Northern Light sports writers Thomas McIntyre and Mark Hoffman share their favorite memories of the Great Alaska Shootout.
Thomas McIntyre: Ron Mercer. Kentucky thrashed everyone in the 1996 Shootout, and Mercer was the catalyst.
I was seven years old when Mercer graced the Sullivan Arena court. It was the closest I had gotten to watching Michael Jordan in person.
There’s one moment that has stuck in my mind from that experience: Mercer saw an opening (give him an inch, and he’ll end your career) and blasted down the lane. Bang. Two the fly way. The Mercer way.
As a child, I looked at people who could dunk like they were one of those weird creatures from “Avatar.” Nothing was (or is) cooler than a dunk. And a Mercer dunk was the pinnacle of basketball.
Witnessing Mercer in real life is easily my favorite Shootout memory. Seeing Gene Keady’s hairpiece up close is a close second.
Mark Hoffman: My dearest Shootout memory actually starts at the Top of the World Classic in Fairbanks.
I remember cheering for Austin Croshere and the Providence Friars when my high school hosted them in 1996. I always followed the careers of their players and head coach Pete Gillen after that.
Well, fast-forward to 2012 and my first time working at the Shootout. Who sits down right next to me on press row? Mr. Pete Gillen himself.
It was cool to meet him and surreal to talk about that tournament 16 years later.