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.

October 23, 2014

Doron Perkins

Photo by Euroleague.net

The most traveled professional basketball player from Alaska is on the move once again.

Doron Perkins of Anchorage will play his 10th international season in his 10th different country, signing with Euroleague team Laboral Kutxa of Spain’s top division.

“Playing in the Euroleague and Spanish liga is pretty cool,” he told me. “It doesn’t get much better than that.”

Perkins, of Bartlett High fame, is a two-way threat as a defender and playmaker.

Last year with Besiktas in Turkey, he averaged 10 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals in EuroCup action. His season high for scoring was 25 points, just three shy of his career high.

Even at 31, the 6-foot-2 point guard remains relevant.

“I don’t know how many years I have left but I feel great as of now and I think I’m better than when I was younger,” Perkins said.

Perkins is joining a new-look Laboral Kutxa team that revamped after finishing sixth in the league, the first time it hadn’t been in the top five since 2003. This is the same Spanish team Brad Oleson of North Pole led to a La Liga title in 2010.

Laboral Kutxa needed a fresh start and turned to a man with a reputation for resurrecting teams.

He did it in Turkey, Greece, Urkaine, China, Germany, Belgium, Japan, Israel and Italy.

Why not Spain, too?

“This is a pretty good team. A lot of changes were made because the team hasn’t done as well as in the past,” Perkins said. “It should be a good opportunity to continue to play at a high level.”

Perkins has had opportunities with NBA teams in summer league and preseason, and he famously dropped a triple-double on the LA Clippers when he played with Israeli power Tel Aviv, but he never stuck with a team.

He turned to the international game, which turned him into a man and a millionaire.

“I would love to play in the NBA, but I definitely wouldn’t trade my overseas experience for anything,” Perkins said. “So many different cultures and people … I have learned way more than any school or university could teach me.”

October 21, 2014

Zac Naylor SoccerWhen the Concordia University men’s soccer team recruited Anchorage’s Zac Naylor it was because of his strength, technique and ability to score goals.

He hasn’t disappointed.

Naylor bagged two more goals in a 4-0 road win over Northwest University in Washington in a battle for first place in the Cascade Collegiate Conference.

The junior transfer has four goals and one assist in 13 games this season. His nine points are tied for third most on the NAIA team out of Portland.

Naylor, of South High fame, came to Concordia from Edmonds Community College, where he scored 18 goals in two seasons.

He has always had a nose for the goal and proved it against Northwest in the 12th minute when he pounced on a loose ball off a header and then again in the 53rd minute when he cleaned up a sloppy clear by the goalkeeper.

It was a big weekend for the Naylor family – Zac scored two goals and lil sister Jordan was named Miss Alaska High School for 2015.

October 20, 2014

kelsey_griffin_basketball_action4Kelsey Griffin of Eagle River returned to the basketball court in Australia and picked up right where she left off.

The two-time Grand Finals MVP resumed her role with the two-time league champion Bendigo Spirit, asserting herself as one of the best players in the WNBL with a 22-point, 5-rebound effort in the season opener.

Bendigo actually lost the game 70-67 on the road to Townsville in a rematch of last year’s championship game.

Griffin, of Chugiak High fame, made 8-of-12 field goals and 5-of-6 free throws. The 6-foot-2 forward typically shoots the ball well.

One more point will be No. 700 for her career in Australia. She has averaged 15.2 in 46 regular-season games, a number that climbs to 24-per-game in the WNBL Grand Final.

Lucas Updike RunningA pair of Alaskans helped the Eastern Oregon University men’s cross country team enjoy one of the best days in school history.

Buoyed by Ketchikan’s Lucas Updike and Anchorage’s Hans Roelle, the Mountaineers finished with the third best time in school history on their way to winning the Inland Empire Championships in Idaho.

Updike was 14th in the 8K race with a time of 24:43 – the 12th fastest time in Eastern Oregon history.

Two weeks ago, the senior was the team’s No. 1 runner at the 40th annual Willamette Invitational in Oregon, where he finished ninth overall in 25:19.

Hans Roelle Track and FieldRoelle was 18th in the race at the Inland Empire Championships in 25:40 – the 13th fastest time in school history.

Roelle, of West High fame, is also a senior.

The Eastern Oregon women’s team features Anchorage’s Rachel Roelle and Copper Center’s Kailey Wilson and finished fourth at the meet.

October 19, 2014

With 36 colleges and more than 250 runners, the Wisconsin Invitational is so massive you could get lost on the way to the starting line.

Silas Talbot Track and FieldYet somehow a couple of Alaskans from different schools managed to finish just a few strides apart.

Anchorage’s Silas Talbot of Dartmouth finished 84th with a time of 24:32.

Three seconds later, Anchorage’s Aaron Fletcher of BYU crossed 92nd in 24:35.

If it seems like these guys are connected, they are in a way. Both were state runner-ups in high school, Talbot in 2009 for Service and Fletcher in 2008 for South.

Now they are both at NCAA D1 schools.

Talbot was Dartmouth’s No. 1 runner at the Wisconsin Invitational.

The senior has posted sub-25 times in nine consecutive 8K races dating back to 2012.

Aaron Fletcher RunningFletcher was BYU’s fifth runner as the Cougars placed 13th as a team.

The junior has enjoyed a strong 2014 calendar year, especially during the track season when he set career-best marks in the mile, 3K and steeplechase.

October 18, 2014

D.J. Whittemore isn’t involved with the oil business, but the Western Nevada College baseball coach has tapped into the Alaska pipeline to strike it rich.

First it was Juneau’s Dylan Baker, who has graduated to pro ball in 2012.

Then it was Anchorage’s Max Karnos, who anchored the pitching staff last season as a freshman.

Now newcomer Johny Meszaros of Anchorage has joined the team.

Max Karnos BaseballKarnos, of South High fame, is a valuable and versatile piece of the puzzle that developed into the team’s workhorse. He led Western Nevada with 75.1 innings pitched and three complete games to go along with a 5-2 record and 3.58 ERA.

“Max came to us a confident and polished pitcher that experienced a great deal of success at all levels of youth baseball,” Whittemore told me. “He was a strike thrower when he arrived on campus and we set off to work to improve the quality of his stuff. He worked hard and improved his velocity 3 to 5 mph, and also developed a breaking ball that was college average from almost non-existent at the start of the year.”

Karnos started 12 of his first 13 games before he was moved to the bullpen for the playoffs. When Western Nevada beat Salt Lake 5-0 to reach the Scenic West Athletic Conference finals, it was Karnos that closed it out with two shutout innings.

“Max is capable of pitching in any role – as is almost every pitcher,” Whittemore said. “Throwing quality pitches is the art of starting or relieving. The role of ‘closer’ doesn’t really exist in our program. We have relievers that generally pitch when the game is the most tense and at the most crucial moments.”

The 6-foot-4, 205-pound right-hander has a strong sinking fastball that helped him average nearly seven strikeouts per game.

“The chief difference between a starter versus a reliever is the ability of a reliever to erase inherited runners via the strikeout,” Whittemore said. “Starters need to be strike throwers that can keep their pitch count down and get outs without velocity.”

Johny Meszaros baseballMeszaros, 19, did not play college baseball in 2014, although it was only a year ago that he was picked in the 39th round of the MLB Draft by the Tampa Bay Rays.

The 6-foot-2, 215-pounder righty is ripe with potential.

“Johny is a hard worker that has a clear goal in mind. He is educated in the art of pitching and has confidence as well,” Whittmore said. “His maturity as a student, person, and pitcher is growing each day and it will be fun to continue to watch his development.”

Meszaros, of Service High fame, has been limited since his arrival to Western Nevada because of some inflammation in his elbow.

“He needs to throw strikes to be successful. His fastball is good to great and comes out of his hand very easily and with some life. The key for him to be successful is command of the baseball,” Whittmore said. “He certainly has the breaking ball and the body of a professional pitcher.”

October 17, 2014

Julia Rumley TennisA perfect effort on the court earned Julia Rumley of Anchorage a nice reward.

The junior tennis player was named Grinnell College Athlete of the Week after winning all six matches in singles and doubles as the Pioneers swept three conference opponents.

Rumley, of East High fame, won her first match at No. 4 singles and picked up two more wins at the No. 5 position.

She also teamed with Sydney Banach to win No. 3 doubles three times.

On the season Rumley has an 8-2 record in singles and has won eight doubles matches with three different partners.

Grinnell is playing at the Midwest Conference Championships in Wisconsin this weekend. In 2012, Rumley was the No. 6 singles champion and half of the victorious No. 3 doubles team.

October 16, 2014

Jenna Arlow VolleyballPalmer’s Jenna Arlow of Sterling College is one of the top setters in NAIA volleyball, ranking 15th in the nation with 921 assists in 27 matches.

Sometimes, though, she’ll hit the ball to catch the defense off guard.

It happened against Kansas Wesleyan.

The 5-foot-5 junior match her season-high with seven kills to go along with 36 assists in a four-set loss.

Arlow, of Palmer High fame, has used good judgment when calling her own number this year. She has 81 kills compared to just 25 hitting errors for a career-high .243 attack percentage.

She has 136 kills and 1,650 assists for her career.

October 15, 2014

Bryan Maley FootballEagle River’s Bryan Maley scored eight points, including two in the first and second overtimes, as Wagner College beat Saint Francis 46-39 in NCAA D1 football action.

The senior placekicker made five PATs and a season-long 42-yard field goal.

Maley, of Chugiak High fame, leads Wagner with 31 points.

On the season he has made 6-of-11 field goals and 13-of-14 extra points.

October 14, 2014

Aaliyah Lewis SoccerWhen you average more than a point per soccer game, chances are you’re going to have huge games.

Well, Anchorage’s Aaliyah Lewis had a humongous week.

The Alabama State sophomore striker scored eight goals in three games over seven days, including back-to-back hat tricks.

The former Alaska player of the year torched Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Grambling State, matching her career-high with 3-1—7 totals. She also scored twice against Howard.

Lewis, of Dimond High fame, now has 11 goals and five assists in 13 games this season.

She has an incredible 29 goals and 12 assists in 34 career games for Alabama State, a NCAA D1 school in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

Oliver Querin SoccerSomething about playing Regis University brings out the best in Colorado Mesa University men’s soccer player Oliver Querin of Palmer.

He has four goals in 44 career games – all four of them against Regis.

Querin struck again, scoring the lone goal as Colorado Mesa beat NCAA D2 No. 8 Regis 1-0 in a matchup between the top two teams in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.

The senior defender found the net in the 58th minute for his first goal of the season. It came off a throw in that was headed his direction.

“It settled perfectly for me and I slaughtered it,” he told the school’s website. “It wouldn’t have come through to me if our team wasn’t challenging for those [50/50] balls.”

Querin, of Colony High fame, was honored by the conference by being named RMAC Defender of the Week.

In addition to his goal, helped the Mavericks earn back-to-back shutouts and allow just six shots on goal in two wins. Colorado Mesa leads the RMAC at 7-2 and is 9-2-1 overall.

October 13, 2014

Zack Bowman FootballThe New York Giants didn’t do much well in last night’s 27-0 loss to Philadelphia, but the loss wasn’t a complete waste for Anchorage’s Zack Bowman.

The seventh-year cornerback picked off Nick Foles in the second half, moving closer to Reggie Tongue’s Alaska record for interceptions in the NFL.

Bowman, of Bartlett High fame, now has 11 picks in 79 games.

In 2009, Bowman had an Alaska record six interceptions with the Chicago Bears.

Tongue, of Fairbanks, had 15 in 145 games from 1996 to 2005.

October 12, 2014

Brad Oleson BasketballBasketball has taken Brad Oleson of North Pole all over the world, but never China.

He got the chance with Spanish power Barcelona on its Euroleague Asia Tour.

The veteran shooting guard started both exhibition games, a 94-83 win over Zhejiang Lions and 123-57 win over the SBL All-Stars. He finished with a combined 17 points.

Oleson, of UAF fame, scored seven points in 14 minutes the first night. In the second game he collected 10 points and scored a bucket that put Barcelona over the century mark.

“Someone pointed out to me that geographically, playing in Hangzhou and Taipei is as close as I have come, playing professionally, to my home in North Pole, Alaska,” Oleson told Euroleague.net. “That is interesting; however, China and Alaska are still about eight time-zones apart.”

This is Oleson’s 10th professional season in Spain.

The 6-foot-3 shooter has averaged 12.7 points in 502 career games with Rosalia, Fuenlabrada, Caja Laboral and Barcelona.

October 11, 2014

Zach Lujan FootballThe Zach Lujan legacy is gaining steam.

He’s already an Alaska treasure as one of the few very players from here to start at quarterback for a NCAA D1 football team.

And he’s already turned heads at South Dakota State University after playing well in relief in Week 1, on the road no less, and orchestrating a three-game winning streak in his first three starts.

Now the Anchorage native has added another chapter: furious fourth-quarter comeback.

Lujan, of South High fame, led No. 19 South Dakota State to a pair of scoring drives in the final 15 minutes to highlight a 32-28 victory over Missouri State in South Dakota.

The sophomore signal caller set career highs in yards [310] and touchdowns [3]. He threw for 59 yards in the fourth quarter.

With his team down 28-17 at the start of the fourth quarter, he led his team back by throwing for a 26-yard touchdown followed up by throwing for the two-point conversation.

South Dakota State went ahead on its next drive, capped by a 1-yard TD run.

Lujan completed 17-of-28 passes, including one that went for a career-long 78 yards.

keely_jelinek_soccerJust a freshman, Keely Jelinek of Anchorage is already logging big minutes and making big plays for Carnegie Mellon University, ranked fourth in NCAA D2 women’s soccer.

The center defender scored the game winner in a 2-1 win over No. 12 University of Chicago, which pushed Carnegie Mellon’s record to 9-0.

Jelinek’s first college goal came in the 22nd minute off a corner kick. It was good enough to win her ECAC Rookie of the Week honors.

Jelinek, of South High fame, is one of five players out of 28 that have started every match this season.

October 10, 2014

anthony_cousin_basketball_sm1When Anthony Cousin of Anchorage ended his college basketball career at Illinois State University, he opted to settle down rather than chase down professional teams overseas.

After making basketball his priority for a decade, he wanted to appreciate the finer things in life.

“I’ve been catching up on the missed times with my family,” Cousin told me. “I was away for college for some years and wasn’t able to make it home as much. To finally come back and enjoy their time … it was all love.

“I got to see my first niece and nephew’s birth, so a lot of uncle duties were required, but I loved it. Also my brother was diagnosed with cancer, so once I heard that, everything was on pause, even basketball. But my brother wanted me to keep grinding because it’s been his dream as well to see me become successful at the professional level. So that was motivation.”

If anything, being away from the game only cemented his court commitment. He worked on his game, trained hard and traveled to Spain to get more exposure with international teams.

Cousin’s patience, and preparation, paid off nicely as the 5-foot-11 point guard has signed his first professional basketball contract with Jedinstvo, a Euroleague team out of the first division in Montenegro.

“It’s unreal. Growing up I had dreams of going pro but the way my previous situations have been I thought my dreams were over,” Cousin said. “By that I’m referring to my college years; senior year I didn’t play at all. I didn’t have the stats or a strong enough resume to get me anywhere. But with God, faith and a strong support cast, my dreams became a reality. To this day I’m still in shock.”

Cousin, of South High fame, was the Alaska runner-up for player of the year in 2008. He went to Butler Community College in Kansas and in 2010 helped the team win its first league title in nine years. From there he went to Illinois State of the Missouri Valley Conference and helped the team reach the NIT Sweet 16 in 2012.

He averaged 19.9 minutes, 4.3 points and 1.8 assists in 92 career games with Illinois State.

Cousin said he’s a better player than he was in college, he said, thanks to the tutelage of personal trainers, private coaches and professional representation.

“Yes, I can say I’m ready for the pro level. I worked hard day after day with trainers who trained guys at this level for a whole year. I believe in my hard work so now it’s time to put it to the test,” he said. “I think this was the best opportunity for me. I took the long route, but I never lost hope, so I feel this was well deserved.”

He didn’t know much about Montenegro, and he had never heard of Jedinstvo. But he’s all-in now.

“I got the call, told my family and packed up right away. I’m here now so I kinda know a little,” he said. “My role is to run the point and run it well. Run sets and run them properly while also attacking in transition as well. Put points on the board and to contribute as much as possible on both ends.”

The game is played differently in Europe than in the United States, but Cousin isn’t worried. Playing the right way translates in any language.

“I know it’s slower than the States, a lot of pick and roll basketball, less individual play,” he said. “That’s a huge advantage on my side.”

October 8, 2014

Zac Naylor SoccerAnchorage’s Zac Naylor converted his first three-point game in his young career with the Concordia University men’s soccer team.

The junior transfer scored a goal and assisted on the game winner in a 3-1 victory over Northwest Christian University in Oregon.

He scored in the 12th minute after corralling a deflection and beating the keeper with a low shot to the left corner.

“I got it on the outside on the 18 and it bounced off the defender and he didn’t clear it so I just stayed with it and finished it,” Naylor told the school’s website.

In the 23rd minute, Concordia made it 2-0 on Naylor’s assist.

Naylor, of South High fame, has netted two goals in his last four games, giving him 20 for his college career after scoring 18 in two years with Edmonds Community College.

October 7, 2014

Derrick Wilson BasketballAnchorage’s Derrick Wilson has been named captain of the Marquette University men’s basketball team.

Look for him at midcourt before games, shaking hands with the referees and opposing captains.

Wilson, of East High fame, will share the responsibility with teammate Juan Anderson.

Wilson earned the starting job last year for the first time and averaged career highs in minutes [30.8], points [5.0], assists [4.2] and rebounds [3.8].

The 6-foot-2, 210-pound guard is a defensive dynamo and one of the best on-ball perimeter defenders in the Big East.

October 6, 2014

Caleb McLaren FootballUniversity of Minnesota Morris quarterback Caleb McLaren of Delta Junction broke a 40-year-old school record over the weekend in a 28-14 loss to Westminster.

He completed a touchdown pass that went for a 95-yard touchdown, the longest scoring play in school history.

McLaren, of Delta High fame, finished the game with a season-high 250 yards on 15-of-33 passing. He had two touchdowns and one interception.

The second-year starter has thrown for 2,464 career yards and 22 touchdowns in 13 games for the NCAA D3 school.

October 5, 2014

Aaliyah Lewis SoccerWhere would the Alabama State University women’s soccer team be without Aaliyah Lewis of Anchorage?

The sophomore striker scored both her team’s goals in a 3-2 loss to Howard in NCAA D1 action in Alabama.

Lewis has scored or assisted on all eight goals Alabama State has in 11 games this season.

The former Alaska player of the year has collected five goals and three assists, giving her 23-10—56 totals in 32 career games.

Kari Hancock EquestrianRiding for one of the top NCAA equestrian teams in the country, Kari Hancock of Anchorage did her part to help No. 7 Texas Christian University dominated Delaware State in a 12-3 victory.

The sophomore and her horse Grace scored a 90-85 victory as she was named the meet’s Most Outstanding Player for the second time in her young career.

Later in the day against Centenary she defeated her opponent and earned another MOP honor while riding a very challenging horse.

Hancock, of South High fame, was named to the Big 12 Academic All-Rookie Team with a 4.0 GPA as a biochemistry major.

October 4, 2014

Zach Lujan FootballSouth Dakota State quarterback Zach Lujan broke another milestone in his first season as a starter, eclipsing the 1,000-yard benchmark in a 45-10 loss to Illinois State.

The sophomore transfer completed 20-of-40 passes for a career-high 294 yards and a touchdown. He has thrown for 1,049 yards in five games.

Lujan, of South High fame, became the starter after the starter got injured in Week 1. He has kept the job since then, winning his first three starts before this loss in the Missouri Valley Football Conference opener for both teams.

South Dakota State [3-2] came into the game ranked ninth in NCAA 1-AA; Illinois State No. 24.

Lujan has now thrown a touchdown pass in four straight games, this time connecting on a 26-yarder in the third quarter. He has a 6/4 TD-to-INT ratio.

October 3, 2014

phillip fenumiai footballPhillip Fenumiai of Juneau came to Western Oregon University as a quarterback, but when his team needed a tight end he was the first one to step up.

Sitting behind a senior, it was his only way to get on the field. It showed initiative and insight to embrace the challenge of playing a new position, but Fenumiai is a gamer. He isn’t scared.

“It was a big transition,” he told me. “The blocking is crucial for our tight ends because we use our tight ends a lot to block and then running routes as well. It’s a brand new thing coming from quarterback last year to blocking more. This is Week 5 and I feel more confident blocking since it all started. I just took time, a lot of time, and I kept telling myself that it was going to take a while. I just have to buckle down and grind it out, I guess.”

Fenumiai, of Juneau-Douglas High fame, has transitioned nicely into his new role for Western Oregon [2-2], having caught a pass in each of the four games and hauling in his first career touchdown in a 38-14 victory over Simon Fraser.

“It was pretty nice getting that out of the way,” he said with a laugh.

His touchdown came in the second quarter, a 4-yard reception off a play-action fake.

“The quarterback booted to the right and came across the field, and the wide receivers did a good job sucking in the defense and allowing them to come up,” he said. “I just came over the top and quarterback threw a pretty ball. I didn’t have to do anything at all. It was just there in my hands. I couldn’t be happier.

“I had it visualized in my mind that I was going to celebrate with my teammates and my coaches said I just ran around like I didn’t think I was actually in the end zone. I didn’t know what to do. I just handed the ball to the ref and gave my teammates a high five and went right back to the sideline. I didn’t really know what happened, Later I was like, wow, that was my first college touchdown. I didn’t really celebrate it though. It was awesome. It was a great feeling.”

Fenumiai is 6-foot-3, 220 pounds; good size for a quarterback, but on the smaller size for a college tight end.

Still, he manages to make it work with five catches for 44 yards.

“Physically I feel like I’m OK,” he said. “It’s just all about technique when it comes to blocking, no matter how big the guy is. You gotta embrace the contact from bigger guys.

“At the end of the game your body is going to get tired, so you have to rely on how you prepared that whole week. You have to be ready for fundamentals break down as you get tired, so you have to go back to what you learned that week, previous weeks, even fall camp and stuff like that. Everything will slow down and from there it will get easier for you.”

October 2, 2014

Cody McKenzie Mixed Martial ArtsSome guys will do anything to play.

Cordova’s Cody McKenzie will even give blood.

The former UFC fighter reportedly drew a pint of blood to help cut 1.4 pounds to make weight the 171-pound requirement for this weekend’s Battlegrounds one-night, single-elimination tournament in Oklahoma.

McKenzie originally weighed in at 172.4 pounds and was given two hours to make weight.

The Alaskan has won 15 of 19 professional mixed-martial arts fights and will face UFC veteran Brock Larson [37-8] in the first round.

Dylan Faber SoccerAfter falling behind 2-0 just 30 minutes into the game, the Northeastern University men’s soccer team rallied past Stony Brook in the second half.

Dylan Faber of Anchorage did his part as the junior goalkeeper replaced the starter in net at the beginning of the second half and made two saves with a clean sheet.

It was his first win of the season in three games.

Stony Brook took a 2-0 advantage before the Huskies got one back right before halftime, made the switch at goal and then scored twice more in the second half, including nine minutes into OT.

Faber, of West High fame, logged 54 minutes in net.

The 6-footer splits time as the starter, although he has a better save percentage [.722 to .667] and goals against average [1.39 to 1.69].