The ‘Alaskan Assassin’ has been picked as the winner of Alaska’s Greatest NCAA D1 Men’s Basketball Player Bracket.
A select group of two dozen Alaska voters who played D1 hoops or coached a D1 player picked Trajan Langdon over Mario Chalmers in a battle between Alaska Sports Hall of Fame guards from Anchorage in the finals of our 64-player bracket.
“He set the standard by which all others are held,” said longtime college coach Louis Wilson of Anchorage. “One of the greatest shooters in the history of modern major college hoops.”
Langdon (East High) was a two-time All-American at Duke; Alaska’s only D1 player to earn All-American honors in multiple seasons. He is the only Alaskan to earn first team all-conference honors three times – in the ACC, no less. He is the only Alaskan to make 100 3s in a season.
“Trajan’s accomplishment of bringing national attention and optimism for future Alaskan players is what sets his career apart from everyone else,” said Fairbanks native Kyle Bailey, who played at Santa Clara.
Langdon left Duke in 1999 but still ranks No. 2 all-time in school history for career 3-pointers (342), career 3-point percentage (.426) and career free-throw percentage (.861).
The 6-foot-3 guard ranks first all-time among Alaskans in games (136), points (1,974) and 3-pointers (342). He’s third in free throws (386), sixth in assists (255) and tenth in steals (120).
“Nobody was more representative of Alaska basketball than Trajan,” said Frank Ostanik, a former college player from Fairbanks who has coached college and high school for two decades.
Langdon became the first Alaskan in 1997 to score 30 points at the D1 level, breaking Muff Butler’s state record of 27 points set in 1982. Langdon is also No. 1 in NCAA Tournament scoring with 158 points, with his tournament scoring highs of 25, 24 and 23 points ranking 1-2-3 among Alaskans.
He helped Duke reach the 1999 NCAA title game, losing to UConn. He was the 1999 East Regional Most Outstanding Player.
Langdon’s win was no slam dunk.
“Mario was equally deserving,” Wilson said.
Chalmers (Bartlett High) had plenty of backers based on his incredible career at Kansas.
“Tons of respect for both of them but with that being said I’m going with Mario,” said Anchorage’s Bentiu Panoam, who plays at North Dakota. “Bartlett over East in that rivalry!”
In 2008, Chalmers cemented his name in Kansas Jayhawk history after hitting one of the biggest shots in NCAA Tournament history.
With his team trailing 63-60 in the final seconds of the national championship game against Memphis, Chalmers pulled up off-the-dribble and drained a 3-pointer with a hand in his face to tie the game with 2.1 seconds left.
The game went into overtime, Kansas won the title and Chalmers was the hero.
“The shot was insane – without a doubt the most clutch shot by any Alaskan,” said Juneau’s Jacob Calloway, who played at Southern Utah. “Maybe the greatest Alaskan spots moment.”
Chalmers was the 2008 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player, 2007 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and 2006 Big 12 Tournament MVP.
The 6-foot-1 playmaker was a three-time All-Big 12 selection and three-time Big 12 All-Defensive Team pick. He ranks 1-2-3 among Alaskans in season steals with 2.7, 2.6 and 2.5 averages.
On Alaska’s all-time list, he ranks first in steals (283), second in assists (420), fourth in 3-pointers (180) and sixth in points (1,341). He is tenth in career field-goal percentage (.486) – third among guards.
In the first semifinal, Chalmers just eked out a win over Juneau’s Carlos Boozer. This was as close as it gets; the equivalent of a buzzer beater.
“I know there can’t be a tie so in the end I have to go with the big guy,” said Anchorage’s Phil Jordan, a former championship coach and member of the ASAA Hall of Fame.
The best big man out of Alaska, the 6-foot-9 Boozer was a walking bucket at Duke and still holds the school’s career record for field-goal percentage (.632) – 18 years after he played there.
“I marvel at the reality that after being recruited as a wing player for Duke, he recreated his game to fill a need as a post player and became one of the best ever at the position in the ACC,” said Juneau’s Robert Casperson, a longtime high school coach.
Boozer (Juneau-Douglas High) is one of three Alaskans to earn All-American honors. He was also named All-ACC and ACC All-Freshman Team.
He won a NCAA championship in 2001 and was named ACC Tournament MVP in 2002.
“Boozer had such a dominant junior year shooting 67% from the field and averaging 18 and 9 and a steal a game,” Calloway said. “He was such a dominant force.”
There were people like Jordan, who had Boozer winning the whole thing.
“It got down to Trajan and Carlos. I brought it down to these two not only because of their multiple appearances in the NCAA tournament but because of the class and character they exhibited both on and off the floor,” he said.
In the second semifinal, Langdon beat Kyle Bailey of Fairbanks by unanimous decision.
Bailey (Lathrop High) is the only D1 player from Alaska to accumulate 1,500 points, 500 rebounds, 400 assists, 100 steals and 200 3-pointers in a career.
As a senior in 2004-05, he averaged 26.3 points in three games against top-20 teams. He pumped in 20 points in a win over No. 4 North Carolina and had 26 points in a loss to No. 11 Gonzaga.
He is one of two Alaskans with career highs of at least 30 points and 14 rebounds. He also had eight assists and six 3-pointers, both top-5 all-time for Alaska.
“Bailey was a killer,” Calloway said.
In the end, whether the final featured Langdon vs. Chalmers or Langdon vs. Boozer, Langdon’s impact, influence and impressive accolades surpassed all comers.
“Trajan was Alaska,” Ostanik said. “To this day you would be hard pressed to find anyone who ever said a bad word about Trajan. I also think no player on this list raised the level of his teammates like Trajan.
“While Trajan certainly played on better teams and with better players than the others in this discussion, he was the straw that stirred the drink. While Trajan certainly didn’t have the NBA career of Chalmers or Boozer, but he was in my opinion the greatest Alaskan basketball player I have ever seen and was a dominant NCAA DI player at Duke.