Alaska men in hunt for hoop titles in NCAA, NIT, CBI

March 17, 2014

We’ve always had success in the NCAA Tournament, with Alaskans winning seven of eight potential title games.

Maybe our good luck will rub off on today’s crop of Division I basketball talent.

Five Alaska men are in the hunt for postseason titles this spring, most notably Anchorage’s Jalil Abdul-Bassit or Oregon and Eagle River’s Eric Roberts of Creighton in the Big Dance.

Anchorage’s Devin Bookert of Florida State and Ryden Hines of Iona will play in the NIT, and Wasilla’s Connor Devine of South Dakota State will participate in the CBI.

Let’s start with the NCAA Tournament, the granddaddy of them all. Since 1987, seven national champions have featured a player from Alaska,

Jalil Abdul-Bassit BasketballThe Oregon Ducks [23-9] are seeded No. 7 in the West Region and include junior Jalil Abdul-Bassit, of West High fame. The 6-foot-4 guard wears No. 15.

Abdul-Bassit, a first-year transfer, played in 16 games and averaged 6.4 minutes. He scored a total of 30 points, mostly from the 3-point line, where he is 7-for-18.

Twice in December he got more playing time and responded with eight points in eight minutes against UC Irvine and nine points in 15 minutes against Morgan State.

“Everybody can score on this team,” he told the school’s website back then. “Anybody can go for 20 every night, but we really need to focus on our defense and stopping other teams.”

Eric Roberts Basketball

Photo by Twitter

The Creighton Bluejays [26-7] are seeded No. 3 in the West Region and include freshman redshirt Eric Roberts, who played for Eagle River and Wasilla in high school.

Roberts hasn’t played but can be found on the bench during games. The 6-foot-3 guard is still part of the team as a practice player.

Creighton joined the Big East this year and marched all the way to the conference tournament final at Madison Square Garden, where Roberts rubbed elbows with Erin Andrews of Fox Sports.

Turning to the NIT, a pair of Alaskans could meet in the quarterfinals if their teams win a few games.

Devon Bookert BasketballThe Florida State Seminoles [19-13] include sophomore Devon Bookert, of West High fame, and are one of the four No. 1 seeds in the 32-team tournament.

Bookert has started 23 of 32 games and averages 8.1 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists in 26 minutes. The 6-foot-3 guard wears jersey No. 1.

He is currently the hottest player from Alaska, a triple-double threat who has season highs of 18 points, nine rebounds and nine assists.

Bookert scored in double digits a dozen times and made at least one 3-pointer in 21 games, including a 4-for-4 performance Georgia Tech.

Ryden Hines BasketballThe Iona Gaels [22-10] are seeded No. 6 and include freshman Ryden Hines, of Dimond High fame. The 6-foot-10 forward wears jersey No. 32.

Hines started two of 20 games and averaged 2.4 points in 6.7 minutes.

In late December, he bagged a season-high 19 points on 7-of-9 shooting in his first college start against Northern Iowa. The next game against Niagara he had 12 points and a season-high six rebounds.

Then he hurt his knee and barely played for the next two months. He’s back on track now.

Connor Devine BasketballFinally, in the College Basketball Invitational [CBI], South Dakota State [19-12] is in the field of 16 and includes freshman Connor Devine, of Wasilla High fame. The 6-foot-10 forward wears No. 30.

Devine played in 25 games and scored a total of 41 points, grabbed 49 rebounds and blocked 12 shots.

His best game came against Stanford when he set career highs in minutes [21], points [7], rebounds [7] and dunked on future NBA prospect Dwight Powell.

Tomorrow we will take a look the women’s tournaments that involve Alaska players.