I walked into the Sullivan Arena on Nov. 22, 1995 for my first ever Great Alaska Shootout session. That night, I saw the sweet stroke of UConn’s sharpshooter Ray Allen.
The next night, I saw my beloved Duke Blue Devils begin their march towards the ’95 Shootout title with names like Jeff Capel, Ricky Price, Steve Wojciechowski (yes, I spelt that right) and the “Alaskan Assassin” himself, Trajan Langdon.
Though just six years of age, the experience left an impression on me and has had me coming back to the Shootout every year since.
Every Thanksgiving, Anchorage is transformed into a hoops heaven for us fans. We’ve seen countless instant classics, the shocking upsets and no shortage of big-time players who were blossoming into NBA stars.
So it is my distinct pleasure to give you my personal Top 10 Great Alaska Shootout moments, players, and games.
10: Preston Shumpert lights up 2000 Shootout
No, he was not the biggest or most memorable Shootout MVP. But man, this guy sure could shoot and put up scary numbers during the 2000 edition of the tournament. Shumpert shot a ridiculous 69 percent from three-point land to go with his 30.7 points per game average helping lead the Orangeman to claim the tournament gold pan.
9: UAA beats Notre Dame in Overtime at 1998 tournament
Perhaps in one of the best ever Shootouts, our beloved Seawolves shocked Notre Dame 88-82 to play their way into the 4th/6th place game the next night. I vividly remember the sound leaving the Sully when UAA missed a last second layup that would have won it in regulation. On the other hand, I also remember it being one of the loudest ovations when the underdog Seawolves wound up still taking down the Fighting Irish.
8: Fizer and Schraeder make their presence known early
In what had to be one of the best first round games ever, the Iowa State Cyclones narrowly defeated Saint Mary’s 74-72 in the 1998 Shootout.. While the game itself was fantastic, the battle between ISU’s Marcus Fizer and SMU’s Eric Schraeder was just as, if not more, intriguing as both put up 30 points.
7: Seawolf women pull off the three-peat
Time to show the ladies some love. Let by 16 points by the tourney’s Most Outstanding Player, Rebecca Kielpinski, the ‘Wolves withstood a late charge from the Orange to win their third title under Head Coach Tim Moser. Syracuse had two chances from the paint to take the lead in the final seconds but couldn’t get the ball to drop into the net.
6: Four is better than three, right?
No need to adjust your eyesight here. The Seawolves once again would win the Shootout by way of a one-point thriller. This time it would be Cincinnati becoming the latest victims of UAA and their amazing run of four straight Shootout titles. Nicci Miller scored a game-high to help lift the green and gold to a 49-48 upset of the Bearcats.
5: You may not know me, but my name is Dwayne Wade
Though he is now known as one of top players in the NBA, you would be hard-pressed to know of anyone who knew of D-Wade before he helped lead the Marquette Golden Eagles to the 2001 Shootout title over America’s Team, the Gonzaga Bulldogs. A year later, Wade helped lead Marquette to the Final Four before going onto an already phenomenal professional career.
4: Big things really can come in small packages
Electric is one of many adjectives that could be used to describe the Shootout performance from Washington’s Nate Robinson in 2004. This 5’9” guard stole the headlines every game with his lightning quick drives which often times ended up with a jaw dropping dunks. Teaming up with the fellow junior guard Brandon Roy, this Tourney Most Outstanding Player helped the Huskies to a 79-76 championship victory over Alabama.
3: Carter, Jamieson turn 1997 GAS into nightly highlight reel
With a dynamic duo consisting of Vince Carter and Antawn Jamison, the North Carolina Tar Heels left Anchorage with their third Shootout title in 1997. Bringing a whole new meaning to hangtime, Carter and Jamison left fans in awe with dunk after dunk. In three games, the Tar Heels defeated their opponents by a combined margin of 75 points.
2: Thompson rewrites record books
Washington State Cougar Klay Thompson scored 43 points in the 2010 Championship game to help lead Wazzu to 93-56 shelling of San Diego in the most –lopsided victory in a GAS title game. Thompson eclipsed Purdue’s Glenn Robinson for most points scored in a Shootout game and tied the record for most three-pointers hit (8) held by Saint Mary’s Eric Schraeder. Hands down the best individual game I’ve ever seen in a college game.
1: “Best game of the 1998 college basketball season”
That was the only way to describe the championship game between top-ranked Duke and 15th ranked Cincinnati. The Bearcats spoiled the return of Anchorage native Trajan Langdon by defeating the Dukies 77-75. The court was littered with premier college players. Duke boasted Langdon, Elton Brand, William Avery, Shane Battier and Corey Maggette while Cincy had the likes of Kenyon Martin, Melvin Levett, and Pete Mickeal.