The Women’s Basketball Coaches Association named UAA assistant coach Alysha Devine as one of their Thirty Under 30 honorees of the 2017-18 season on March 15. It was Devine’s first year of coaching after playing four seasons for the UAA basketball team under head coach Ryan McCarthy.
The Wasilla local is one of the eight NCAA Division II coaches honored by the association, and the third consecutive UAA coach earning Thirty Under 30 honors. Current associate head coach Shaina Afoa was recognized by the program in 2017 and was recently named NCAA Division II National Assistant Coach of the Year.
The WBCA established the prestigious Thirty Under 30 program in 2016 to recognize up-and-coming women’s basketball coaches age 30 and under.
“These coaches have demonstrated eagerness, effectiveness, loyalty, love of the game and a commitment to the student-athlete. We celebrate their effort on the basketball court as teachers and equally applaud the extensive role they play in impacting the lives of their student-athletes,” WBCA Executive Director Danielle Donehew said in a press release.
Devine already impressed on the court as a high school student. She was named Alaska Gatorade Player of the Year in 2013 for helping Wasilla High School to three consecutive class 4A state titles.
Under McCarthy, she helped the Seawolves to reach the NCAA Division II National Title Game in 2016 and sweep GNAC title honors three times straight. She also collected MVP honors at the 2016 NCAA Division II West Regional Tournament and finished her senior season with a total of 785 career points.
Changing roles from player and teammate to “Coach D” was challenging at first, Devine said.
“I did struggle to figure out my role as a coach in the beginning, but throughout the season I started to really understand and develop in my role as a mentor, encourager and defensive coach,” Devine said. “I remember being so nervous leading my first workout with the girls in the preseason, but I think being thrown into that role is what helped me figure it out so much better.”
In her new position, Devine mentors other Seawolf athletes together with McCarthy, Afoa and volunteer assistant Patrick Flanigin.
“A thing that really changed was that I no longer could earn respect just by playing really hard or winning on the court. Instead, I had to learn how to earn respect in a whole new way,” Devine said.
Being faced with this challenge helped her grow in other areas of her life, Devine said.
“As a player, I was so focused on playing hard and being a good teammate that I often did not focus as much on the X’s and O’s or the strategy of the game. This year, coach McCarthy and Afoa have really broadened my basketball knowledge and it has become so much more valuable to me,” Devine said.
Senior guard Kaitlyn Hurley was one of only five returners from the 2016-17 campaign. The physical education major experienced Devine both as a teammate and coach.
“Having her around definitely helped the whole team all season long. She is a winner — she pushed us to be the same,” Hurley said.
With nine new players, the women’s basketball coaching staff had a lot of rebuilding work to do for the past season.
“The new girls immediately saw how much Alysha means to the program even as a coach. The returners respect everything she is about,” Hurley said.
Encouraging the players and helping them overcome difficulties was a positive experience.
“It was so rewarding seeing the growth that many of our girls made as basketball players and especially, as people,” Devine said. “A huge reason I took this job was because coach McCarthy told me that it would give me the opportunity to touch a lot of people’s lives. Now that I have experienced it, I can really understand what he means by that.”
The Seawolves managed to claim a share of their fourth straight GNAC regular season title and made it to the NCAA Division II Sweet Sixteen. They finished their season ranked 13th in the nation.
“I am glad that I am able to just be friends with a few of those girls again now that season is over,” Devine said. “[This past year] has been challenging in many ways, but it has helped me to grow as a person and as a leader… I am very grateful for that and am looking forward to next season.”
Over the summer, the UAA women’s basketball team will travel to Taiwan to make an overseas debut in the BLIA Cup. The regular season of 2018-19 will begin in November.