UAA Athletics

Being a new dad made coming home easy for UAA's Connor Devine

Daniel Devine turned 1 on Wednesday but the grownups in his life are waiting until Sunday to celebrate the occasion.

Wednesday wasn't even remotely an option. Aunt Alysha was playing in the 2:30 p.m. game and Dad was playing in the 7 p.m. game at the GCI Great Alaska Shootout.

Seawolves fans can thank Daniel for the addition of a 6-foot-10 center to the UAA men's basketball team this season.

Connor Devine, a fifth-year senior and first-year father, transferred from Division I South Dakota State to UAA for his final season largely because the move brings him home to Alaska and a deep roster of babysitters.

"That wasn't originally the plan," Connor said. "Originally the plan was to do all five years at SDSU that started to change once I got married and once I had my son."

Connor, 22, and wife Kalli, 23, are both Wasilla High graduates. Their return to Alaska puts Daniel no more than an hour away from four grandparents, nine aunts and uncles (seven on Connor's side, including Alysha Devine, a senior forward on the UAA women's basketball team, and two on Kalli's) and six cousins (all on Kalli's side).

"The thought of coming home, that draw was there," Connor said. "The idea of having family to help. Obviously being close to grandparents, there was that."


And there was basketball, which is the other reason the Devines came back home.

[Great Alaska Shootout faces uncertain future as it turns 39]

At South Dakota State, Devine was a reserve forward who averaged 2.1 points and 1.9 rebounds in eight or nine minutes per game, with 55 blocks in 71 career games. He was a role player whose job was to provide defensive intensity.

"They could trust me to get stops, get rebounds, make hustle plays," he said. "One of the hardest parts of my role was the unknown of how much I'd be playing game to game. Some games I'd get a lot of playing time and others I didn't get much. That's a big part of why I came to UAA."

At UAA, Devine is a starter who was averaging 10.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks going into Wednesday's Shootout game against the University of Buffalo.

Through UAA's first six games he was shooting a team-high 60 percent from the field, hitting 27 of 45 attempts, with many of his points coming on hook shots.

Devine said coaches at South Dakota State helped him develop the shot to the point where it feels comfortable.

"It propelled me into my role at UAA," he said. "I'm definitely a lot more consistent. You put in a lot of work into something, practice it repetition after repetition, and you develop a confidence in your shot. It can be tougher scoring in there against those big guys than you think."

Devine was Alaska's Gatorade Player of the year as a senior in 2011-12, when he put up averages of 20.1 points, 14.6 rebound and eight blocks.

He redshirted his first season at South Dakota State and earned a bachelor's degree in business economics before leaving. He's working on a business finance degree at UAA.

He and Kalli, an ultrasound technician at Alaska Regional Hospital, started dating during high school. A 5-8 forward, Kalli Johannes played basketball with Alysha Devine and soon she started dating her friend's older brother.

They went to the prom on their first date — he was a sophomore, she was a junior — and have been together ever since.

They married in August 2014 and Kalli got pregnant about seven months later. Her due date was in late November — right in the middle of a 10-day road trip for the men's basketball team.

"I remember leaving for that road trip and looking at my wife and thinking, oh my gosh, this is going to get tough," Devine said. "I was hoping and praying I could get home in time."

The Jackrabbits beat Texas Christian in a Sunday game in Texas and were schedule to travel to Cancun the next morning for a Thanksgiving week tournament. Around 3 a.m., Connor got a call that Kalli was in labor.

"So I woke up one of my assistant coaches and we figured out a way to get me home," he said

Kalli gave birth to Daniel on Tuesday. While his teammates were playing hoops and soaking up sun in Cancun, Connor witnessed the birth of his son and spent a couple of days with his family before boarding a bus to rejoin the Jackrabbits in Kansas City, Missouri, for the final game of their road trip.


For the rest of the season, Kalli took on much of the work involved with a newborn so Connor could focus on school and basketball.

"She was the one getting up in the middle of the night to help me get a little extra rest," he said. "Having a baby definitely changes things. … She was ready to come home and have that family support."

That support is on display this week at the Alaska Airlines Center, where there are plenty of Devine and Johannes family members on hand to watch the games, including some who traveled from out-of-state.

Though they will share in Sunday's celebration for 1-year-old Daniel, Devine said most of them came for the basketball.

"The birthday is a plus," he said.

Beth Bragg

Beth Bragg wrote about sports and other topics for the ADN for more than 35 years, much of it as sports editor. She retired in October 2021. She's contributing coverage of Alaskans involved in the 2022 Winter Olympics.