Connecting You With AK Athletes Outside the 907

The Alaska Sports Blog provides daily posts on Alaska athletes doing great things at the professional, international and collegiate level outside the state. The blog was created to fill a void of coverage once Alaskans left the 907 area code. Since 2009 former Anchorage Daily News Sports Editor Van Williams has written more than 2,000 stories on over 300 Alaska athletes.

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

August 21, 2014

Damen Bell Holter BasketballHydaburg’s Damen Bell-Holter is leaving the NBA D-League for a more lucrative contract in Europe.

The 6-foot-9 forward has signed with BC Kormend of Hungary. The team is in Eurochallenge, considered the third professional tier in European basketball.

“I’ll be playing against good teams around Europe and I’m making a really good amount of money,” he told me.

Bell-Holter, of Ketchikan High fame, played last season in the D-League with the Maine Red Claws and averaged 8.5 points and 4.8 rebounds in 48 games.

The 24-year-old spent time with the Boston Celtics last year for training camp and played in two preseason games. Then he played in the 2014 NBA Summer League in Las Vegas with a D-League team.

But now he’s headed to Hungary.

“My agent said taking this offer was a no-brainer because it’s gonna set my career up,” Bell-Holter said.

With BC Kormend, he will be coached by American Aaron Mitchell.

“I’m gonna develop under him,” Bell-Holter said.

Bell-Holter is hoping a big year in Hungary will open doors in the NBA and with European teams up the food chain.

“I’m on route to get there if I have a good year,” he said.

August 20, 2014

Kelly Cobb SoccerIt’s always a big deal when two top 20 NCAA women’s soccer teams meet on the field, even when it’s an exhibition, but the Duke-South Carolina matchup had special meaning for Alaska.

That’s because the game featured two Alaskans in Duke’s Kelly Cobb of Chugiak and South Carolina’s Katelyn Houston of Anchorage.

Both players saw extended playing time as No. 18 Duke beat No. 14 South Carolina 2-0 in Durham, N.C. The teams played three 30-minute periods.

Cobb, of Chugiak High fame, is a starting forward and one of the greatest goal scorers in Alaska history with 20 goals in 60 career games.

The senior spent part of her summer training with the U.S. women’s national soccer team in Seattle. It was her first action with the national team since 2012 when she helped the Americans win the gold medal at the U-20 World Cup in Japan.

Katelyn Houston SoftballIn 2011, she led Duke to the NCAA championship game.

Houston, of Grace Christian fame, is a freshman goalkeeper who sat out last season as a redshirt.

She made one save against Duke, her first taste of college competition.

August 19, 2014

Lance Wright FootballWithin seconds and without warning, dark clouds moved in and a huge thunderstorm hammered Houston with a sudden downpour Lance Wright of North Pole had never seen. It doesn’t rain in Alaska like it does in Texas.

“The weather is weird here,” he told me. “It’ll be 100 degrees and super humid, and five minutes later a huge thunderstorm is on top of you. Ten minutes after that it’s back to sunny and hot again. It’s so different.”

The football is different as well.

The former Alaska high school all-state receiver is getting a front-row view of just how different football is in Texas as a freshman scholarship player at Rice University. The Owls are defending champions of Conference USA and boast a roster full of players from the football-rich state of Texas.

Wright was Rice’s only signee in his class outside of Texas and is the school’s first football recruit from Alaska.

At North Pole, the 6-foot-3, 185-pounder caught 29 passes for 605 yards and nine touchdowns as a senior. For his career he hauled in 90-1,873-26 totals.

“You can see my highlight tape. I can pretty much do whatever I want out there,” Wright said.

Now he’s one of the few Alaskans playing NCAA football at a Division I college.

The jump from North Pole to Texas has been surreal.

“They’ve got guys 300 pounds running a 4.7,” he said. “That’s something I didn’t even think was possible.”

Wright used to be on the field with kids that watched Monday Night Football. Now he is surrounded by guys trying to play on Monday Night Football.

“It’s very serious,” Wright said. “I’m up at 5 a.m., in bed at 10 p.m. I think this is our eighth day, I don’t even know, the days are running together. We’ve gone over so many plays and formations, routes adjusted for coverages that change during the play. All day meetings, working out, eating … it’s a lot different, but I’m glad I’m here.”

At his first team meeting, the coaches gave him a copy of the team’s playbook.

“It’s bigger than my textbooks,” Wright said. “It’s way more complex than high school, and I was fortunate to play in a spread offense in high school, but it was nothing like this. That first meeting we were going over this stuff I was like, how I’m I going to remember all of this? Now I’ve a better handle on it. It’s going to take time and once I get healthy and take some reps, the reps will help a lot.”

Wright, 18, is nursing a hamstring injury that has kept him off the field and on the sidelines, a point of frustration for any competitor. You know it’s killing the Alaskan to be on the field with the big boys. He has a lot to prove.

In reality, he’s already accomplished so much by earning a football scholarship from Rice.

“Growing up in Alaska, it’s like anywhere else, but North Pole is rough. It’s not like a ghetto or a hood, but it’s still a rough place. You don’t have the same opportunities as other places,” Wright said. “It made me feel good how proud my family was, even my extended family, when I committed to Rice.

“I want to be that story of that kid out of North Pole that made his dreams come true. So far I’ve done that, although when I got here it was like, alright time to set some new goals.”

Wright had lots of help to be able to play college football at the highest level.

“If I had gone to any other high school in Alaska I doubt I would have ended up here. My coaches they helped since I was a little kid, they knew my goals and what I wanted to accomplish and they did everything they could to make that happen,” he said. “My parents, they are amazing. They knew I wanted to get a scholarship, so they always sent me to camps and I could never repay them for what they did, but I know they are proud of me and that’s good enough for now.”

August 18, 2014

Aaliyah Lewis SoccerAlabama State forward Aaliyah Lewis of Anchorage has been given the ultimate compliment by the coaches in her league.

She was named Preseason Offensive Player of the Year.

It was an easy choice considering Lewis won the same award in 2013 after leading the Southwestern Athletic Conference in goals [16], shots [61] and points [38].

“I’m energized for the season this just makes me even more eager,” she told me. “But with that title I know mentally and physically I must work even harder to earn such an honor.”

Lewis, of Dimond High fame, has been the player of the year for three straight seasons, dating back to her days in Alaska.

No matter how many individual awards she wins, Lewis has her eyes set on getting Alabama State to the NCAA Tournament for the first time.

“I expect a good season out of my team this year,” she said. “We are all preparing and working. I just hope I do my part and deal with whatever these defenses throw my way.

“It’s a new season and new team and given the ending to our story last year we are all pretty amped to turn on the heat coming into this season. My goal is always to better myself and my game, but it’s going to be a little more challenging this year.”

August 17, 2014

kelsey_griffin_basketball_action4Alaska’s greatest women’s basketball player cleared another hurdle in her remarkable career as Kelsey Griffin of Eagle River surpassed the 800-point plateau in the WNBA.

The 6-foot-2 forward is in her fifth season with the Connecticut Sun. She has now pumped in 801 points in 164 career games. That’s an average of 4.9 per game.

Griffin is averaging 4.4 points and a career-best 5.1 rebounds in 31 games this year.

She is also the state’s all-time leader in points among Alaskans at the NCAA D1 level, netting 2,033 during an All-American career at the University of Nebraska.

Griffin can do more than score – her pro team in Australia has won back-to-back league championships. She’s headed back there after the WNBA season ends shortly.

August 16, 2014

Lauren Murphy Mixed Martial ArtsFaced with the greatest challenge of her fighting life, Lauren Murphy of Eagle River performed valiantly in her UFC debut but lost a split decision in Maine.

Her opponent, former Olympic silver medal winning wrestler Sara McMann, relied on her grappling background to control the action on the ground and win on points. Two of three judges had McMann winning the bantamweight fight as part of UFC Fight Night 47.

Some people would say McMann won the wrestling, but Murphy won the fight.

The 30-year-old former Invicta champion from Alaska landed three times more strikes [203 to 72], many of which were thrown from her back. But McMann held advantages in significant strikes landed [58 to 25] and takedowns [5 to 0].

It was the first pro loss for Murphy [8-1], who got her start in the Alaska Fighting Championship.

Murphy signed a four-fight deal with UFC, although she told me few fighters stick around after starting 0-2. She is a driven, professional fighter who will be better next time she climbs into the cage.

dylan_baker_baseball_sm1Juneau right-hander Dylan Baker has moved into elite company among Alaska’s best professional pitchers by picking his 10th career win.

It may not seem a lot but only eight Alaskans have reached double figures in minor league baseball. We’ve never had anybody win a game in the major leagues among the three pitchers that made it.

Baker improved to 3-2 on the season after the Carolina Mudcats beat Myrtle Beach 6-5 in Class A Advanced action. He didn’t have his best stuff but still got the win, scattering five hits and three walks across 5.1 innings.

Baker is now 10-9 with a 3.86 ERA in 42 career starts in the minors.

All-time wins by Alaska pitchers in minor pro leagues:

62 – Marshall Boze, Soldonta
30 – Chris Mabeus, Soldotna
30 – Matt Way, Sitka
27 – Ryan Shaver, Fairbanks
24 – Joey Newby, Soldotna
19 – Corey Madden, Anchorage
11 – Chad Bentz, Juneau
10 – Dylan Baker, Juneau

August 14, 2014

Lauren Murphy Mixed Martial ArtsShe’s on the eve of the biggest fight of her life and Lauren Murphy of Eagle River is bullet proof.

Nothing can rattle her, not even a delayed flight.

Despite a snafu with her airline that pushed back her arrival to Maine from Tuesday to Wednesday, Murphy rolled with it like she was on vacation.

But Saturday will be no day at the beach.

Murphy will make her debut in the mighty UFC, the world’s biggest and baddest mixed martial arts league in the world, when she takes on former Olympic wrestling silver medalist Sara McMann in a bantamweight bout on the UFC Fight Night 47 card.

The 30-year-old Alaskan arrived in Maine with a smile on her face, despite being a day late.

“At this point I think most fighters kind of accept that nothing is really normal. No stress is good, but if it does come up it has never affected me in a fight,” Murphy told me. “It’s something you take one second at a time. The thing I think people worry about is the actual fight night under the big, bright lights and there are cameras in your face, and I think that can be a little overwhelming, but it’s something that’s never bothered me up to this point.”

Murphy has an 8-0 record as a professional MMA fighter, and she has made five women retire, meaning she beat them so bad they walked away from the sport.

Now she’s in the major leagues of mixed martial arts.

“I wonder a lot how I got here,” she said. “When I think of it like that, it’s like, you’ve come a long way baby.”

Murphy will take on a veteran fighter in McMann, who has a 7-1 record, 1-1 in the UFC. McMann’s last fight came in a loss to UFC bantamweight champ Ronda Rousey.

A UFC win would do wonders for Murphy’s budding career, but she won’t enter the cage hating McMann. Red rage isn’t part of her strategy.

“People think irrationally when you’re in that state of mind. There is no way to stay calm. You have to think about what you’re doing,” Murphy said. “There are certain escapes you’re going to use for certain moves and different finishes and punching combinations and you have to be using your brain to set those up. It depends on what your opponent is doing and then how best to exploit their weaknesses. You have to be able to do that in the heat of the moment, so the best way to do that is to stay calm, control your breathing and remember what you’re fighting for.”

She’s fighting for herself, for her family and for Alaska.

“I want everybody in Alaska to know that I really just want to make them proud and I’m going to fight my hardest on Saturday and leave it all in the cage,” Murphy said. “I hope I’ve done right by my home state.”

August 13, 2014

Bryan Maley FootballA super sub last year, Bryan Maley of Eagle River is looking for more permanent work with the Wagner College football team this fall.

The senior placekicker has the inside track to be the starter after he proved in 2013 that he could handle the job filling in for injured all-conference kicker David Lopez, who is gone now.

Maley, of Chugiak High fame, made 3-of-4 field goals and all seven PATs.

He also provided his signature moment at Wagner, booting a game-winning 45-yard field goal with four seconds left to beat Northeast Conference champion Sacred Heart.

That kick earned Maley NEC Special Teams Player of the Week honors.

Used primarily as a kickoff specialist, Maley had five touchbacks on 17 kickoffs last year. In 2011, as a freshman, he finished with 25 kickoffs for a 59-yard average.

August 11, 2014

Ariela Lewis SoccerThere’s a culture change going on with the Alabama State women’s soccer program, and Ariela and Aaliyah Lewis of Anchorage are leading the revolution.

In just their sixth season, the Hornets had never won more than seven games in a season before piling up 14 victories last year.

The freshman are the No. 1 scoring sister act in NCAA D1 women’s soccer and led Alabama State to the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament championship game for the first time.

The twins have bigger plans this year. They want to qualify for the NCAA Tournament.

“It is my dream to help get my team to the NCAAs and hopefully in a few there,” Ariela told me. “But it is a huge accomplishment.”

She isn’t the only one to have faith in the Hornets.

SWAC coaches voted Alabama State as the preseason No. 1 team.

“I think it’s a huge honor that people are saying we are No. 1 in the SWAC and predicting us to win the league,” said Ariela, last year’s SWAC Freshman of the Year. “It’s a great feeling but also puts the pressure on us to live up to the expectations. I think it’s an amazing feeling to see the previous years and then reflect on last year and just see the growth this team has had and the potential it can have in coming years.”

Last year, the Lewis sisters combined for 33 goals and 16 assists for 82 points in 22 games. Almost every Lewis goal came off a Lewis assist.

Aaliyah Lewis SoccerAaliyah was named SWAC Offensive Player of the Year after leading the league with 18 goals and 43 points. At Dimond High, she was a two-time Gatorade Alaska Player of the Year.

Together, they have brought a winning edge from Alaska to Alabama State.

“Honestly, I think one of the biggest components that helped us turn things around would be more competition and the team’s determination and the pushing each other to be better and do better,” Ariela said. “We all have one goal and that’s to win the ring and make NCAA Tournament, so we have to make sure everyone gives their maximum effort.

“I’ve been working hard, training hard, waiting for this upcoming season and I am definitely ready to give my opponents a tough game.”

August 10, 2014

Kelsey Griffin BasketballIt’s been a tough season for the Connecticut Sun, failing to make the WNBA playoffs for the second straight season.

But Kelsey Griffin of Eagle River plays hard no matter the situation.

The fifth-year forward came up big today, sinking big buckets on the final play of regulation and then again late in the second overtime to fuel an 89-81 win over Washington and her former coach.

“Kelsey Griffin, MVP of the game if you ask me,” Connecticut coach Anne Donovan told reports. “Just in terms of her defensive energy, deflections, picking up the charge, the last steal she had, knocking down the three; they were huge.”

Griffin’s putback at the buzzer tied the game at 70-70 and forced overtime. Later she drained an open 3-pointer to provide a 79-75 lead with 2:18 left.

It was just the eighth 3-pointer the Alaskan had made in 29 games this year.

“I’m not someone who takes a lot of shots and produces a lot of points,” Griffin told reporters. “I work very hard on that [3-point] shot. They were daring us to shoot from the outside.

“I said, ‘Why not take the shot?’ I made it all the time in practice, why not now?”

She played 27 minutes and finished with eight points, six rebounds, one assist, one steal, one blocked shot and a +13 plus/minus rating.

August 9, 2014

20090806Boozer_Camp0213It seems like every little boy wants to grow up and be an athlete or entertainer. Some do both.

Los Angeles Lakers forward Carlos Boozer of Juneau got a taste of the entertainment industry recently when he was part of a hoops-themed rap album that will benefit the ‘nPlay Foundation’s fight against childhood obesity.

Boozer is featured along with Twista and Willie Taylor on the ‘Winning Streak’ track.

“I used to be another little fellow with some hoop dreams. Now I got the game laced up – shoe strings,” Boozer raps in the song.

Boozer is considered Alaska’s greatest basketball player with a fabulous career spanning Duke University, where he was an All-American and won a NCAA title, and the NBA, where he has racked up 13,140 career points with Cleveland, Utah and Chicago. He landed in L.A. this year.

He has done it all on the basketball court, yet when he went to the recording studio he was like a little kid.

“A 6-10 kid coming into a toy store,” is how music producer Slam Ridley told the Chicago Tribune. “He had never been in the studio before. Here I am 5-9 on my best day [but] he made me feel like the giant.”

Here’s another line from Boozer’s part in the song.

“Might go baseline, one time and abuse ya. Run back down the court like you know it was Booz-za.”

August 8, 2014

dylan_baker_baseball_sm1A forgettable start turned into a memorable finish for Carolina Mudcats pitcher Dylan Baker of Juneau in his latest start in Class A Advanced pro ball.

The right-hander pitched six innings in a 6-4 win over the Frederick Keys in Maryland, picking up his first win since coming back last month from a fractured fibula.

Baker opened the game by giving up three consecutive hits and trailed 2-0 after four batters. It looked bleak.

But the Alaskan made it beautiful in the end, retiring 16 of the next 20 batters to turn his frown upside down.

In all, Baker gave up five hits, walked two, struck out three and benefited from a pair of double plays.

He is now 2-2 with a 4.91 ERA in five starts with the Mudcats of the Carolina League.

Conor Spink BaseballConor Spink of Eagle River made quick work of the Sioux Falls batters he faced tonight, striking out all three in the eighth inning in a 4-0 win for the Lincoln Salt Dogs in independent pro ball action.

The left-handed reliever now has 34 strikeouts this season, the most in his three-year career in the American Association.

Spink, of Chugiak High fame, lowered his ERA to 2.45 in 40.1 innings. He has a 34-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

For his career, he is 6-3 with a 3.15 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 108.2 innings.

August 6, 2014

The Concordia University men’s soccer team lost a ton of offense with the departure of several key players from last year’s team, including the school’s all-time goal scorer.

They need somebody to step into those cleats and put the ball into the back of the net.

That person could be Zac Naylor of Anchorage.

The junior transfer is a promising forward with a knack for scoring goals after tallying 18 in two seasons at Edmonds Community College of the Northwest Athletic Conference.

Naylor, of South High fame, is one of four Alaskans on the roster for Concordia, which was picked to finish second in the Cascade Collegiate Conference this year.

Another is Nick Herzberg, a senior defender out of Fairbanks. He logged a total of 619 minutes last season, playing all 90 three times, and assisting on one goal.

Herzberg, of West Valley fame, started eight of 14 games.

The other two Alaskans are sophomore Ronald Perry of Anchorage and Brady Sanders of Chugiak.

August 3, 2014

Zack Bowman FootballAfter a terrific training camp, Zack Bowman of Anchorage may have cemented his place on the New York Giants with a strong preseason performance in the NFL’s Hall of Fame Game.

The seventh-year cornerback has always had a nose for the ball, so it was no surprise to see the 6-foot-1 Alaskan intercept a pass in the second quarter of a 17-13 victory over Buffalo.

Bowman, of Bartlett High fame, also had a tackle and a pass deflection in limited action.

In six NFL seasons with the Chicago Bears prior to signing with the Giants, he intercepted 10 passes, recovered six fumbles and scored three touchdowns.

August 2, 2014

dylan_baker_baseball_sm1He didn’t have his A-plus stuff, but it was good enough for Carolina Mudcats starter Dylan Baker of Juneau to win the Class A Advanced game.

Unfortunately, the baseball gods had different plans.

The Potomac Nationals beat Baker and the Mudcats 4-2 in a rainy, sloppy minor league game that featured six errors and several bad bounces.

Baker suffered the loss, although it was hardly his fault. He threw 3.2 innings, allowing five hits and two walks. But only one run of the three he allowed was earned.

His only bad inning was in the third when Potomac scored three runs, two on a double just passed a diving infielder’s glove. The second runner was a dead duck at home but the throw to the plate sailed over the catcher’s head.

Baker [1-2] has a 4.57 ERA in seven games this year.

This was only his third start since coming back from a broken ankle that sidelined him for three months. His comeback is slowed by pitch counts, but he is showing the promise that made him a fifth round draft pick of the Cleveland Indians in 2012.

The hard-throwing righty has 26 strikeouts in 21.2 innings in 2014 and has 173 Ks in 189 innings for his pro career.

August 1, 2014

Kelsey Griffin BasketballStill easing her way back from an ankle injury, Kelsey Griffin of Eagle River played 15 minutes and grabbed five rebounds and made a 3-pointer as the Connecticut Sun beat San Antonio 89-79.

This was her second game since returning from a two-week stint on the DL. The team was 0-3 in her absence.

Griffin, of Chugiak High fame, is averaging a career best 5.4 rebounds per game in 25 games this season. The 6-foot-2 forward is also averaging 4.6 points, right at her career average [4.9] in 158 career WNBA games.

July 31, 2014

Chris Kuper FootballNormally about now Chris Kuper of Anchorage would be spending all his time at training camp with Denver Broncos.

Today the only camping he’s doing is overnight trips with his wife and kids.

The 31-year-old former offensive lineman retired after eight years in the NFL, during which the 6-foot-4, 300-pounder earned a reputation as one of the most durable guards in the league.

He already misses not playing in the NFL.

“It’s going to be hard. I think probably the next couple of years will be difficult, but going to training camp is not the part that I miss,” he told the CBS affiliate in Denver.

Kuper, of Dimond High fame, started 79 of 90 games as a fifth-round draft pick and was part of last year’s Broncos team that went to the Super Bowl. He was a team captain in 2010.

He was a mainstay on the offensive line for years and one season didn’t give up a single sack. However, leg injuries finally caught up with the big guy and forced him to hang up his cleats in March.

Last season he started only one game – this from a guy who started as many as 15 games from 2008 to 2011. The injuries took their tool, and he was no longer the same player.

“I was hurting a lot and I wasn’t playing as well as U was the previous couple years,” Kuper said. “That was kind of the point where I had an idea that I might be shutting it down.”

The good news is that retirement allows him to spend more time with his young family.

“I’m just hanging out with my kids and my wife right now – and some camping,” he said.

Not playing football has other perks. He’s lost 20 pounds and joined a hockey league.

“That’s my conditioning now,” he said. “No more running for me.”

July 30, 2014

David Registe TrackFormer NCAA D2 national champion David Registe of Palmer finished 10th in the men’s long jump at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

He entered the finals in the same qualifying spot.

Registe jumped 24 feet, 6 inches, just missing the top 10.

The Alaskan was competing for his native country, Dominica of the Caribbean.

July 29, 2014

David Registe TrackPalmer’s David Registe has definitely held his own on the biggest stage of his track career today in Scotland.

The 26-year-old long jumper representing his native Caribbean country, Dominica, finished fifth in Group B to qualify for the finals at the Commonwealth Games.

Registe, of Colony High fame, jumped 25 feet, 2 inches, about half a foot off his personal best.

He qualified 10th out of 12 jumpers to make Wednesday’s finals.

The former NCAA D2 national champion from UAA easily bettered his No. 10 pre-meet ranking among the dozen dudes he faced today.

July 28, 2014

Mario Chalmers2Mario Chalmers isn’t sweating the departure of LeBron James.

If anything, the Miami Heat point guard from Anchorage expects to fill the void. Some say that’s crazy, but Chalmers has never lacked confidence.

His swagger is his trademark.

It’s a big reason why Chalmers stayed in Miami after signing a two-year deal worth $8 million.

“I felt like it was opportunity to finally have my own team,” he told The Kansas City Star. “I felt comfortable being back there.”

Chalmers, of Bartlett High fame, is entering his seventh season in the NBA, all with the Heat.

He is Alaska’s all-time leader with 99 playoff games, highlighted by four consecutive runs to the Finals. He won titles with the Heat in 2012 and 2013, making him the first Alaskan to win a NBA championship.

Obviously, James played a pivotal role. But Chalmers made plenty of big plays over that time as well.

Now he’s ready to shoulder more responsibility.

“It’s going to be fun,” he said. “It’s a different challenge that we got to face, but we’re ready for it.”

Chalmers had one of his best regular seasons last year, averaging 10 points and five assists, although it was overlooked because he struggled in the Finals against San Antonio with just 4.4 points.

July 27, 2014

Damen Bell Holter BasketballMost people pursue traditional jobs after college, but not Conor Spink of Eagle River. He wanted to be a baseball player.

This is the third season the 26-year-old southpaw has pitched in an independent league with the Lincoln Salt Dogs of the American Association after playing at Seattle University.

It’s not the big leagues, but Spink still feels like a million bucks because he’s fulfilling every Little Leaguer’s dream of playing baseball for a living.

“All my friends have 9-to-5s,” Spink told me, “and they are like, ‘if I could be in your position’ traveling around and competing and doing something that I love, even if it’s not super glamourous, they would change places with me in a heartbeat.”

Spink, of Chugiak High fame, isn’t about to get a big head. He can’t afford to get complacent.

The 6-foot-3 lefty has to stay sharp mentally because one misstep can be the difference between a home run and a groundout. And you can’t dwell on the past whether it’s good, bad, or ugly.

“You have to keep a short memory,” he said. “If you do well you can feel good about yourself until midnight or so, then the next day you have to go back out there and perform.”

He wasn’t always this mature.

“In college or when I was younger [after games] it was end of the world or I was flying 10 feet off the ground,” Spink said. “If anything, baseball has taught me to handle failure. It’s never really accepted no matter how many times you blow a game.”

Spink is enjoying his best season with the Saltdogs in his three years as a pro. He had a 26.2-inning scoreless streak at one point coming out of the bullpen. Overall he is 4-1 with a 2.01 ERA in 21 games.

“I feel like I have potential to pitch at the highest level and I’ve been told by scouts and coaches that I just need to be a little more refined, but I know I can pitch.

Spink likes to envision himself coming out of the pen for the New York Yankees one day. “Aim high,” he cracked.

But in reality this year might be his ninth inning.

“Realistically this is probably going to be my last year,” Spink said. “If I don’t get called up I might go play winter ball. You can make good money playing ball in Mexico.”

July 26, 2014

Derrick Wilson BasketballBeing a NCAA D1 athlete definitely has its perks, including the glitz of playing on TV and the glamour of rubbing elbows with influential people.

Marquette basketball player Derrick Wilson of Anchorage recently met with the school’s associate athletic director Jack Harbaugh, a longtime college football coach who is also known for having two sons face off as coaches in a Super Bowl.

Harbaugh, 75, spoke to the team during a break at a team workout.

“He might be the best storyteller I have heard in my lifetime,” Wilson told the school’s website. “I can go on and on about the amount of wisdom he gave to us, but I’ll break down to the five main ingredients to become successful – discipline, attitude, enthusiasm, perseverance and persistence.

“By being great in these five areas every day, individually and as a group, we will help accomplish things that people doubt we can do. He fired us up.”

Wilson, of East High fame, will enter his senior season this fall and is the starting point guard for Marquette. He’s also the first Alaska man to play basketball in the mighty Big East Conference.

The 6-foot-1, 210-pounder is a durable, defensive dynamo and one of the best perimeter defenders in the country. He stops dribble penetration, clogs passing lanes and plays physical.

He logged a career-high 47 minutes in a double-OT loss to St. John’s in the last game of the 2014 season. He also collected a game-high nine assists and grabbed six rebounds.

Wilson last season set career highs in points [14], assists [10], rebounds [9] and steals [6].

Marquette held two team camps last week as the Golden Eagles look to get back to the NCAA Tournament after missing out last season.

Wilson is certainly up for the challenge, especially after meeting with Jack Harbaugh.

“The last thing he said to us was, ‘there are two kinds of people in this world, gamers and non-gamers, you choose which one you want to be.’” Wilson said. “Being a gamer is what I am choosing. Being great every day is far from easy, but as Mr. Harbaugh put it, ‘as long as you’re getting one-percent better every day, that’s a successful day.’”

July 22, 2014

David Registe TrackThe greatest long jumper in the history of the University of Alaska Anchorage is going international.

Former NCAA D2 national champion David Registe of Palmer will compete in the Commonwealth Games, the world’s third-largest multi-sports event that dates back to 1930.

The 2014 Commonwealth Games begin this weekend in Glasgow, Scotland, and Registe will compete next Tuesday.

Registe will represent his native Dominica from the Caribbean. He has dual citizenship with the United States.

The 26-year-old has come a long way since getting serious about the long jump as a junior at Colony High School. He was the Alaska state champion in 2005 and 2006.

In 2008, Registe won the NCAA championship. The next year he was an All-American again and won GNAC Male Track and Field Athlete of the Year.

In 2011, he was named MVP for athletics at the Dominica Sports Awards.