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 3,500 stories on over 500 Alaska athletes.

Follow us on Twitter: @AKsportshall, Instagram: alaska_sports_hall, and Facebook.

Click here to read more about Van Williams and the Alaska Sports Blog.

January 16, 2018

Cathryn Papasodora Riflery

Cathryn Papasodora

Northway’s Cathryn Papasodora was on target for the third-ranked Kentucky rifle team in the first meet of 2018.

The junior shooter fired a career-high score in air rifle and her second-best smallbore score in a victory over Army and the Coast Guard in West Point, New York.

Papasodora, of Eagle River High fame, finished with the second highest aggregate score among the 28 men and women that competed in both disciplines.

She equaled the match high of 595 out of 600 in the air rifle and posted the third-highest smallbore score of 582.

Papasodora was a CRCA All-America as a sophomore and a CRCA Scholastic All-American as a freshman.

She has posted a 590 or better in four of the eight meets this season.

January 15, 2018

Kenny Hausinger hockey

Kenny Hausinger

UMass Lowell forward Kenny Hausinger of Anchorage buried two goals in the third period to put the finishing touches on a 4-0 win over Arizona State in Tempe, Arizona.

His first goal was unassisted and his second goal came on his fifth shot of the game. He also hit the pipe.

Hausinger, of Dimond High fame, leads UMass Lowell with nine goals and ranks second with nine assists and 18 points in 20 games.

His goal and point totals are the most among the eight Alaska skaters at the NCAA D1 level.

Last season he had 18 points in 38 games.

January 14, 2018

Alec Calloway basketball

Alec Calloway

Three-point specialist Alec Calloway of Juneau joined the 500-point club in just his second season at Walla Walla University.

The senior guard is averaging 8.9 points in 20 games for the NAIA school in Washington.

He enjoyed a big weekend against Evergreen State College when he pumped in 29 points in the two-game series, including a 17-point performance in the opener.

Calloway, of Juneau-Douglas High fame, canned 5-of-9 3-point shots for his best back-to-back effort of the season.

He has made 47 threes in 48 career games.

The 6-foot-5 shooter has also pulled his weight on the backboards as he leads Walla Walla with 6.1 rebounds per game.

January 13, 2018

Dajonee Hale basketball

Dajonee Hale

Nene Hale of Anchorage scored five points in the final seven seconds, including a 15-foot jumper at the buzzer, to give Central Methodist an 82-81 win over NAIA nationally ranked MidAmerican Nazarene.

With 7.1 seconds left and her team down one point, the All-American guard took the inbounds pass and drove the length of the court before splitting a pair of defenders at the free-throw line to sink the winning basket.

The senior southpaw scored both buckets in almost the exact same fashion – with Hale attacking the defense and putting herself in good position to score.

“After the first shot I had so much confidence and I was so hyped and in game mode, that second shot just felt so easy,” she told me.

Hale, of Houston High fame, finished with 30 points for the second consecutive game. Her season average is 28.9 in 10 games.

She went 13-for-13 from the free-throw line, including an old-fashioned three-point play with seven seconds left that gave Central Methodist an 80-79 lead.

The lead didn’t last long as No. 6 MidAmerican Nazarene immediately benefited from a foul that led to a pair of free throws an 80-81 advantage.

Hale wasn’t about to come away empty handed, though.

She took the ball coast-to-cast, weaving around defenders before taking the ball into traffic and sinking the winning jumper.

“The whole game I was getting a lot of contact but no calls, so during those last shots the contact didn’t even bother me at that point,” she said.

The win was the third straight for Central Methodist, which improved to 8-2 this season since the 1,500-point career scorer returned to the lineup.

“Yes, this is the best basketball I’ve been playing,” Hale said. “I missed the first eight games of the season and I can’t take no more games for granted. I’m just in attack mode every single game and it’s not going to stop.”

January 12, 2018

Mike Curran hockey

Mike Curran

Just days after joining the Aquinas College hockey team, Mike Curran of Anchorage scored the winning goal in his first game with the NAIA squad.

The freshman forward delivered the go-ahead score on a power-play goal in the third period to highlight a 3-1 victory over arch rival Calvin in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Curran, of West High fame, joined Aquinas for the second semester after recent stints with the Richmond Generals USPHL premier team and Dallas Stars U18 Tier 1 squad.

He wasted no time making a good impression with his new club.

With the game tied at 1-1, Curran netted the game winner for Aquinas in the team’s first game since the holiday break.

Steven Gustafson hockey

Steven Gustafson

Anchorage’s Steven Gustafson assisted on the winning goal and finished with two helpers in the game.

Gustafson, of West High fame, ranks second on the team with 16 points on six goals and 10 assists in 21 games.

He has scored a team-best five power-play goals.

January 11, 2018

Da’Zhon Wyche basketball

Da’Zhon Wyche

Anchorage’s Da’Zhon Wyche had no idea how much he loved basketball until it was taken away.

Ruled ineligible for the first semester at Laramie County Community College, the sophomore starter missed the first half of the season and his presence was missed by the Golden Eagles.

The team went 8-8 without last season’s leading scorer.

“Being out showed me a bigger picture,” Wyche told me. “That for any reason, basketball could be over for me at any time, so I have to set my life up now while I can.”

The former Alaska player of the year is back on the court for Laramie County and he’s playing like a man making up for lost time.

The 5-foot-8 guard has played three games and averaged 24.7 points and 7.0 assists to lead his team to a 2-1 record.

Wyche, of West High fame, has been especially effective from 3-point land, draining 17-of-31 shots for a staggering .548 percentage.

“It feels good to be back,” he said. “Appreciate it way more. Didn’t think that was possible, but I was proven wrong. Definitely lesson learned.”

January 10, 2018

Pete Basinger

The Fastest Known Time for the 1,570-mile Baja Divide mountain biking route has passed from one Anchorage native to another.

After 11 days, 11 hours and 20 minutes, Pete Basinger completed his epic ride on Jan. 4 in San Jose del Cabo on the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula. He started near the U.S. border in Tecate on Dec. 24.

Basinger, an Anchorage native now living in Durango, Colo., finished 1 hour and 42 minutes faster than Lael Wilcox of Anchorage rode in March, 2017.

“Prior to the ride, he had never seen the Baja Divide route and had never been to Mexico,” Nicholas Carman wrote on Facebook. Carman and Wilcox researched and developed the route in 2015-16.

According to the website www.bajadivide.com, the Baja Peninsula is a mountainous desert and 95 percent of the rugged Baja Divide route is unpaved, ranging from graded dirt roads to rough, sandy jeep tracks (and countless cactus thorns).

Basinger narrowly trailed Wilcox’s times through the first four checkpoints. He reached La Paz, the fifth checkpoint, slightly ahead of Wilcox on day 11 and held that advantage to the completion of his self-supported adventure.

Among his many ultra endurance riding feats, Basinger, 37, completed the Iditarod Trail Invitational every year from 2002-17. He has six wins and 14 finishes in the 350-mile ride from Knik to McGrath and twice rode 1,000 miles (winning once) from Knik to Nome. However, he is not registered for 2018.

“I hope you enjoyed this ride more than a classic bike push to McGrath,” Carman wrote. “Congrats, Pete, what a great ride!”

– By Matias Saari, Alaska Sports Blog Contributor

 

 

January 9, 2018

Jeremiah Bailey basketball

Jeremiah Bailey

The Pima Community College men’s basketball team was pretty good when Jeremiah Bailey of Fairbanks was coming off the bench.

But the JC team has been unbeatable with him as a starter.

The third-ranked Pima Aztecs are 9-0 since the freshman from Alaska was added to the starting lineup.

It’s no accident, either.

The 6-foot-6 forward ranks among the team leaders in points, rebounds and blocked shots as Pima has won 14 of 15 games to start the NJCAA season.

Bailey, of Monroe Catholic High fame, owns three double-doubles and averages 10.2 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.7 blocked shots per game.

His game highs this season are 19 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks.

Bailey leads Pima in rebounding average with a total of 119, including 45 on the offensive end. He also leads the Aztecs with 15 blocks.

January 8, 2018
Felila Manu hockey

Felila Manu

They are from different places in Alaska, but Madison Morey of Fairbanks and Felila Manu of Anchorage came together at Merrimack College.

They recently registered points in the same game for the first time this season in a 2-1 victory over Hockey East rival Connecticut in North Andover, Massachusetts.

Morey assisted on the first goal and Manu assisted on the go-ahead goal.

The big game by the M&Ms snapped Merrimack’s three-game losing streak.

Madison Morey hockey

Madison Morey

Morey, junior forward, has 1-3—4 totals in 23 games and owns a +1 rating in 23 games.

Manu, a junior defender, has 0-7—7 totals in 23 games. She has blocked more shots [42] than she’s taken on goal [16].

Both Alaska women have played all 93 games of their career.

January 7, 2018

Moses Miller basketball

Moses Miller

Moses Miller of Anchorage has shot the 3-pointer well this season and has enjoyed some high scoring games this season in the NWAC.

But the Southwestern Oregon freshman had never had the kind of success he did against Clackamas.

Miller buried 12-of-18 field goals, including 8-of-13 triples, en route to a season-high 36-point effort in a 101-94 loss in Portland, Oregon.

His previous high games were 23, 24 and 25 points, and his 17.5 season scoring average is tops among Alaska men in the NWAC.

He makes nearly three 3-pointers a game and hit six 3s against Walla Walla right before the holiday break, so this performance didn’t come out of nowhere.

Miller ranks fourth in the NWAC in 3-point percentage [.478] on 33-of-69 shooting.

The 6-foot-2 guard isn’t just a shooter. He’s also a playmaker and owns a 13-assist game earlier this year. He’s also had games with five, six and seven assists.

January 6, 2018

Tahna Lindquist swimming

Tahna Lindquist

It was Senior Day for the Hawaii women’s swim team, but a junior from Alaska stole the show.

Kodiak’s Tahna Lindquist recorded season-best times in three separate individual events for the Bows during a tri-meet with Minnesota and Drury in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Her best result was a second-place showing in the 200-yard backstroke with a time of 2:04.72.

She was third in the 100 backstroke in 57.67, just .03 seconds off second.

Lindquist also clocked a 1:01.69 in the 100 butterfly as she trains for the grueling individual medley.

The 20-year-old is a four-time all-conference performer for Hawaii – a two-time first-teamer in the 200 back and two-time second-teamer in the 100 back.

January 5, 2018

Levi Auble basketball

Levi Auble

Levi Auble of Valdez isn’t just the best shooter on the Biola basketball team, he’s one of the most accurate in the PacWest Conference.

The 6-foot-6 junior ranks fourth in the league with a .526 field-goal percentage on 80-for-152 shooting.

He has reached double figures in 11 of 14 games, highlighted by a 29-point effort against Pomona-Pitzer.

Auble, of ACS fame, is averaging a career-best 14.6 points and 6.1 rebounds per game.

January 4, 2018

Dajonee Hale basketball

Dajonee Hale

Anchorage’s Nene Hale climbed to fifth on Central Methodist all-time scoring list, but reaching the No. 1 spot isn’t her goal.

Helping the Eagles become No. 1 in the conference is.

With 29 points in last game, the senior scoring machine reached the 1,500-point milestone and moved into fifth place in program history with 1,503 points in 88 career games.

April Smith’s record of 1,862 could be in jeopardy, but that’s not Hale’s priority.

“I have bigger goals than worrying about the school record,” she told me. “I’m worried about getting to that national tournament. We are just focused on winning. One game at a time.”

Hale, of Houston High fame, is averaging a career-best 28.5 points this season and the 5-foot-8 All-American guard seems willing and capable to carry the NAIA team from Fayette, Missouri, across the finish line.

“I think being here at CMU has made me grow as a player and as a person,” she said. “Right now, I’m still focusing on the team getting better.”

Central Methodist is 3-1 in the Heart of America Athletic Conference, a competitive league that features six teams with 4-0 and 3-1 records.

Last year, the Eagles finished 18-8 in league and finished third.

To compete for a conference championship this time around, Hale is going to have to bring her A-game. So usually does, but this year has been different.

Hale has pumped in 200 points in just seven games and is on pace to finish with 627 points in 22 games – she had 629 in 34 games as a junior.

“I’ve learned so much from my coaches over the years,” Hale said of Mike Smith, Greg Ray and Remy Lory. “And I continue to learn from them to this day. As I said before, I’ve learned to be a wiser, better person and better teammate.”

January 3, 2018

Theyoung Puoy basketball

Theyoung Puoy

Theyoung Puoy of Anchorage used a fast start to drive her big game and help Arizona Western beat Phoenix College 71-57 in Yuma, Arizona.

The 6-foot sophomore scored eight points, grabbed two rebounds and added an assist in an active first quarter.

She kept the hot hand and made 6-of-10 field goals to match her season-high with 15 points to go with a season-high six rebounds.

Puoy, of West High fame, also continued her 3-point shooting barrage.

The forward has made a 3-pointer for the fourth consecutive game and is shooting 5-for-12 from downtown over that time, a massive improve from her 1-for-8 start in the first nine games of the season.

Puoy ranks third on Arizona Western in scoring [8.9] and rebounding [3.3].

January 2, 2018

Jordan Smelker hockey

Jordan Smelker

Anchorage’s Jordan Smelker of the Boston Pride has been named to the National Women’s Hockey League all-star team that will take on the U.S. Olympic Team later this month in Florida.

These exhibition games will be the final tune-ups for Team USA in preparation for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in South Korea.

“I was not expecting to get the call so I was really excited when I found out,” she said in a press release.

Smelker, of Service High fame, is in his third season with Boston of the NWHL and helped the Pride reach the Isobel Cup finals in each of the last two years, winning the league’s inaugural title in 2016.

The former RPI star also won a Clarkson Cup title with the Boston Blades of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League in 2015.

Smelker participated in many USA Hockey camps throughout her career, including the USA Hockey Women’s National Festival in 2015, National Team Selection Camp in 2013 and U.S. Women’s National Team Winter Camp in 2012.

The 5-foot-8 forward skated for the U.S. Women’s National Team at the 2015 Four Nations Cup in Sweden.

She never got the chance to play in the Olympics, but she’s happy to prepare the next wave of Americans that will go for gold.

“I’m grateful that I get to participate in the event,” Smelker said. “As we all know, the Olympics are only every four years, so this kind of opportunity doesn’t present itself very often.”

January 1, 2018

Devon Bookert basketball

Devon Bookert

After spending the last year out of the game, Devon Bookert of Anchorage is back on the basketball court.

The former Florida State standout is playing professionally for USK Praha of the NBL in the Czech Republic.

The 6-foot-3 guard comes off the bench to average 8.0 points in his first seven games with a season high of 21.

His minutes have fluctuated from one night to the next, but the former Alaska prep player of the year has managed to find his rhythm from 3-point range with a 40-percent shooting.

Bookert, of West High fame, almost played in the NBA G League this season after he was drafted in the third round by the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, an affiliate of the Houston Rockets.

He was FSU’s captain in 2015-16 during his senior season. He finished his career with 1,120 points – No. 9 on Alaska’s all-time men’s list among NCAA D1 scorers.

He finished his career sixth in career 3s [131] and fifth in career percentage [.419] with the Seminoles.

“He is steady, makes shots, smart, takes care of the ball and he’s just one of those guys that you win with,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said in 2016.

“He is just a winner. He makes big plays and big shots, he plays with poise and he’s a good player.”

Bookert was special in college.

Who could forget his Chalmers-like top-of-the-key, game-tying 3-pointer in the NIT semifinals against Minnesota that forced overtime at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Or his game-winning, buzzer-beating shot with 0.5 seconds left to give Florida State a 62-60 victory over Northeastern in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off

He hasn’t logged a ton of playing time in the Czech Republic, but that should change as he gets back into the swing of things after being away from the game for a year.

December 30, 2017

Ruthy Hebard basketball

Ruthy Hebard

Oregon sophomore Ruthy Hebard of Fairbanks needed just 14 shot attempts to score a season-high 25 points in an 89-56 victory over Washington State in the Pac-12 opener in Eugene, Oregon.

The 6-foot-4 forward drilled 11-of-14 field goals and added 10 rebounds to complete her double-double – the 15th in this her 50th career game.

Hebard, of West Valley High fame, now ranks No. 3 in the NCAA with a .662 shooting percentage.

Defensively, she blocked a shot, made one steal and helped hold Washington State to 42 percent shooting.

The 11 field goals tied a season high from earlier this season when she went 11-for-12 against Mississippi State.

The former Alaska player of the year has a career shooting percentage of .604, which would break the Oregon record of .590 set in the early 1980s.

December 29, 2017
Ashlynn Burgess basketball

Ashlynn Burgess

With eight Alaskans on the roster, Wenatchee Valley has showed love for the 907. And the players have responded with a 9-4 record to start the season.

Leading scorers Ashlynn Burgess of Chugiak and Whitney Shapp of Anchorage led the charge in an 86-57 victory over Clark during NWAC action in Wenatchee, Washington.

Burgess delivered her second double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds, and Shapp bagged season highs with 21 points and nine rebounds.

Whitney Shapp basketball

Whitney Shapp

They combined for 40 & 20 in three quarters, no less.

Burgess, of Chugiak High fame, is a 5-foot-10 freshman guard, who leads the team with 13.5 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game.

This was her third 20-point game to go along with a pair of 19-point performances.

Shapp, of Dimond High fame, is a 6-foot sophomore guard, who ranks second on the team with 11.3 points and 4.7 rebounds per game.

The sharpshooter leads the team with 21 3-pointers.

December 28, 2017

Courtney Kemble basketball

Courtney Kemble

Ketchikan’s Courtney Kemble helped Centralia control the battle of the boards and deny second-chance opportunities in a 60-45 victory over Portland in Longview, Washington.

The 6-foot freshman grabbed a season-high 11 rebounds to give her team a 43-36 edge.

She even had more boards than her teammate Kylie Smith, who ranks third in the NWAC with more than 11 per game.

Kemble’s big game helped Centralia advance to the semifinals of the Red Devil Classic.

The Alaskan added six points on a pair of 3-pointers.

Kemble, of Ketchikan High fame, ranks third on Centralia in scoring [9.8] and rebounding [6.0] in 10 games.

She has reached double digits seven times and owns one double-double – a 13-point, 10-rebound effort against Clark.

December 27, 2017

Trevor Osborne basketball

Trevor Osborne

Just give Whitman’s Trevor Osborne of Anchorage the Sixth Man Award in the Northwest Conference.

The 3-point specialist comes off the bench to log crucial minutes, hit big shots and average double figures for the NCAA D3 Blues in Walla Walla, Washington.

He was at it again in No. 1 Whitman’s 119-93 road win over Redlands when he delivered 15 points in 23 minutes and matched his career high with six rebounds.

The 9-0 Blues are the top-ranked D3 men’s basketball squad in the country.

The 6-foot-2 sophomore guard made 6-of-10 field goals, including 3-of-7 from downtown.

Osborne, of Grace Christian High fame, has made three or more 3s five times and has at least one triple in all nine games this season.

He ranks sixth in the Northwest Conference with 24 threes and 12th with a .414 season percentage.

Osborne is averaging a career-best 11.6 points per game.

December 26, 2017

Jeff Overbaugh football

Jeff Overbaugh

On Christmas Eve he was unemployed, watching football on TV. On Christmas he was on an airplane headed to Minneapolis for a tryout with the Minnesota Vikings.

For New Years Eve, Anchorage’s Jeff Overbaugh will celebrate as an NFL player.

It’s been quite the holiday season for the 24-year-old rookie, who today was signed to the active roster by the NFC North division champions and is expected to make his debut with the Vikings when they host the Chicago Bears this weekend.

“As far as I know I’m the long snapper for the Vikings this Sunday,” he told me. “It’s definitely exciting. A dream come true.”

He will wear jersey No. 44 and be on the field for special teams: punts, field goals and PATs.

Overbaugh, of Service High fame, will be the 11th Alaskan to play in the NFL, joining a small fraternity that includes Daryn Colledge, Chris Kuper, Zack Bowman, Rocky Klever, Tom Neville, Mark Schlereth, Shane Bonham, Travis Hall, Reggie Tongue and Mao Tosi.

Overbaugh played in three NFL preseason games in 2016 with the Los Angeles Rams. He was also under contract with the Chicago Bears and Denver Broncos.

The Vikings were the 11th NFL team he worked out for this year.

Despite not sticking with a team, the 6-foot-2, 240-pounder never lost hope of his dream.

“I don’t know what the record is for NFL workouts in a given year, but having a relatively high amount and obviously being under contract three times was a good sign,” he said.

The former San Diego State star was a perfect long snapper for four years in college. He converted all 510 snaps on special teams, but went undrafted.

The Vikings turned to Overbaugh after their regular long snapper suffered a shoulder injury in Week 16’s win over Green Bay. With the playoffs around the corner, they needed a reliable replacement.

The team called Overbaugh on Sunday morning when he was making breakfast burritos. He flew to Minnesota on Monday afternoon. He worked out this morning and signed a contract this afternoon.

His parents will be at Sunday’s game to watch their son take the field as an NFL player for the first time.

“I believe they already have their flight,” Overbaugh said, “so all I gotta do is make sure there are tickets for them.”

December 25, 2017

Eathyn Manumaleuna

Anchorage’s Eathyn Manumaleuna [55] blocks field goal to save BYU at 2007 Las Vegas Bowl.

When it comes to college football bowl games, Alaska has carved out its own place in the history book thanks to defining moments at crunch time by a handful of players from Anchorage.

The 1993 Rose Bowl saw former West High star David Killpatrick of Washington block a punt in the final minute of the fourth quarter against Michigan to pump life back into the Huskies before falling 38-31.

At the 2005 Alamo Bowl, Bartlett’s Zack Bowman of Nebraska sealed a 32-28 win over Michigan with a game-saving tackle on a wild final play that featured a pass, a half-dozen laterals and a fumble.

The 2007 Las Vegas Bowl featured one of the most thrilling moments by an Alaska player when East’s Eathyn Manumaleuna blocked a 28-yard field goal on the final play to preserve BYU’s 17-16 win over UCLA.

Lui Fa’amasino football

Lui Fa’amasino

West’s Lui Fa’amasino and Dimond’s Brandon Pili represent the next wave of Anchorage players looking to add their names to the list of bowl heroes when they hit the field this week.

Fa’amasino’s New Mexico State Aggies take on Utah State in the Arizona Bowl and Pili’s USC Trojans face Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl.

Other Alaskans on rosters of teams in bowl games but not expected to play include West’s Tevita Fehoko at Kansas State [Cactus Bowl], Service’s Levi Hansen of Washington State [Holiday Bowl] and Dimond’s Ezra Tu’ua at TCU [Alamo Bowl].

“I think it’s really cool to be sharing a bowl experience with another Alaskans,” Fa’amasino told me.

The 6-foot junior linebacker is part of New Mexico State team going to a bowl game for the first time in 57 years. The Aggies qualified by beating South Alabama 22-17 in the final game of the regular season.

“I’m thrilled to be a part of the historic win and would say the night we took down South Alabama to makes us eligible will forever be one of my best football moments I’ll always cherish,” Fa’amasino said. “The fans rushing the field was insane and the endless thank yous we got from the community meant a lot.”

Brandon Pili football

Brandon Pili

Pili wasn’t supposed to play this year but forfeited his redshirt status after injuries on the defensive line forced the 6-foot-4, 340-pound freshman into action.

All he did was earn honorable mention all-conference in the Pac-12 in barely half a season.

“Yeah, I think I played pretty well during the time I did play,” Pili told me. “I am happy I didn’t redshirt because I gained a lot of experience from this year and just got the feel for college ball.”

Pili is part of a USC defense that allowed the fourth-fewest rushing touchdowns in the Pac-12.

The Trojans beat Stanford in the Pac-12 championship game to advance to the Cotton Bowl.

“It’s great that we got into a bowl game and I’m excited that I get to play in one as a true freshman,” Pili said.

December 24, 2017

Kwintin Williams basketball

Kwintin Williams

The Connecticut Huskies were down big when Kwintin Williams of Anchorage entered the game, but he didn’t care.

True competitors don’t need a scoreboard to tell them when to play hard.

The sophomore transfer showcased a never-say-die mentality by playing to win all the way to the end to provide a ray of light in an otherwise gloomy 89-64 loss to Auburn.

The 6-foot-7 forward posted season-high totals of 14 minutes, six points and six rebounds.

“I can probably bring a little bit of toughness,” Williams told the Hartford Courant, “a little fire when the guys are down, when the guys get tired. Whatever the coach needs me to do, I’m here to do that.”

Connecticut outscored Auburn 31-25 with the Alaskan on the court.

“He played tough,” Huskies coach Kevin Ollie told the newspaper. “It comes down to that. Playing tough basketball. Do what UConn is known for, and we’re not playing that way right now.”

Williams has struggled to break into the rotation, in part, because he sat out last season and has only one season of JC experience under his belt. Give him a minute to catch up.

Performances like the one he had against Auburn will definitely go a long way in earning him more opportunities down the road.

He plays to win, even when his team isn’t winning.

December 23, 2017

Dane Kuiper basketball

Dane Kuiper

When his minutes evaporated, New Mexico small forward guard Dane Kuiper of Wasilla didn’t disappear.

Lots of players lose their confidence when they lose their starting job, but Kuiper stayed strong and re-emerged a better player for the Lobos.

How else do you explain the 6-foot-7 junior scoring as many points in the last three games [48] as he did in the previous 10 games [48].

Kuiper, of Wasilla High fame, kept the good times going against Prairie View A&M when he pumped in 14 points in 19 minutes on 5-of-7 shooting.

He also dished off a career-high six assists and added 10 points and five rebounds against Rice.

The game before that he scored a career-high 24 points against Arizona when he knocked down 6-of-8 3-pointers.

He looks like a totally different player.

Take a look:

Field Goals / Percentage
First 10 Games: 15-52 / .289
Last 3 Games: 14-25 / .560
Season: 29-77 / .377

3-pointers / Percentage
First 10 Games 11-36 / .306
Last 3 Games: 10-18 / .556
Season: 21-54 / .389

Points Per Game
First 10 Games: 4.8
Last 3 Games: 16.0
Season: 7.4

December 21, 2017

Dylan Baker baseball

Dylan Baker

Three weeks after adding rocket right-hander Dylan Baker of Juneau to their 40-man roster, the Milwaukee Brewers have designated him for assignment.

The Brew Crew made the move after signing two veteran pitchers with extensive MLB experience, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they are done with Baker.

Milwaukee could still reclaim him off waivers or another team could, so either way he’ll be pitching in 2018. The only question is where.

What’s not in question is Baker’s health.

The 25-year-old has battled multiple injures since 2015, including Tommy John surgery. But today he feels better than ever and is eager to make up for lost time.

“I am all healthy now,” he told me. “Had a minor lat injury at the end of this year but that is behind me. I’ll definitely be ready for 2018.”

Baker, of Juneau-Douglas High fame, spent the past five seasons with the Cleveland Indians organization and last summer went from Rookie Ball to Double-A, his highest level as a pro.

His fastball has touched 100 mph on the radar gun and his off-speed stuff buckles knees, helping him carve up hitters with a 16-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio and 2.70 ERA in 16.2 innings.

Despite his unbelievable upside, Baker was waived by the Cleveland Indians, who drafted him in the fifth round in 2012.

“Cleveland was great to me; always made me feel like I was wanted and couldn’t wait for me to get healthy,” he said. “I couldn’t have asked for more.”

In five seasons in the minor leagues, Baker compiled a career record of 12-11 with one complete game and a 3.58 ERA in 65 games, including 48 starts. He owns 213 strikeouts in 241.2 innings.

Maybe a fresh start will do him well.

“I had a lot of injuries the past three years so something new can’t be bad,” Baker said. “I am just focused on being healthy and pitching as much as I can. It’s a big year for me and I can’t wait to start.”