USC wins Pili sweepstakes, hoops star excited to play in Pac-12

October 23, 2018
Alissa Pili basketball

Alissa Pili

Anchorage’s Alissa Pili was always drawn to the Pac-12. She grew up watching the conference on TV and her older brother plays football at the University of Southern California.

So, naturally, the Dimond High basketball star wanted to play in the Pac-12.

Playing in a Power Five conference is a hoops dream for most Alaskans, but we learned early on that Pili performs at different level than most Alaskans.

As a freshman she was voted Cook Inlet Conference MVP. As a sophomore she was named Gatorade Alaska Player of the Year. As a junior she was selected MaxPreps Female High School Athlete of the Year and won her first state championship on the court.

Now a senior, the 6-foot power forward is nationally ranked at her position and poised to win all those awards again.

For a prep player who has done it all, only one question remained: Where would she play in college?

After getting offers from dozens of NCAA D1 schools and narrowing down her finalists to five, Pili picked USC over Arizona State, Pepperdine, Gonzaga and TCU.

“USC has everything I need to be successful on and off the court, and it’s such a great environment to be a part of,” Pili told me. “All the people I met were very welcoming and the girls made me feel a part of the team.”

She is a 4.0 student and picked schools that pushed academics as much as athletics.

“All the schools I had on my list were schools with amazing academics,” she said. “Every school had a great support system for athletes to do well in the classroom.”

She hit the trifecta with the Trojans – joining her brother Brandon on campus, fulfilling her dream of playing in the Pac-12 and living in Los Angeles.

“USC really felt like a second home to me and I could really picture myself being happy and living there even outside of basketball,” she said.

The Trojans won 20 games last season and were picked to finish seventh in the Pac-12 this season.

“The most exciting thing about playing in the Pac-12 is that it’s arguably the best conference for college sports, and it’s what you see on TV all the time,” Pili said. “Also, the fan base of schools in the Pac-12 is unbelievable.”

The powerful Pili should give the USC fans plenty to cheer about.

She is a bulldozer in the post, a double-double machine that chews up defenders. In the ASAA Class 4A state championship game she racked up 22 points and 20 rebounds to lead Dimond past two-time champion Wasilla.

Her strength and versatility will pay dividends at the next level, but she knows she won’t overpower opponents in the Pac-12 like she does in the CIC.

“I envision my game changing majorly in college,” Pili said. “It’s going to be much easier developing my game when I’m not doing three other sports and I can just focus on basketball. College basketball is a whole different ball game. I have no choice but the improve my game and I’m very excited for that challenge.”

Alaska has a history of producing Pac-12 players such as current Oregon all-league forward Ruthy Hebard of Fairbanks and past players like Arizona State’s Molly Tuter of Soldotna, Arizona’s Natalie Jones of Anchorage, Oregon State’s Talisa Rhea of Juneau and Stanford’s Azella Perryman of Anchorage.

“The success of Alaska players brings so much pride and joy to the people in Alaska,” Pili said. “I am very excited to be a part of that and represent the state of Alaska.”