thunderbirds’ games this season and has been a viable scoring option. Calloway is one of the team’s leaders in 3-pointers attempted and 3-point percentage.
Devonaire Doutrive, Arizona
6-5 freshman guard
3.5 points per game, 3.1 rebounds per game, 0.5 steals per game
Doutrive played his freshman season at West High and then was part of Eagle River Christian Academy’s fledgling program before heading to the Lower 48 to finish high school. He has given coach Sean Miller and the Wildcats valuable rotation minutes off the bench, often providing a spark with his dynamic style of play. He drilled a game-winning putback at the buzzer in Arizona’s win at Oregon State on Feb. 28.
“He’s probably our best offensive rebounder statistically. It’s really how he established a role a long, long time ago," Arizona coach Sean Miller said in an interview on Arizona’s YouTube channel.
Ruthy Hebard, Oregon
6-4 junior forward
16.1 points per game, 9.0 rebounds per game, 0.77 blocks per game
The Oregon Ducks are one of the best women’s basketball teams in the nation and Ruthy Hebard is a reason why. She began the season ranked No. 10 on ESPNW’s preseason list of the NCAA’s top players and is on the watch list for several of college basketball’s most prestigious awards. A starter since her freshman year, Hebard’s junior campaign has been nothing short of spectacular. She leads the Ducks in rebounds and field-goal percentage by a landslide.
Kamaka Hepa, Texas
6-9 freshman forward
2.0 points per game, 1.7 rebounds per game, 0.3 assists per game
Under coach Shaka Smart, Hepa has been fighting for rotation minutes this year. He got his first start Feb. 28 against Baylor and tallied 11 points, four rebounds, one assist and two blocks in 39 minutes of action.
Matt Hobbs, Hartford
6-4 sophomore guard/forward
Hobbs is redshirting this season after starting 12 games last season for the University of New England. He led New England in offensive rebounds while contributing three-pointers and assists as well.
Brandon Huffman, North Carolina
6-10 sophomore forward/center
1.2 points per game, 0.8 rebounds per game, 60% field goal percentage
On a loaded, nationally ranked Tar Heel team, Huffman has only seen an average of 2.6 minutes per game this season. However, Huffman continues to be loved by the Tar Heel fanbase, going viral on social media on a few occasions for being the most fun guy in the locker room.
Dane Kuiper, New Mexico
6-7 senior guard/forward
5.7 points per game, 2.2 rebounds per game, 1.7 assists per game, 1 steal per game
The 6-7 wing has been a starter since his sophomore season and seen big minutes this season. Kuiper has provided dependable outside shooting and perimeter defense for the Lobos all season.
A highlight of Kuiper’s season came on Senior Night last week. He sealed the Lobos’ 73-72 win over Boise State with a steal in the waning seconds of the game.
Bentiu Panoam, North Dakota
6-2 sophomore guard
3.6 points per game, 1.3 rebounds per game, 0.9 assists per game
The athletic Panoam has provided the Fighting Hawks with valuable rotation minutes all season and even started a handful of games. Panoam’s season-best performance this year was an 18-point outing against Minnesota Morris.
He also won the dunk contest at North Dakota’s basketball FanFest in October.
Theyoung Puoy, North Carolina Central
6-0 junior forward
1.7 points per game, 0.3 rebounds per game, 1 assist per game
A season-ending injury halted Puoy’s first season in Division I after three games. At Western Arizona College she averaged eight points and nearly three rebounds, and NCCU described her as “a tall, quick player that can score either from the post or the perimeter” in a preseason press release.
Kwintin Williams, Connecticut
6-7 senior forward
1 point per game, 1.6 rebounds per game, 1 assist per game
Williams, who has been suspended indefinitely, got limited minutes in seven games this season. The high-flying Williams has nonetheless turned into a social-media sensation with his viral dunk videos.