Alaska’s Greatest NCAA D1 Player Bracket: Field down to Elite 8
Our 64-player bracket to determine Alaska’s Greatest NCAA D1 Men’s Basketball Player is down to the quarterfinals.
Alaska’s elite eight.
Four guards from Anchorage – Mario Chalmers, Muff Butler, Devon Bookert and Trajan Langdon.
Another guard from Fairbanks – Kyle Bailey.
And three power forwards – Chris Devine from Eagle River, Carlos Boozer from Juneau and Damen Bell-Holter from Hydaburg.
The bracket gets only harder to pick from here on out. Every player is a heavyweight. No easy knockouts with this group.
Here is a quick look at how we got to this point:
Now let’s get to the elite eight:
SWEET 16 ROUND
1 Mario Chalmers (Kansas) d. 5 Damon Sherman-Newsome (Colgate)
3 Devon Bookert (Florida State) d. 2 Nick Billings (Binghamton)
3 Bookert vs. 2 Billings
If there was a possibility of a buzzer beater, this was the matchup. And Bookert was the player to pull it off.
The 6-foot-3 guard was an especially clutch player for Florida State, hitting two game-winning shots and sending another game to overtime with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the world’s most famous arena, Madison Square Garden.
Bookert (West High) never wilted under the bright lights.
He scored a career-high 23 points against Duke. He became the first player in FSU history to shoot better than 50 percent from 3-point land. He is Alaska’s most prolific playmaker when it comes to the NIT.
Bookert ranks first among Alaskans in NIT appearances (8) and points (60). He took over the 2014 tournament, producing a 21-point, 9-assist effort to help FSU beat Georgetown in the second round and then hitting the biggest shot of his life in the semifinals against Minnesota.
In that game, he scored seven points in the final 21 seconds of regulation, including a game-tying, buzzer-beating 3-pointer from the top of the key to force overtime at MSG. He had a knack for making big shots.
In 2013, Bookert made a 10-foot fadeaway jumper to beat the buzzer and Northeastern 62-60 in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. In 2014, he was credited with the winning bucket after his 3-point air ball was accidentally tipped in by a Florida player on the final play of a 65-63 win.
“He’s a guy that if a fight breaks out you want him on the other side of you because he is going to be there to the end,” his college coach Leonard Hamilton said. “And then on Sunday morning, he is going to pick your daughter up and take her to church.”
Bookert still holds the FSU record for single-season 3-point percentage (.525) and ranks third for career percentage (.419).
On the all-time list among Alaskans, Bookert ranks third in games (131), tenth in points (1,120), fourth in assists (347), fifth in steals (139) and third in 3s (188).
Billings (Kodiak High) might just be the most dominate Alaskan as his center position. His 336 blocked shots are more than the No. 2 and No. 3 Alaskans combined.
The 7-footer is one of two Alaskans to have his career highs equal a triple-double: 25 points, 14 rebounds, 10 blocked shots. He actually blocked 10 shots three different times for Binghamton and averaged 4.3 blocks per game as a freshman.
Billings was the American East Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 2003 and twice named all-league. He ranks fourth among Alaskans with 598 career rebounds and a .497 field-goal percentage in 107 games.
SWEET 16 ROUND
1 Carlos Boozer (Juneau) d. 4 Colter Lasher (Houston Baptist)
2 Chris Devine (Santa Barbara) d. 3 Andre Laws (San Diego)
2 Devine vs. 3 Laws
Devine was part of the Santa Barbara program for six seasons after missing the first two years with knee injuries. Once cleared for takeoff, he flew higher than most players from the 907.
The 6-foot-8 forward is Alaska’s lone four-time all-conference selection in a D1 league and one of two Alaskans to average double figures in scoring for four seasons.
Devine (Chugiak High) is also one of only three Alaskans to collect season highs of at least 29 points and 14 rebounds. He is the state’s record holder with 400 career free throws.
“Chris was a warrior,” his college coach Bob Williams said. “He was a great defender, a very, very good inside-out scorer and he is the most physical player on this team. He always did whatever we asked him to do and then some. One of the hardest workers we’ve had in the program.”
Devine set a Santa Barbara freshman records for points (355) and is one of two players in school history to earn All-Big West Conference honors four consecutive seasons from 2006 to 2009. He was named to the Gauchos Team of the Decade.
He ranks No. 2 all-time among Alaskans with 1,607 career points. He’s sixth in games (119), third in rebounds (723), fifth in field-goal percentage (.525) and eighth in steals (130).
His 15.5-point scoring average in the 2008-2009 season is tied for No. 5 among Alaskans at the D1 level. He ranks No. 23 in Big West Conference history with 592 career field goals.
Laws (East High) shares the state’s highest single-season scoring average at 18.3 points per game as a senior in 2001-02 with San Diego.
The 6-foot-1 guard ranks No. 2 in single-game points (36) and No. 7 in career points (1,337) in state history. He also ranks in the top-10 all-time among Alaskans with 144 steals (4th), 246 assists (7th) and 139 3-pointers (T-9th) in 114 games.
Laws was a three-time All-West Coast Conference selection and one of nine Alaskans to average double figures in scoring for three seasons at the D1 level.
SWEET 16 ROUND
1 Trajan Langdon (Duke) d. 4. Roderick Wilmont (Indiana)
3 Muff Butler (New Orleans) d. 2 Jason Erickson (Montana State)
3 Buter vs. 2 Erickson
The first household name to come out of the state in the 1980s, Butler is widely considered the godfather of Alaska basketball.
“He is the standard that every great modern-day Alaska high school player measures themselves against,” said longtime college coach and former East High standout Louis Wilson. “Way before his time.
“He is an Alaska basketball legend.”
Butler (East High) still holds the Alaska single-season assist record set all the way back in 1981-82 when he averaged 5.5 per game for New Orleans. No Alaskan has averaged even 5 since then.
The Privateers had a 41-15 record in two seasons with Butler.
The 6-foot-1 guard played two seasons at New Orleans, scoring 681 points. He ranks eighth all-time among Alaskans with 240 assists. His 90 steals are top-15.
Butler’s career .558 field-goal percentage ranks No. 3 all-time among Alaskans – No. 1 among guards. Remember that he played before the 3-pointer was added to the game.
He averaged 12.3 points in 1982-83 and 12.0 points in 1981-82. In addition to having the best assist year at 5.5, he also ranks tenth at 3.5 assists in 1982-83.
“Elite defender,” Wilson said. “Impossible to stay in front of and an absolute basketball killer.”
Erickson (Chugiak High) was an All-American in 2002 and is the only player in Montana State history to win Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year and Big Sky Conference Player of the Year.
The 6-foot-3 guard was a three-time All-Big Sky selection and still holds the school record for career steals (162) and ranks third in career 3-point percentage (.434).
He poured in 1,227 points in 112 career games to rank No. 9 all-time among Alaskans. He ranks third in steals and sixth in 3s (157). His career high for scoring was 30 points and his 17.3 points per game average is tied for third-best among Alaskans.
SWEET 16 ROUND
1 Damen Bell-Holter (Oral Roberts) d. 4 Tony Reed (Montana)
2 Kyle Bailey (Santa Clara) d. 3 Doron Perkins (Santa Clara)
1 Bell-Holter v. 4 Reed
Bell-Holter was a double-double machine at Oral Roberts and tops Alaska’s all-time list in rebounds.
The 6-foot-9 forward posted 25 double-doubles in his final 95 games and averaged 15.5 points and 9.7 rebounds as a senior in the 2012-13 season.
Bell-Holter (Ketchikan High) was All-Summit League in 2011 and All-Southland Conference in 2013.
His career-high 35 points rank No. 3 for an Alaskan and his career-high 20 rebounds are No. 1. He often cleaned the glass and had other games with 17, 15, 14 (4 times) and 13 (5 times) boards.
During a six-game stretch in 2013, Bell-Holter averaged 23.1 points and 13 rebounds. That might be the most dominating stretch for any Alaskan at the D1 level. Two games really stand out – his 36-point, 14-rebound effort against Southeastern Louisiana and his 25-point, 20-rebound performance against Northwestern State.
“Damen’s interior size and strength created headaches for opponents,” said longtime high school coach Robert Casperson of Juneau. “He continued to improve beyond his time in high school and ended up having an impressive career.”
Bell-Holter ranks sixth all-time among Alaska in games (119), fifth in points (1,389), first in rebounds (878), third in blocked shots (139), fourth in free throws (377).
Reed (East High) scored 938 points and dished 339 assists in 120 games with Montana. The 6-foot-2 playmaker was a pure point guard with a nice touch around the basket.
He ranks fifth all-time among Alaskans in assists. He also ranks sixth on the single-season assist list with 3.9 in 1988-89 and 13th with 3.2 in 1987-88.
His .492 career field-goal percentage ranks No. 8 all-time among Alaskans, No. 2 among guards. His career highs were 25 points and seven assists.