Connecting You With AK Athletes Outside the 907

The Alaska Sports Blog is sponsored by the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame and provides daily updates on local athletes outside the state. The blog was created in 2009 to fill a void of media coverage once Alaskans left the 907 area code. Former Anchorage Daily News sports editor and Alaska Press Club award winner Van Williams has been with the blog since the beginning and written more than 3,000 stories on over 500 Alaska athletes.

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June 23, 2017

Tevita Fehoko football

Tevita Fehoko

His football skills got the attention of coaches at Kansas State University, but it was how Tevita Fehoko of Anchorage performed in the classroom that landed him a scholarship offer.

Committing to academic achievement made all the difference for the 6-foot-3, 320-pound defensive lineman out of City College of San Francisco.

Fehoko, of West High fame, signed with Kansas State of the power five Big 12 Conference and will have two years of eligibility.

“I can’t wait to get started,” he told me. “One of the Kansas State coaches warned me how hard they work and that the experience I’m about to come in to will be different, but I’m ready for it.”

That’s because he worked harder for this opportunity than anything else in his life. Forced to really apply himself in school, Fehoko responded with resolve and delivered an honor-roll performance.

“Basically, knowing that you are borderline and if you don’t do it you won’t get your D1 scholarship opportunity. That basically kicked in,” he said. “In high school, I was in the same situation and I told myself I wasn’t going to do it again.”

Message received.

Fehoko changed his study habits, intensified his focus and asserted his will on the books like he does with blockers on the football field.

“I used up all the resources. I stayed late at the library, used the computers at the student center,” he said. “On weekends, I would review stuff and touch up on a few things.”

The extra work paid huge dividends has he finished the semester with a 3.3 grade-point average to raise his cumulative GPA to 2.8.

“That’s, like, my highest GPA ever,” he said. “It was crazy.”

Fehoko was rewarded with a chance to play in the Big 12. He picked K-State over Middle Tennessee, Colorado State and Hawaii.

The defensive lineman is beast at the line of scrimmage, where he gets off blocks with terrific technique and swallows up ballcarriers with pure power.

In 17 career games at City College of San Francisco, he collected 32 tackles, two sacks and blocked field goal. He could make an immediate impact on run defense.

“They want me to come there and play right away and compete,” Fehoko said. “It feels great. This process was long, but it worked out in the end. I just need to keep with it and stay focused.”

June 22, 2017

Caleb Holley football

Caleb Holley

Saskatchewan Roughriders wide receiver Caleb Holley of Anchorage hauled in a catch on 5-of-6 pass attempts in the game of the of the season in the Canadian Football League.

In the 17-16 loss to the Montreal Alouettes the 6-foot-4, 200-pounder finished with 55 yards, helping him eclipse the 700-yard receiving mark in 12 career games.

Holley, of East High fame, is the first Alaskan to play in the CFL in 20 years.

He joined the team last season and made an immediate impact with 56-655-2 totals in 11 games.

In this year’s season opener, the wideout hauled in the first four passes that came his way, highlighted by a 23-yard play.

The only ball he didn’t catch was intercepted, but he did get the tackle.

June 21, 2017

Robert Haan wrestling

Robert Haan

Colony’s Robert Haan collected 145 career wrestling wins in high school. Then he lost his final match as a senior, a defeat that left him devastated and dejected.

For the first time in his life, he no longer wanted to wrestle.

“For a long time, it was something I wanted to do; then for a while I kind of felt like it was something I didn’t want to do,” he told me. “But then I really thought about it. I’ve been away from wrestling for a few months, and it made me realize I do miss it a little bit already and I don’t want to have that regret when I get older.”

Adversity doesn’t intimidate this 18-year-old, a characteristic that will serve him well at the United States Coast Guard Academy, where Haan will wrestle and study civil engineering.

“I’ve got to try wrestling in college,” he said. “If I quit now, I won’t know what I’ll be able to accomplishment.”

He accomplished a lot with the Colony Knights as one of the most successful wrestlers in school history. He compiled 145-21 career record with four top-3 state showings and one state championship. He helped the Knights win Class 4A titles in two of his final three years.

As a senior, the 195-pounder carried an undefeated record into the title match when he suffered a dramatic 4-3 loss to North Pole’s Bradley Antesberger at the buzzer. Bradley trailed 3-2 before he took Haan down to the mat right before the final whistle blew.

“It was a bad tournament for me,” he said. “It’s all good.”

Haan can shrug off the loss today, but it took time. And even though he thought about quitting, he’s never been a quitter and wasn’t about to start now.

“I was raised in a really good family where I had a lot of support and that allowed me to be brave enough to work hard and not be scared of failure,” Haan told me. “If you’re scared to fail then I guess you can never really succeed.”

It’s no wonder the terrific teen has been recognized for superior academic achievement and leadership potential by the United States Coast Guard Academy, the smallest of our nation’s five military service academies.

“Their mission statement seems like they’re more about helping people in need than fighting and protecting our country,” he said. “All of military branches are super respectable and they are protecting our country, but I just felt like serving in the Coast Guard would fit me the best.”

Admission to the Coast Guard Academy is highly competitive and fewer than 400 appointments are offered annually from a pool of over 2,200 applicants. Cadets receive a full tuition scholarship and monthly stipend for a five-year service commitment to the Coast Guard upon graduation.

Haan signed his letter of intent in May and will be sworn-in as a member of the Class of 2021 in New London, Connecticut, on June 26.

June 19, 2017

Ariel Tweto

Ariel Tweto

Unalakleet’s Ariel Tweto grew up around airplanes so it figures she’s a pilot.

But air racing?

The 29-year-old is about to embark on a new flight plan in life when she participates for the first time in the prestigious Air Race Classic, the oldest airplane race of its kind in the United States.

The four-day cross-country race is for female pilots only and begins Tuesday in Frederick, Maryland, where 52 teams will depart on a 2,648-mile journey to the finish in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Many things drew Tweto to the Air Race Classic.

“The adventure and wanting to get out of my comfort zone and try something new and challenging was what drew me to it,” she told me. “Also, I love the fact that it’s promoting aviation and it’s all tough, adventurous, wild, determined and somewhat crazy ladies.”

Tweto, of East High fame, is currently working as an actress, writer and producer in Los Angeles, California, where she has made several TV appearances since 2011.

She’s best known for her family’s reality series ‘Flying Wild Alaska’ on the Discovery Channel that was based out of her hometown and centered on her family’s flying business.

It was on those episodes that we watched Tweto learn to become a pilot.

Now she’s going to co-pilot a plane in a race with roots to aviation icon Amelia Earhart, who participated in the 1929 when it was called the Women’s Air Derby.

Teams will face unfamiliar terrain and challenging weather as they put their aeronautical ability to the test. At each stop along the way teams will execute a high-speed flyby across a timing line as they race against the clock.

Each race plane carries a team of two or three women. Tweto will co-pilot a Mooney aircraft with veteran pilot Mary Wunder of Pennsylvania.

“We are team Popping Bubbles,” Tweto said. “Hopefully it’ll bring some more attention to my nonprofit and to the suicide epidemic that is happening in the north.”

Popping Bubbles supports communities from within to create programs and networks that foster the unique needs and wants of individuals. They run motivational speaking tours, create and oversee community support groups, and build extracurricular opportunities.

“Our mission is to pop the social and physical barriers that prevent people from living happy and successful lives,” was a quote from www.poppingbubbles.org.

“This is about bringing more attention to aviation and inspiring the youth to get interested in flying,” Tweto said.

She’s already planning to do the Air Race Classic again next year.

“I grew up in a family full of pilots so maybe I’ll drag the whole family into it,” Tweto said.

June 18, 2017

Adam Klie basketball

Adam Klie

Anchorage’s Adam Klie wrapped up his time at the University of California San Diego in grand fashion.

This month saw the men’s basketball standout earn his degree in Bioengineering as well as earn the California Collegiate Athletic Association Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year award.

This past season saw the 6-foot-4 guard collect a slew of athletic honors, including CCAA Player of the Year, All-West Region, CCAA Tournament MVP and NCAA D2 West Regional all-tournament.

Klie, of Service High fame, averaged 15.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 4.7 assists this season, all team-bests. He became just the second Triton to record 1,000 career points and 500 career rebounds during UC San Diego’s D2 era.

Klie led UCSD to its finest season in program history as the team set high marks for wins (27) and CCAA victories (17). The Tritons won their first-ever conference regular season title and second CCAA Tournament crown. They advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 for the second consecutive year.

Off the court, he carried a 4.0 GPA and was honored as the College Sports Information Directors of America Academic All-America of the Year. He also received a NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship.

June 17, 2017

Scooter Bynum baseball

Scooter Bynum

Scooter Bynum of Fairbanks made his first home run with the Bismarck Larks really count.

The first-year outfielder smashed a grand slam to highlight a 7-4 win over the Willmar Stingers in the Northwoods League.

The Northern Illinois University standout has hit safely in eight of 10 games.

Bynum, of Monroe Catholic High fame, leads the team with 10 RBIs in just 40 at-bats in the wood-bat league.

June 16, 2017

Chad Nading baseball

Chad Nading

Anchorage’s Chad Nading finished the game for the San Antonio Missions, although it wasn’t a save opportunity.

The 29-year-old right-hander pitched the ninth inning of a 4-2 loss to the Frisco RoughRiders in Double-A baseball action in the Texas League.

Nading, of East High fame, was his team’s closer and was 5-for-5 in save opportunities before an oblique injury forced him to the disabled list for nearly a month.

The 6-foot-5 flamethrower has a tidy 1.53 ERA in 15 games. Batters are hitting just .235 off him.

He has struck out 21 batters over 17.2 innings.

He has yielded only three runs, one each in three of his 15 appearances.

June 15, 2017

Bubacar Touray soccer

Bubacar Touray

Tacoma Community College was the only school to offer a scholarship to Anchorage high school soccer standout Bubacar Touray.

He’ll remember that each time he takes the field next season, using that feeling as motivation to punish all the teams that didn’t think he was good enough to play college soccer.

“I know what I can do,” Touray told me. “I’ll still keep believing and working harder so that I can achieve my goals.”

The West High senior won Gatorade Alaska Player of the Year honors after carving up the competition in 2017 for 25 goals and 15 assists in 17 games. He racked up 19 goals and nine assists as a junior.

“I am so grateful to be selected the best in the state because I know without God and my hard work, I wouldn’t have gotten that far,” Touray said. “But I’m still learning. I want to be a pro one day.”

The 18-year-old forward is a straight scorer, a dangerous one-on-one playmaker with lightning-fast feet.

“No one can stop me on 1v1 because I’m very quick at dribbling,” Touray said. “I have so many moves, that’s why it’s very hard for a defender to stop me; because I do different moves over and over.

“The only thing you can do is foul me or get lucky if I miss the chance.”

His favorite player is Brazilian Robinho, who is known for his ball control, attacking instinct and dribbling. Touray tries to emulate his idol’s fearless style of play.

“I score a lot but I also have the skills to pass the ball because I am a team player and I know how to catch my run and get the ball before the defender,” he said. “I calculate a lot in the box before I even get the ball, so I know what to do.”

June 14, 2017

Jonny Homza baseball

Jonny Homza

Some MLB teams saw Anchorage high school baseball star Jonny Homza as a third baseman at the professional level, but the San Diego Padres saw the next Benito Santiago.

The comparisons to the former Padres catcher from the 1990s are ripe: 6-foot and 180 pounds; strong and sinewy; rocket right arm and reliable right-handed bat.

San Diego selected the 18-year-old in the fifth round of yesterday’s MLB draft – the second-highest draft pick from Alaska and just the state’s third non-pitcher in the top 20.

Nobody is saying Homza will be an MLB All-Star like Santiago, but the tools are there and the amateur draft is about projecting where players will be down the road, not who they are today.

“It is a new position, but I am excited about it,” he told me. “If that’s what they want me to do then I’ll do it and try to do it the best I can. I am excited about it.”

Homza fielded both third base and catcher positions during a pre-draft workout with the Padres, so the move didn’t come out of left field.

“I knew they were pretty interested. I showed pretty well at the workout,” he said.

Tony Wylie of the Alaska Baseball Academy has coached Homza for the last several years and used his connections as a MLB scout in the Lower 48 to get Homza seen by pro scouts, helping him receive national notoriety.

“I can see why the Padres would want to look at him at catcher because he’s got a lot of flexibility, good hands and he’s gonna hit no matter where you put him,” Wylie told me.

Homza has added almost 10 pounds of muscle over the last year and isn’t as wiry as he used to be. He almost weighs 190 pounds now.

“He’s really gotten stout and thick. He’s a lot stronger,” Wylie said.

Homza’s A-plus arm makes him an attractive weapon behind the plate.

At last year’s MLB Area Code Games, a prestigious showcase for top prep prospects, Wylie said Homza had the best arm among any of the infielders he saw play that week and estimated his throws from third to first were 90-plus mph.

“The ball explodes out of his hand,” Wylie said. “He was in really good shape, his arm was in really good shape and we’re watching the best 200 kids in the nation, and I know I’m a little biased, but I didn’t see any arms in all of those games like his.”

Evidently, the Padres liked what they saw too.

Homza likes the idea of playing professional baseball and plans to sign, forgoing his scholarship offer from the University of Hawaii. He has hired an agent and will leave this weekend to meet team officials in Arizona, where he will take a physical.

“After that I’ll sign the contract and start playing the next day,” Homza said.

His professional career will start in rookie ball.

“I’m really excited to get down there and start playing,” Homza said. “I’m really excited to represent Alaska. I know I’m not the first one to do it. Alaska baseball kind of gets a bad reputation, but it’s really not that bad. There’s just not as many of us up here. I’m excited to represent Alaska. I’ll try the best I can.”

June 13, 2017

Jonny Homza baseball

Jonny Homza

The first time Alaska Baseball Academy manager Tony Wylie took South High star Jonny Homza of Anchorage to spring training in Arizona nobody believed Homza was from Alaska.

As a 16-year-old, Homza handled himself well against minor-league professional pitchers and showed off an A-plus arm from third base.

The scouts were incredulous.

“They kept saying, ‘There is no blanking way this kid is from Alaska,’” Wylie told me. “At that point, he was known.”

Today, he was drafted.

Homza, a versatile infielder, catcher and pitcher, was selected by the San Diego Padres in the fifth round of today’s Day 2 of the MLB draft.

On his 18th birthday, no less.

The Padres took Homza with the 138th pick – the second-highest selection by a player from Alaska. He’s only the third non-pitcher from here to be selected in the top 20.

“Jonny Homza is the best all-around player and most competitive player I have ever coached,” South coach Taylor Nerland told me. “He loves the game and wants to get better at it.”

Homza is a two-time Gatorade Alaska Player of the Year and led South to back-to-back appearances in the state championship game, pitching a complete-game win to help the Wolverines win as a junior.

This year the senior slugger batted .549 with 31 runs and 19 RBIs in 17 games. He had 12 extra-base hits, including his only home run in the state semifinals. As a pitcher he was 3-0 with a 0.91 ERA in 23 innings.

But he didn’t get drafted because of what he did in Alaska. And he won’t pitch at the next level. He’s expected to begin his professional career at third base but could move to catcher at some point.

Either way, they are getting the total package in the 6-foot-1, 180-pounder.

“His swing is pretty, his footwork is outstanding,” Wylie said. “You don’t normally get that polish with Alaska players.”

Homza started the summer with the Anchorage Bucs and wanted to play tonight after getting drafted, but general manager Shawn Maltby didn’t want to take any chances.

In the short amount of time Maltby saw Homza practice and play he liked what he saw.

“We wouldn’t have taken a risk on a high school senior if I didn’t think he could compete,” the longtime Alaska Baseball League GM said. “He’s athletic, plays multiple positions, hits everything. He’s got a great baseball IQ.”

Homza delivered a pinch-hit double for the Bucs the other night. He also brings a professional approach to the plate, making the pitcher work for every inch.

“Jonny goes up there the other day and fouls off five or six balls off in a row,” Matlby said. “Some guys get frustrated, but that’s a great at-bat. He understands that. Normally a kid won’t get it or is too selfish to get it.”

Nerland said Homza was always different – from the way he played baseball to his workout habits to his disciplined diet. Whatever he does, he’s it in to win it.

“Even when he hits the ball really hard at somebody and gets out, he thinks he could have hit it a little harder and wants that next at-bat to prove he can do it,” Nerland said. “Whatever the competition, he’s going to easily win it because he wants it that bad.”

Top 10 MLB Draft picks from Alaska
2000 SP Brian Montalbo Anchorage 4th Atlanta Braves
2017 INF Jonny Homza Anchorage 5th San Diego Padres
2009 SP Matt Way Sitka 5th Philadelphia Phillies
2012 SP Dylan Baker Juneau 5th Cleveland Indians
1994 INF Trajan Landgon Anchorage 6th San Diego Padres
2001 RP Chad Bentz Juneau 7th Montreal Expos

June 12, 2017

Jalil Abdul-Bassit basketball

Jalil Abdul-Bassit

Anchorage’s Jalil Abdul-Bassit made it rain down under.

The 6-foot-4 guard nailed a half dozen 3-pointers en route to pumping in a career-high 41 points for Toowoomba in a 105-90 loss to Townsville in Australia’s QBL.

He finished 13-for-28 from the floor and added 9-of-13 free throws to tally his game-high total.

Abdul-Bassit, of East High fame, came into the game ranked second in the QBL at 24 points a game.

He added four rebounds, four assists and two steals in a do-everything performance.

June 11, 2017

Morgan Hooe volleyball

Morgan Hooe

After a historic final volleyball season UAA, Morgan Hooe of Anchorage got a much-deserved trip to Brazil for some sun, sand and surf.

It was a business trip, but don’t kid yourself she kicked back too.

“Much, much-needed RnR,” she told me.

Hooe, a two-time NCAA All-American at setter, was among 15 players in Brazil with the USA D2 Volleyball Tour that saw the Americans square off against club and professional teams from Sao Paulo, Jundiai and Rio de Janeiro.

“We played four games; won two, lost two. The competition was great. So tough, so fun,” she said. “Played a girl who was 6-foot-8 … got blown up in the chest, but it was up!”

Hooe, of South High fame, is UAA’s all-time assists leader with 3,920 and is one of only two Seawolves in school history to play in four consecutive NCAA Tournaments. Last year as a senior she was named GNAC and West Region player of the year.

The Alaska Sports Hall of Fame honored her with its female “Pride of Alaska” Directors’ Award during its 2017 induction ceremony in March.

In Brazil – where she shared the court with former UAA teammate Erin Braun – she split time with another setter and everybody got equal playing time.

“I think I played pretty well,” Hooe said. “Both setters ran a 5-1 and the setter that wasn’t setting that game just played defense. It was a nice switch up. We also ran a 6-2 as well, which requires two setters and two right sides.”

The experience solidified her desire of becoming a professional volleyball player.

Hooe is currently talking with teams in the Czech Republic and Germany that are looking for an American setter. She might sign an agent, so you know it’s serious.

If that doesn’t work out, she has a backup plan to keep her dream on track.

“I’ll be in Slovenia, in August for a five-team pro tryout. If I make a team, I stay for at least 8 months,” Hooe said.

June 10, 2017

Allie Ostrander steeplechase

Allie Ostrander

Kenai’s Allie Ostrander showed incredible durability, determination and downright guts on the final day of the NCAA Track & Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon.

The Boise State University redshirt freshman ran to a pair of NCAA All-American finishes within an hour and a half, winning the 3,000-meter steeplechase and coming back to grind out a fourth-place finish in the 5,000.

Her victory in the steeplechase will go down as one of the most dominating performances by an Alaskan on the national stage.

Televised by ESPN, it was must-see TV.

Ostrander won with a time of 9:41.31 – chopping nine seconds off her PR set in qualifying two days earlier and beating second-place finisher Madison Boreman of Colorado by five seconds.

In the fall of 2015, Ostrander finished second at the NCAA Cross Country Championships. There would be no bridesmaid finish this time.

“Yesterday I was watching the meet and I kept seeing people become national champions and I was just staring at the screen in awe, wondering and imagining what that felt like,” Ostrander told ESPN after the race.

“And now I can and there’s no words to describe it. You just have to experience it.”

Ostrander, of Kenai High fame, is a newcomer to the steeplechase; although she’s reminded people that she did the hurdles in middle school. This was just her fourth race in the steeple.

Unlike qualifying when she sat back, she jumped out to the lead in the finals and stayed there during the duration of the race at historic Hayward Field.

With two laps left, it came down to her and Elinor Purrier of New Hampshire. Purrier came into the meet armed with a 6-0 record in the steeplechase and a 4:29 mile time. She’s a closer.

They ran shoulder-to-shoulder on the final lap. Purrier moved into the lead shortly after the bell lap, but Ostrander quickly answered and then started to pull away … and away, and away.

Ostrander stretched her lead so far that at one point you couldn’t see any other runners on the TV.

In the post-race interview with ESPN, she was asked how she’d prepare for the 5,000 that was to take place about an hour and a half later.

“Go for a little job; try to keep the adrenaline going. Give my parents a hug,” Ostrander said.

In the 5,000, Missouri’s Karissa Schweizer ran away with the title in 15:38.93 to cap a NCAA sweep for indoor and outdoor national titles.

Ostrander – the Mountain West Conference 10,000 champion – displayed grit and the heart of champion by running with the lead pack virtually the whole way before understandably fading at the end and placing fourth in 15:46.18. It didn’t matter. Nobody was catching Schweizer on this day.

Still, Ostrander hit the All-American daily double in epic fashion and showed the world why she is considered one of the true rising stars in running.

June 9, 2017

Scooter Bynum baseball

Scooter Bynum

After closing the college season on a tear, Scooter Bynum of Fairbanks will look to keep it going with the Bismarck Larks of the Northwoods League.

He just joined his new team in the wood bat league, and he brought his beautiful swing with him from Northern Illinois University.

The 21-year-old lined a single to lead off the game and later scored to kickstart Bismarck’s 8-6 win over the Eau Claire Express in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

Bynum, of Monroe Catholic High fame, also added a sacrifice fly in just his second game with the Larks.

The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder hit .300 in 54 games with Northern Illinois, where he raised his batting average 50 points over the final month of the season.

“I finished the season with the most confidence I’ve ever had in the game of baseball,” Bynum told me.

In 2014, Bynum was drafted in the 18th round by the MLB’s Cincinnati Reds – just the second non-pitcher from Alaska picked in the first 20 rounds.

June 8, 2017

Allie Ostrander track and field

Allie Ostrander

At 5-foot-1, Boise State runner Allie Ostrander of Kenai was the smallest runner in tonight’s second heat of the women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase at the NCAA Track & Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon.

There were moments during the race televised on ESPN when you couldn’t even see the diminutive dynamo in the middle of the pack.

By the end, though, Ostrander stood tall.

The redshirt freshman punched her ticket to the NCAA final after posting the third-fastest qualifying time of 9:50.55, which was her PR by five seconds.

Ostrander, of Kenai High fame, actually eased up at the finish line, obviously satisfied with her goal of qualifying.

Conserving energy is key as she has qualified for NCAAs in two events and on Saturday will run the steeplechase final about 90 minutes before she competes in the 5,000.

This was just Ostrander’s third-ever appearance in the steeplechase, and she’s already a major contender for a national championship.

In the fall of 2015, don’t forget, Ostrander finished second at the NCAA Cross Country Championships, so she’s already proven ready for the big stage.

She’s also a medal contender in the 5,000.

Last summer, she was the only collegiate runner to advance to the 5,000 finals at the Olympic Trials on the very same Hayward Field she will race on Saturday.

June 7, 2017

Kiah Charlie basketball

Kiah Charlie

The catalyst for the Scammon Bay girls basketball team’s perfect season, Kiah Charlie seemed to be a woman among girls.

Next season she’ll test herself against woman at the college level.

The 5-foot-4 Alaska Class 1A player of the year has signed with Skagit Valley College of Mt. Vernon, Washington.

Charlie is a do-everything playmaker that scored 22 points and added nine steals and six assists in a 71-35 win over Selawik in the 1A state championship game to wrap up Scammon Bay’s 28-0 season.

She averaged better than 30 points a game, with a career high of 45.

At the AABC Alaska Senior All-Star Game, Charlie pumped in 27 points in front of a group of coaches from the Northwest Athletic Conference.

Skagit Valley coaches took an interest in the diminutive dynamo.

“They came and watched me play during the all-star game. I didn’t know they were going to be there until after my game. The assistant coach came and talked to me,” she told me.

It’s rare for a college basketball player to come from Scammon Bay, a Western Alaska coastal village of 500 people.

But she’s hoping to start a tradition.

“A lot of people are telling me they are proud of me. People from other villages are telling me they look up to me and how they want to better their life,” she said. “It makes me feel happy to hear that.”

June 6, 2017

Jalil Abdul-Bassit basketball

Jalil Abdul-Bassit

When Anchorage’s Jalil Abdul-Bassit signed with Toowoomba of the Queensland Basketball League in Australia, the team’s coach said he couldn’t remember a time when the franchise signed a player of his caliber.

Stout expectations, but the 6-foot-4 Alaskan has delivered the goods.

Abdul-Bassit, of East High fame, ranks second in the QBL in scoring at 24 points per game through the first five games.

Dude definitely has the green light, attempting 22 shots per game.

Abdul-Bassit is shooting .443 on 2-pointers, .333 on 3-pointers and .727 on free throws.

The University of Oregon product is adding 3.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game for a 1-4 Toowoomba team.

June 5, 2017

Aaron Fletcher running

Aaron Fletcher

After a star-studded college running career at Brigham Young University in Utah, Aaron Fletcher of Anchorage was looking for something different.

The cross country and track star had dabbled in obstacle-course racing before turning back to his roots.

“Growing up as a runner/skier in Alaska you can’t escape trail running, so I had some experience and decided that I should try it out for real,” he told me. “Trail running races don’t really come shorter than a marathon, and I have been wanting to do marathons for a few months anyway so naturally I went out to try and find a trail marathon.”

It didn’t take him long to find his way to the winner’s circle.

Fletcher, of South High fame, won the Timp Trail Marathon in Utah, crossing in 3 hours, 7 minutes to break the course record by 23 minutes at the eight-year race that features 5,800 feet of climbing.

“I really wanted to get back to the basics of why I run – feeling healthy and empowered and strong, enjoying the peace and quiet in nature, and exploring the mountains,” Fletcher said. “It also turns out that I am a pretty good natural climber and technical descender on trails, so that was nice.

“I also wanted to do a race that didn’t offer prize money to take that added pressure off my back for once – I just wanted to go have fun. The Timp Trail Marathon was basically the ideal event for satisfying all those requirements, so I went for it and had a blast.”

At BYU, Fletcher was a well-decorated runner that enjoyed a huge senior season in which he won the West Coast Conference cross country championship and was an NCAA All-American in the steeplechase.

“Last summer I made the NCAA D1 finals in the steeplechase and then ended up missing the Olympic Trials by less than a second,” he said. “I gained loads of confidence that I could compete at the highest level from that, but after putting in all the work and just coming short of that goal I decided to try something new and refreshing for a while.”

He signed up for the popular Spartan obstacle-course race in Utah and qualified for Spartan Worlds.

“I trained hard and was in second place about halfway through the race, but ended up fading to 17th,” Fletcher said. “I then raced the Spartan Team championships with Matt Novakovich [of Anchorage] and a couple others and we ended up winning that event.”

Next up for Fletcher is the St. George Marathon in Utah. He will start with his father and brother, but he won’t finish with them.

After that, he will look for more ultramarathons.

“I love the trails and mountains, and I think my future is bright in that arena,” he said.

June 4, 2017

Chad Nading baseball

Chad Nading

After missing a month of action due to an oblique injury, Chad Nading of Anchorage made a triumphet return for the San Antonio Missions in the Double-A Texas League.

The relief pitcher entered the game in the seventh inning and picked up a hold in a 6-1 win over Springfield.

Nading, of East High fame, pitched a scoreless frame to lower his season ERA to 1.17 in 12 appearances.

The 6-foot-5, 225-pound right-hander has struck out 20 batters in just 15.1 innings.

Before he got injured, Nading had been the team’s closer and was 5-for-5 in save opportunities.

The Missions are part of the San Diego Padres organization. This spring, Nading pitched in a MLB preseason game for the Padres to get his first taste of the Bigs.

June 2, 2017

Ryan Perdue football

Ryan Perdue

Ryan Perdue of Fairbanks helped the Mendocino College football team enjoy one of its best seasons in the last decade, and his reward was an opportunity at a NCAA D1 school.

The speedy wide receiver posted on Twitter that he is headed to Mississippi Valley State of the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

“Right when I touched down everybody there made it feel like home,” he wrote on social media.

Perdue, of Lathrop High fame, played two seasons at Mendocino College, a member of the California Community College Athletic Association.

In 16 games, the 6-foot-3 wideout collected 34 receptions, 599 yards and seven touchdowns. He saw a 203-yard improvement from his freshman season to his sophomore season.

Perdue is headed to a Mississippi Valley State squad in need of playmakers.

“Just gotta thank God for this opportunity and the ability he gave me,” he wrote on Twitter. “Thankful for all the coaches I’ve had in my life, especially all of my teammates, friends who would throw me passes whenever I needed it, my family and everybody I interacted with. I needed every single one of ya’ll.”

May 31, 2017

Jordan Smelker hockey

Jordan Smelker

Anchorage’s Jordan Smelker is driven to win championships, which is why she’s headed back to the Boston Pride.

After helping Boston win the National Women’s Hockey League’s inaugural Isobel Cup in 2016 and reaching the Finals again this year, the 24-year-old forward signed a contract to come back for a third season.

“I love this team and this league, but the biggest motivator in coming back for a third season is getting the Isobel Cup back to Boston,” she told the NWHL website.

Smelker, of Service High fame, has recorded 12-17—29 totals in 39 career games with the Pride.

She’s made the Finals in three consecutive seasons in two leagues.

In 2015, she won the Clarkson’s Cup with the Boston Blades in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. That same year she struck gold with Team USA at the Four Nations Cup.

May 29, 2017

Jalil Abdul-Bassit basketball

Jalil Abdul-Bassit

His jumper wasn’t wet, so Jalil Abdul-Bassit of Anchorage turned his game into overdrive.

The 6-foot-4 guard used 10-of-11 free-throw shooting to propel him to a 26-point effort for Toowoomba in a 104-79 loss in Australia’s QBL.

Abdul-Bassit, of East High fame, finished 8-for-21 from the field, including an uncharacteristically offnight from 3-point land [2/8].

The former University of Oregon standout attempted more field goals and free throws than any player on the court.

It’s not by chance.

Toowoomba brought him down under to score and that’s what he’s doing, leading the team with a 23.3-scoring average in the first four games.

Thing is, too, Abdul-Bassit hasn’t even caught fire. He was one of the most accurate 3-point shooters in the Pac-12 but now he’s hovering around 36 percent.

Doron Perkins Basketball

Doron Perkins

Doron Perkins of Anchorage produced a strong all-around game for Naft Abadan but it wasn’t enough to prevent a season-ending defeat.

Regular-season champion Petrochimi beat Naft Abadan 87-73 in Game 3 to complete the sweep in the Iranian basketball Superleague finals.

Perkins, of Bartlett High fame, contributed 12 points, seven assists, four rebounds and three steals as a starting guard.

The 34-year-old was named to the second team all-conference team in his first season with the team.

The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 12.3 points on 53 percent shooting in 29 games.

He added 5.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.1 steals per game.

May 28, 2017

Allie Ostrander track and field

Allie Ostrander

When Kenai’s Allie Ostrander competes at next month’s NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, she won’t only be representing her hometown but rather the entire state.

The Boise State University redshirt freshman is believed to be the only D1 athlete from Alaska to qualify for nationals.

Ostrander, of Kenai High fame, punched her ticket to Eugene, Oregon, in two events after her performance in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and 5,000 run at the West Regions in Austin, Texas.

In the steeplechase, Ostrander clocked a 10:00.02 in the first heat for the fastest overall time on the day. It’ll be the fifth consecutive year that a Bronco steepler on the women’s side has competed at nationals.

In the 5,000, cruised to a second-place showing in 16:25.76.

An All-American in cross country, Ostrander spent the first two-thirds of the race floating among the lead pack and conserving energy.

With four laps to go, the pack started to separate and Ostrander was right there. She shadowed the race winner down the stretch, content with nabbing a qualifying berth with no medals at stake.

May 26, 2017

Devonaire Doutrive basketball

Devonaire Doutrive

He might come off the bench for the EYBL’s U17 Cal Supreme Elite, but Devonaire Doutrive of Anchorage has managed to stay relevant.

The 6-foot-5 guard is averaging 9.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists in 12 games this spring against some of the nation’s premier high school players.

“I’ve never played with so much talent,” he told D1circuit.com. “I’m used to being the best player on the team.”

Doutrive, of West High fame, is averaging 22 minutes per game on a squad featuring two sons of former NBA players in 7-foot-2 Bol Bol and 6-foot-9 Shareef O’Neal.

Doutrive was part of West’s 2015 Alaska Class 4A state championship before moving to California. He now attends Birmingham High and helped the team reach the state semifinals this year as a starting guard.

He is one of the top Class of 2018 players on the West Coast, yet he hasn’t signed.

That doesn’t mean he’s gone unnoticed, though.

Doutrive has received scholarship offers from New Mexico State, UTEP, Arizona State, Loyola Marymount, Utah State and UC Santa Barbara.

To get more offers, he must improve self-perceived weaknesses on the court such as getting stronger and quicker, and working on his shooting form to get more lift on his jumper.

“I’m gonna keep working and see where it leads,” he said.

This weekend in Los Angeles, California, is the fourth and final EYBL session.