Sullivan Honors Alaskans of the Week: Great Alaska Shootout and UAA Women’s Basketball Team

WASHINGTON, DC – This week, U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) recognized the Great Alaska Shootout and the 2017 championship winning UAA Women’s Basketball team as part of his “Alaskan of the Week” series.

Alaskan of the Week

Alaskan of the Week on the U.S. Senate Floor (click image or here to watch).


The following statement was submitted to the Congressional Record:

Mr. President, every week I’ve been coming to the floor to brag about my state, about the wonders of its natural landscape – a land that everyone should see for themselves. But I’ve also been bragging about the people in my state. And nearly every week, I’ve chosen a person or a group to highlight. I call these people our Alaskan of the Week.

It’s one of the best things I do all week because although Alaska is beautiful, it’s the people that make my State so special – kind, generous people, full of rugged determination, full of patriotism, and full of drive.

Living in the North, in some of the most difficult terrain and extreme conditions of the world, breeds competition—in the best way possible. It also lights sparks of creativity all across the state.

And when creativity meets competition, great things happen. You saw great things happen on the basketball court late last month, when the University of Alaska’s women’s basketball team—our Alaskans of the Week— won the championship at the Great Alaska Shootout in Anchorage, the seminal sports event of the year, that for four decades has corresponded with Thanksgiving weekend.

Mr. President, let me spend a few minutes talking about the Great Alaska Shootout.

In the late 1970s, a coach from the University of Alaska Anchorage’s basketball team had a vision to put the fledgling UAA basketball program on the map. How would he do that?

He would create a pre-season college basketball tournament and he would make sure that participation in any tournament outside of the contiguous 48 states didn’t count against the limits for how many games a team was allowed to play.

And so was born the Great Alaska Shootout.

So for the last 40 years, thousands of Alaskans, from all over the state – many who had never been to a professional game or even a college game – traveled to Anchorage to watch some of the best college basketball in the country. And in Anchorage, people opened their homes to the teams from the Lower 48 to enjoy a home cooked Thanksgiving dinner.

The names and the teams that came to Alaska over the last 40 years are legion. Patrick Ewing, Glenn Robinson, Sam Perkins, Ray Allen, Dwyane Wade and Alaska’s own Trajon Langdon… to name just a few.

And all the great college basketball coaches at one time or the other came to our state: Coach K, Jim Valvano, Bobby Knight, Denny Crum, Roy Williams, Tom Izzo, Pat Summitt and so many more.

As one reporter put it, “it was an annual Thanksgiving week staple for ESPN and it made Anchorage the center of the college basketball world for one bright, shining week.”

And time and again, the Seawolves, both the men’s and the women’s team, both Division 2 programs up against Division 1 schools, showed the world what basketball in Alaska looked like. And it looked strong. The Great Alaska Shootout was a gift to the world, and to all of Alaska.

Mr. President, times have changed and so have college basketball tournaments. More choices became available. Other states began to compete with Alaska. And this last Thanksgiving, sadly, was the Shootout’s last tournament.

But again, UAA’s basketball teams made us proud. All told, the men’s team won 39 games in 40 Shootouts.

And this past Thanksgiving Day, the UAA women – which has become a Division 2 powerhouse under the leadership of coach Ryan McCarthy – claimed the women's championship at the final Shootout, beating the Division One University of Tulsa Golden Hurricanes 59-52. It was their seventh title in tournament history.

Everyone involved and everyone—businesses who sponsored the Shootout throughout the years, the many avid fans who haven’t missed a game, and all those who played throughout the decades—are deserving of recognition.

But at this year’s final Great Alaska Shootout, the women showed us all the true meaning of grit and determination.

Here’s to the women’s basketball team at UAA – our Alaskan of the Week – and here’s to the Great Alaska Shootout.

Thanks for the memories.