When this year’s GCI Great Alaska Shootout gets under way, Nov. 25-29, spectators and players alike will be treated to one very new element of a long Thanksgiving weekend tradition that goes back to 1978: The Shootout will take place at University of Alaska Anchorage’s new Alaska Airlines Center, a sprawling 5,000-seat capacity facility that just opened in September.
“This year it’s going to be a little bit different because it’s going to be at the Alaska Airlines Center,” said Anchorage’s Travis Thompson, a senior guard for UAA and 2010 graduate of Dimond High School. “(The center) definitely takes some getting used to – the background is different and it looks so different. But it’s going to be fun.”
The lineup for this year’s Shootout promises some lively action with teams coming from Idaho, Georgia, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Missouri, Texas and Washington. While early in the season for teams, the Shootout is a chance to get some pre-season competition in before the real pressure begins.
“The GCI Great Alaska Shootout is a special event for our program,” said third-year UAA women’s coach Ryan McCarthy. “It is a great recruiting tool for us because this event is widely recognized as one of the top tournaments in the country. Since we have a tradition of success in this tournament, I would say that this is a high profile event where our program takes a lot of pride in a good showing, especially since we are a NCAA DII school competing against NCAA DI competition. The past two years we have played in the championship game so our goal is to win the first Shootout in the GCI era.”
McCarthy said his players are ready to go. They began training in earnest in October after coming off preseason conditioning leading up to the 2014-2015 season.
“For me personally, this time is my favorite time of year,” McCarthy continued. “I grew up in Peters Creek, so my dad would take me to the Shootout every year when I was young. Watching Seawolf basketball and getting to see them play on such a large stage really sparked my interest in this sport and makes my job here very special to my family and I.”
The men, too, are gearing up for the competition. This is Thompson’s last year as a Seawolf, and it will be a special lasting memory to play in the green and yellow.
“I can remember going to the Shootout as a young kid and now getting to play (in it) is incredible,” he said. “I remember the big name schools like Duke coming to play and it got me excited about the game.”
The home team advantage is a real plus, he added, because most of the time, he plays in the Lower 48, and it’s hard for his family to watch.
“My parents, my mom and my dad, they will definitely be there,” he said. “It’s going to be especially big this year because we have a bunch of new guys coming in who are bringing a nice competitive atmosphere to the team,” he said.
Shootout packages are available for those who want to see every game, or you can attend one game at a tie. Reserve spots over the phone at 786-1562 or order online at GoSeawolves.com or through the Alaska Airlines Center box office. Prices start at $25 per game, to $170 for the best tournament seating available.
Seven games will be televised nationally on the CBS Sports Network.
— Melissa DeVaughn