The 2017 Great Alaska Shootout will be the last in the 40-year history of the Thanksgiving week college basketball tournament held in the Land of the Midnight Sun.
“I saw that. I am sad it’s going away,” former KU center Eric Chenowith said of Thursday’s announcement that the University of Alaska Anchorage could no longer sustain funding for the event that brought KU to Anchorage in 1984, 1988 and Chenowith’s junior season, 1999-2000.
“Obviously we won that tournament in what turned out to be Drew Gooden’s big breakout,” Chenowith added of the freshman forward claiming MVP honors after KU’s wins over Georgia, Xavier and Georgia Tech. “I thought it was great for student-athletes to get to see Anchorage, Alaska. How often do you have a chance to go to Alaska?
“We took a lift to the top of a mountain, went dog-sledding. I remember taking hundreds of pictures. It was great,” Chenowith, a native of Southern California, recalled of a trip to a place with bitterly cold temperatures.
“It’s Alaska. What do you expect? It’s cold,” 7-footer Chenowith said with a laugh. “I just remember it being a great tournament and a great experience for all of us.”
Coach Roy Williams also took KU to the Shootout in 1988-89, his first season at KU. The Jayhawks defeated Alaska Anchorage and California, then lost to Seton Hall in the championship game. Larry Brown’s 1984-85 Jayhawks defeated Maryland and Oregon and lost to UAB in the 1984 Shootout title game, accounting for KU’s 7-2 all-time record in the event.
The Jayhawks dropped the Shootout from their regular exempt tournament rotation after the 1999-2000 season because of the fact there were so many tourneys in warm-weather climates to choose from. The Great Alaska Shootout has turned into a competition for mid-majors the last several years, St. John’s (2010) is the last team from a power conference to win the event.
“They’ve been struggling the last few years. It came down to there’s so much more competition,” said Larry Keating, KU’s special assistant to the athletic director, who has been in charge of the Jayhawks’ schedule during the Bill Self era. “When it (Great Alaska Shootout) was popular, there was Alaska, Hawaii and the NIT and not much else. Now you’ve got all kinds of tournaments. ESPN runs about six themselves. There are two in Hawaii, one in Puerto Rico and others.
“It’s an expensive trip (to Alaska). They don’t pay all expenses by any means,” Keating added. “Once there was a big step up in how many tournaments there are, it wasn’t worth it to go up there. It’s a shame because it was a great event.”
Keating was athletic director at Seton Hall in 1988 when the Pirates beat KU 92-81 in the Great Alaska Shootout’s title game.
“It was Roy Williams’ first loss at KU,” Keating recalled, noting it was a huge deal for Seton Hall to win the prestigious event. “We beat Utah and Kentucky and Kansas. That’s when Rick Majerus was coaching Utah. We went 12-0 nonconference against some good teams and wound up going to the Final Four that year.”
Bassey headed to school in Louisville
Charles Bassey, the top-ranked player in the high school recruiting class of 2019, has decided to transfer from St. Anthony in San Antonio, Texas, to Aspire Academy in Louisville, Ky., for his junior season, according to mysanantonio.com.
Bassey, a 6-10, 225-pound power forward from Nigeria, has Kansas, Kentucky, UCLA, Louisville and Western Kentucky on his early list of schools.
Immigration records of Bassey were transferred to DeSales High School in Louisville, which provides classes for the players who compete for Aspire Academy, according to mysanantonio.com.
KU also is heavily involved with the No. 3 player in the class of 2019 — James Wiseman, a 6-10, 210-pound junior power forward from Ensworth High in Nashville. Wiseman has listed KU, Kentucky and Duke as possibilities.
Garland to visit Kentucky
Darius Garland, a 6-0 senior point guard from Brentwood Academy in Nashville, has a final list of KU, Indiana, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, UCLA and Duke. KU is considered somewhat of a long shot, with Vanderbilt possibly leading. He’s set up a visit to Kentucky for the Wildcats’ season-opening Big Blue Madness event.
“They get players to the pros too. They’re guard-heavy. They play two guards at a time. It’s a really great program,” Garland, No. 12-ranked by Rivals.com, told 247sports.com.
Garland added that he knows KU’s “Charlie Moore and the Lawsons (Dedric and K.J.), but we really haven’t talked too much about how they like it so far.”