Alaska’s Greatest NCAA D1 Player Bracket: This is the Sweet 16
During the COVID-19 outbreak Alaska Sports Blog editor Van Williams will take the opportunity to take a retrospective look at Alaska sports.
Just like with the NCAA Tournament, survive and advance is the name of the game in our 64-player bracket to determine Alaska’s Greatest NCAA D1 Men’s Basketball Player.
The second round in this mythical tournament saw several head-to-head matchups come down to the wire – like whoever-has-the-ball-last-wins type close.
In some cases, stats settled the debate. Other times the stats were so similar that the decision came down to other factors like impact, influence, records and awards.
No choice was a slam dunk.
Comparing players at different positions from different eras with virtually the same stats takes precision. There are few snap decisions.
Matchups are analyzed thoroughly, the information scrutinized as to best determine who moves on to the next round.
Let’s dive into the second round as the field dwindles to the Sweet 16:
1 Damen Bell-Holter (Oral Roberts) d. 9. Mark Schweigert (Southern Utah)
2 Kyle Bailey (Santa Clara) d. 10 Vante Hendrix (New Mexico)
3 Doron Perkins (Santa Clara) d. 6 Marcus Watts (McNeese State & Florida Gulf Coast)
4 Tony Reed (Montana) d. 5 Will Egolf (Bradley)
4 Reed vs. 5 Egolf
Fewer than a half dozen Alaskans had played at the D1 level when Reed arrived at Montana in the fall of 1985. Thirty-five years later, his name still resonates.
The 6-foot-2 playmaker was a pure point guard with a nice touch around the basket. He grew up without a 3-point line so he scored on mid-range jumpers and getting to the rim.
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.
Reed (East High) scored 938 points and dished 339 assists in 120 games. His career assist total ranks No. 5 among Alaskans. He also ranks sixth on the single-season assist list with 3.9 in 1988-89 and 13th with 3.2 in 1987-88.
He was part of the Holy Trinity at East – Muff Buter in the 1970s, Tony Reed in the 1980s, Trajan Langdon in the 1990s – that changed Alaska basketball forever.
The 6-foot-9 Egolf is one of the best big men to ever come out of Southeast Alaska, joining former pros Carlos Boozer of Juneau and Damen Bell-Holter of Hydaburg; both 1 seeds in this bracket.
Egolf (Juneau-Douglas High) excelled at Bradley, where he put up 823 points and 468 rebounds in 117 games. His best season came as a senior in 2012-13 when he averaged 10.0 points and 5.5 boards.
On the all-time list among Alaskans, he ranks No. 5 in blocked shots (79), No. 9 in rebounds, 13th in FG% (.456) and 16th in steals (81).
Egolf’s single-game highs were 22 points and 12 rebounds.
3 Perkins vs. 6 Watts
After breaking his leg as a senior in high school, Perkins had no interest from D1 schools. After a Hall-of-Fame career at Southwestern Oregon CC, Santa Clara was one of the few D1 schools that had interest.
What he did in two seasons was nothing short of spectacular as he emerged as one of the most explosive players from Alaska.
Perkins (Bartlett High) amassed 904 points in 63 games, the most for a two-year D1 guy from the 907. His 6.0 rebounds per game average is the best for a guard from Alaska. He’s also the only Alaskan to get 10 steals in a D1 game.
The 6-foot-3 guard twice earned All-West Coast Conference honors in 2004 and 2005 and his 15.4 points per game average as a senior is No. 7 all-time among Alaskans.
Perkins is one of only two Alaskans to have his career highs equal a triple-double: 28 points, 11 rebounds, 10 steals. Throw in eight assists and he’s flirting with a quadruple-double.
Watts (Bartlett High) went to McNeese State straight out of high school in 2002 but later transferred to Florida Gulf Coast for his final two seasons.
The 6-foot-8 forward collected 751 points in 103 games. He ranks No. 6 all-time among Alaskans with a .519 field-goal percentage and No. 8 with 481 rebounds.
He averaged 5.1 rebounds each year at Florida Gulf Coast, making him one of five Alaskans to average at least 5.0 rebounds in two D1 seasons. His career high for scoring was 22 points.
1 Mario Chalmers (Kansas) d. 8 Chris Bryant (Drake)
2 Nick Billings (Binghamton) d. 7 Derrick Wilson (Marquette)
3 Devon Bookert (Florida State) d. 6 Jacob Calloway (Southern Utah)
5 Damon Sherman-Newsome (Colgate) d. 4 Jumoke Horton (Saint Mary’s)
5 Sherman-Newsome vs. 4 Horton
Sherman-Newsome was a premier 3-point specialist and one of the greatest players in Colgate history.
As a senior in 2014-15, the 6-foot-5 shooting guard carried the Raiders to a program-record 12 wins in the Patriot League. That’s more league wins than they had in the previous two seasons combined.
Sherman-Newsome (Bartlett High) was the catalyst and named team MVP for a reason. He reached double figures in 28 of 33 games and his 14.7-point scoring average and 68 3s both rank in the top-10 all-time among Alaskans.
He is one of five Alaskans to make 50 3s in multiple seasons and ranks No. 11 in the state for career points (1,030) and No. 8 for career 3s (140) in 96 games.
Sherman-Newsome had career high scoring games of 30, 29 and 28 points and was named First Team All-Patriot League.
Horton, on the other hand, dominated opponents under the basket. The effective 6-foot-9 post player left a permanent mark on the Saint Mary’s program as he still holds a share of the school record for career field-goal percentage at .616.
Horton (East High) led the Gaels in shooting percentage four times, blocked shots three times and rebounds twice. He was a two-time First Team All-West Coast Conference selection – at the time, just the seventh in 40 years for Saint Mary’s.
Horton also left his mark on Alaska, ranking No. 2 all-time in FG%, No. 4 in blocked shots (82), No. 5 in rebounds (554) and 12th in points (987) in 109 games.
Saint Mary’s had just one winning season in his four years on campus. In 1995, the Gaels went 18-10 and finished second in the West Coast Conference.
2 Billings vs. 7 Wilson
When you see a 7-footer matched up with a 6-footer it’s easy to assume the smaller player is in for an uphill battle. Wilson is a formidable opponent, but Billings was a mountain of a man and ranks No. 48 among all-time shot blockers in NCAA history.
Billings (Kodiak High) might just be the most dominate Alaskan as his position. His 336 blocked shots are more than the No. 2 and No. 3 Alaskans combined.
He 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.
Wilson (East High) is one of the best Alaska point guards to play D1 hoops. Not only does he hold the state’s single-game record for assists (14), but he also holds the two-game record (23), set on the big stage of the Big East Conference Tournament.
As a senior in 2014-15, he finished in the top 10 of the Big East in both assists (4.7) and steals (2.4) per game. His 4.7 assists as a senior rank No. 2 among Alaskans and his 4.2 average as a junior ranks No. 5.
Wilson scored 360 of his 440 career points over his final two seasons at Marquette. His 132 career games rank No. 2 among Alaskans.
1 Carlos Boozer (Duke) d. 8 Jalil Abdul-Bassit (Oregon)
2 Chris Devine (Santa Barbara) d. 7 Ramon Harris (Kentucky)
3 Andre Laws (San Diego) d. 6 Cameron Rigby (Bradley & San Diego)
4 Colter Lasher (Houston Baptist) d. 5 Larry McBride (Montana)
3 Laws vs. 6 Rigby
One of the great go-get-a-bucket players from Alaska, Laws matched the state’s highest single-season scoring average at 18.3 points per game as a senior in 2001-02 with San Diego.
He ranks No. 2 in single-game scoring (36) and No. 7 all-time with 1,337 career points in state history.
Laws (East High) 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.
He 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.
Laws and Rigby were college teammates for three seasons at San Diego.
Rigby (Bartlett High) began his college career at Bradley before transferring to the West Coast Conference. Overall, he racked up 848 points and 486 rebounds in 113 games.
His total rebounds rank seventh all-time among Alaskans and his 6.0 average in 1999-00 ranks 10th.
The 6-foot-7 forward was a pure shooter and still ranks third on San Diego’s career free-throw percentage (.849) on 208-of-245 shooting.
4 Lasher vs. 5 McBride
In another barnburner, Lasher eked out a win to survive and advance.
This battle between all-conference stars from different generations pitted a versatile newcomer against a prototypical post from the 1980s.
Besting the 6-foot-10 McBride was a tall order for the small forward, but Lasher blossomed into pro during his time at Houston Baptist and far exceeded expectations coming out of high school.
The 6-foot-7 Lasher (Dimond High) was an All-Southland Conference pick and is one of nine Alaskans to average double figures in scoring for three seasons. His best season was 15.1 points per game as a senior in 2017-18.
He racked up 1,250 points, 457 rebounds, 214 assists and 139 3-pointers in 117 games. All those stats are top 10 all-time among Alaskans.
Lasher’s single-game highs are just as impressive: 28 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks and seven 3s.
McBride (East High) was the second Alaska player to participate in the NIT in 1985 when Montana lost to UCLA in the first round.
He scored 918 points, grabbed 451 rebounds and blocked 162 shots in 105 games. His .542 career field-goal percentage ranks No. 4 among Alaskans.
McBride was an All-Big Sky Conference selection and twice averaged 10.6 points per game. His career highs were 19 points and 10 rebounds.
1 Trajan Langdon (Duke) d. 8 Chris Toomer (Liberty)
2 Jason Erickson (Montana State) d. 7 Kevin Winford (Eastern Washington)
3 Muff Butler (New Orleans) d. 6 Wally Leask (Washington)
4 Roderick Wilmont (Indiana) d. 5 John Levitt (Saint Mary’s)
2 Erickson vs. 7 Winford
Erickson might be the best D1 player from Alaska nobody knows about outside of Eagle River. If that’s the case, it’s a shame because this guy was good.
The 6-foot-3 shooting guard was an All-American in 2002. He 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.
Erickson (Chugiak High) 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.
Erickson is also one of nine Alaskans to average double figures in scoring for three seasons at the D1 level.
Hard to believe, but Winford never averaged double figures at Eastern Washington, getting tantalizing close at 9.9 points per game as a sophomore in 2010-11.
That’s crazy for a pure shooter like Winford, who had a crazy-good hot streak in the fall of 2010 when the 5-foot-11 shooting guard pumped in 78 points and 21 3-pointers in three games.
Yes, 21 3s in three games.
He went for 28 points and eight 3s against Idaho, 11 points and three 3s against Gonzaga and 39 points and 10 3s against New Hope Christian. The 39 points and 10 3s are both single-game Alaska records for a D1 player.
Winford (Bartlett High) finished his career with 704 points in 113 games. He ranks 11th all-time among Alaskans with 138 career 3s.
4 Wilmont vs. 5 Levitt
In this clash between Southeast Alaska shooters, Wilmont got the nod thanks to his success with Indiana in the NCAA Tournament.
Wilmont (Sitka High) ranks No. 4 among Alaskans with 47 points in four games in the NCAA Tournament, trailing only the Big 3. He ranks fifth in appearances.
His 22 points in a win over Gonzaga at the 2007 NCAA Tournament ranks second-highest among Alaskans, trailing only Trajan Langdon’s 25.
He other huge performances that season, like the time he went off for 31 points, 12 rebounds and nine 3-pointers against Northwestern.
Wilmont was an All-Big Ten selection and twice named Big Ten All-Defense. He scored 866 points, grabbed 444 rebounds and made 150 3s in 118 games.
Levitt (Juneau-Douglas High) was one of the long-range bombers in Saint Mary’s history. He left in 1993 as the school record holder with 166 3s; he’s now 10th.
He is one of five Alaskans to make at least 50 3s in multiple seasons.
The 6-foot-5 guard racked up 831 points, 361 rebounds, 132 assists in 109 games. His career high was 21 points.