2010 Great Alaska Shootout

The thing as a sports photographer I look forward to all year, and the thing I dread all year is the annual Thanksgiving NCAA basketball pre-season Great Alaska Shootout.  Before we get to any photos, let me explain why I dread it each year.

I have been photographing the Shootout every year since the 2004 season when the University of Washington (Go Dawgs!) won the tournament.  That was a team that had Brandon Roy and Nate Robinson on it, and the tournament had big teams besides the Huskies in it.  Oklahoma Sooners, Utah with the 2004/5 College Player of the Year, Andrew Bogut, and it was a lot of fun to shoot.  But since then, things have changed.  In 2004, I could get a very good and fast wireless signal, not just in the media room, but courtside too.  I could avoid the mess of all of the media cramped in the media room with their cold weather gear, bags everywhere, and download and transmit photos at halftime without moving from my spot on the baseline.  Plus the food in the media relations area was pretty good.  A lot of photographers came up from the lower 48 that I now call friends, and the teams were really good at goofing around with us photographers before and after the games.  But since then, things have changes.  With all the changes of restrictions for preseason tournaments (remember when it was just the Shootout and the Maui Classic?) allowing everyone to host a tournament, it is almost impossible for the Shootout to draw top 25 tallent.  Plus the economy has made travel much more expensive.  No one shows up to many of the games so where we are suppose to shoot from you get lovely empty seats in the background, and teams that may not want to come back because they really do not want to play 3 games in a empty arena.  And the biggest thing that I dread?  The weather.  It seems like Turkey Day week is a week that we get some of our worst weather in Alaska.  One year we had such a dumping of snow, I missed the first day of the men’s games because I could not get out of Eagle River.  Last year thinks looked good weather wise.  It was lightly snowing as I went in to shoot the games, and a few hours later when I came out there was 12 inches of snow on my Jeep, and no sign of it stopping.  It was a nightmare drive home.  25 mph on the highway, hoping that I would not have the tail lights in front of me vanish (which they did) and that I would stay on the road (which I didn’t).  A normal 15 minute winter drive took me close to 2 hours.  And this year, it was not much better, but instead of snow, it was ice.  We had an ice storm that was so bad, a 5 minute drive to the store could turn into an all day event.  Cars were stuck at the bottom of the smallest hills, busses lost control and slid into cars, my Jeep looked like it was shrink wrapped in ice.  Even for Alaska, this was bad.  And with the crazy people behind the wheel in this state, you just never know when you are going to get plowed into in good weather, let alone when you can not go faster than 25 mph with out spinning out but someone in a Ford F350 thinks that ice on the road means you need to drive at 90 mph and weave through traffic (and yes, he did pass me, and ended up flipping his truck onto the roof after he lost control passing a cop).  Really, the weather is the biggest dread I have every time the Shootout comes around.  Honestly, I could shoot NCAA basketball 24/7.  I love it.  I just hate the weather.

But now the good, at least for this years Shootout.  I was stoked to see one specific player.

November 26th, 2010:  Anchorage, Alaska - Arizona State's Jamelle McMillan (10) during the Sun Devil's 59-58 victory over Weber State at the Great Alaska Shootout.  McMillan is the son of former Seattle Super Sonic and current Portland Trailblazer coach, Nate McMillan. (Carl Auer)

November 26th, 2010: Anchorage, Alaska - Arizona State's Jamelle McMillan (10) during the Sun Devil's 59-58 victory over Weber State at the Great Alaska Shootout. McMillan is the son of former Seattle Super Sonic and current Portland Trailblazer coach, Nate McMillan. (Carl Auer)

Jamelle McMillan of Arizona State.  He graduated from O’Dea High School in Seattle.   Why I wanted to see him?  His high school basketball assistant coach?  Gregg Kalina, who was the Assistant Coach at my high school, Roosevelt, when I was there.  But that is not all.  After I graduated, I did a photo assignment for a college class which took me to a Nate McMillan camp through the Boys and Girls Club if I remember right.  I got there early and ended up shooting some hoops with a kid who could barely get the ball to the hoop.  Thats right, Jamelle when he was about 4 years old.  Jamelle went on to be the 2007 State Player of the year and went on to play at Arizona State.  So I was excited to see him play.   Arizona made it to the final game, and some of the moves little Mac-10 made were very much so like his father, a former Seattle Sonic player and the current coach of the Portland Trailblazers.  He was a lot of fun to watch.

Another fun part was another kid I have know for a few years.  My last summer living in Seattle, a Alaska baseball travel team came down to play in a tournament at Greenlake.  This was 2003, and one of the players on the young team (10,11, and 12 year olds) was my nephew, who is now a freshman at Western Oregon University.  But one of his team mates, who would go on to play for one of the Diamond-West little league teams that was one out away from going to the Little League World Series, Travis Thompson, signed last basketball season to play for his hometown Seawolves at the University of Alaska-Anchorage.

November 25th, 2010:  Anchorage, Alaska - University of Alaska-Anchorage guard Travis Thompson (11) in the Seawolves 54-86 loss to Weber State in the first round of the Great Alaska Shootout. (Carl Auer)

November 25th, 2010: Anchorage, Alaska - University of Alaska-Anchorage guard Travis Thompson (11) in the Seawolves 54-86 loss to Weber State in the first round of the Great Alaska Shootout.

Travis became the first kid that I have photographed in little league, high school, and college.  Not only that, but in their final game against Ball State, he earned player of the game honors.

But overall, I was a little disappointed with the play at the Shootout this year.  No record breaking scores, no one player lighting up threes, no one player delivering the monster dunks that we all love to see.  I thought this photo was about to be one of the best dunks I had ever seen at the shootout…

November 27th, 2010:  Anchorage, Alaska - Drake Bulldog forward Aaron Hawley (2) is fouled in his monster dunk attempt in the Bulldog's 81-82 loss to Weber State in the third place game of the Great Alaska Shootout. (Carl Auer)

November 27th, 2010: Anchorage, Alaska - Drake Bulldog forward Aaron Hawley (2) is fouled in his monster dunk attempt in the Bulldog's 81-82 loss to Weber State in the third place game of the Great Alaska Shootout. (Carl Auer)

But, as he was fouled, he lost his forward momentum, and got hung on the rim. So probably the best dunk I caught in the tournament ended up being this shot..

November 25th, 2010:  Anchorage, Alaska - Arizona State forward, Carrick Felix (0) dunks in the Sun Devils 73-55 win over Houston Baptist in their first round game of the Great Alaska Shootout. (Carl Auer)

November 25th, 2010: Anchorage, Alaska - Arizona State forward, Carrick Felix (0) dunks in the Sun Devils 73-55 win over Houston Baptist in their first round game of the Great Alaska Shootout.

But alas, the ref got in my way.  I should add that to my dread list.  This year it seemed like the officials were more than in previous years glued to the ground between me and the action.  But, that is what you have to deal with.

One of my favorite shots of the tournament was not a dunk, but the shot did go in, and like dunks, it is a shot that I love capturing.

November 25th, 2010:  Anchorage, Alaska - Arizona State guard Keala King (21), splits the Houston Baptist defense for a lay up in the Sun Devils 73-55 win over Houston Baptist at the Great Alaska Shootout. (Carl Auer)

November 25th, 2010: Anchorage, Alaska - Arizona State guard Keala King (21), splits the Houston Baptist defense for a lay up in the Sun Devils 73-55 win over Houston Baptist at the Great Alaska Shootout.

I love acrobatic layups.  It might be because when I was these kids age, and younger, Michael Jordan was the hot ticket and acrobatic shots were his trademark along with his dunks.  Now with this shot, you can see what I meant when I said at the beginning about the empty seats.  A packed arena would have really made this shot. Here is another shot…

November 26th, 2010:  Anchorage, Alaska - Drake Bulldog freshman guard Rayvonte Rice (24) elevates in the lane for a shot in the Bulldog's loss to St. Johns at the Great Alaska Shootout.  The Red Storm defense held Drake to a tournament low score as St. Johns advanced to the final game 82-39. (Carl Auer)

November 26th, 2010: Anchorage, Alaska - Drake Bulldog freshman guard Rayvonte Rice (24) elevates in the lane for a shot in the Bulldog's loss to St. Johns at the Great Alaska Shootout. The Red Storm defense held Drake to a tournament low score as St. Johns advanced to the final game 82-39. (Carl Auer)

Just fun shots.  Anyway….to close, I bring you Boilermaker fans something special.  While he is no longer the Purdue Coach, he is still one icon of not only Purdue, but of the NCAA.

November 27th, 2010:  Anchorage, Alaska - St. John's Special Assistant and NCAA coaching legend Gene Keady sticks out his tongue in reaction to a call during the Red Storm's 67-58 victory against the Arizona State Sun Devil's to win the championship game of the Great Alaska Shootout. (Carl Auer)

November 27th, 2010: Anchorage, Alaska - St. John's Special Assistant and NCAA coaching legend Gene Keady sticks out his tongue in reaction to a call during the Red Storm's 67-58 victory against the Arizona State Sun Devil's to win the championship game of the Great Alaska Shootout. (Carl Auer)

Gene Keady has been to the Shootout before, as the coach of Purdue.  He brought up a team lead by Big Dog Glenn Robinson (number one draft pick which had Jason Kidd #2 and Grant Hill #3).  As a head coach, Keady had a record of 550–289 (.655) and 512 of his 550 wins came over 25 years as Purdue’s head man, making him the 2nd most winningest coach in Big 10 history behind Bob Knight (who was up here a few years ago with his Texas Tech team.  I have never been a Big 10 fan.  I always wanted to watch ACC and Pac-10 teams play, but when Keady would go up against Bob Knight and Indiana, those were games not to be missed.  I love the fact that I caught him sticking his tongue out.  It just worked for me…Keady is a special assistant at St. John’s, who would top Jamelle McMillan and the Arizona State Sun Devils to win the 2010 Great Alaskan Shootout.

All shots were done in manual mode with Canon 7D and 1D series cameras, Canon 24-70 and 70-200 2.8 lenses, and a Sigma 120-300 2.8 lens.  For more images, please check out my collection of 2010 Great Alaska Shootout photos. These images are available for media use only and can be purchased through Icon SMI.

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