Anchorage’s own Alissa Pili, a standout basketball player with the University of Utah, is back in the state this weekend for the Great Alaska Shootout tournament.
Pili was the top scorer in Alaska women’s high school basketball history at the time of her graduation from Dimond High. She was also a 10-time state champion in five sports: basketball, volleyball, wrestling, shotput and discus. She won the MaxPreps National Athlete of the year twice, and was named Gatorade Player of the Year for Alaska basketball three times.
Pili is now playing in her final year of eligibility with the fourth-ranked Utes, so this weekend might be the last time Anchorage hoop fans can catch her playing competitively in her hometown.
“It’s honestly just surreal and just, we haven’t even played yet, but just being here, it’s brought some emotions up, seeing my family and everything they’re doing to welcome us here and just showing really the support that they have for me, for our team,” Pili said at a pre-tournament press conference Friday. “It’s a full-circle moment. And you know, last time I was playing on this court, I won a state championship with my high school team.”
As a junior, Pili led Utah to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament in March. She averaged more than 20 points per game and won the Pac-12 Player of the Year award.
It’s been gratifying, said Utah head coach Lynne Roberts, to see Pili welcomed back home after hearing so much about Alaska.
“I think what’s pretty neat is the pride that Alyssa has in being from Alaska,” Roberts said. “There’s a ton of pride in being Alaskan and her heritage and her family. And, you know, she’s not shy about saying that in Salt Lake City either.”
After the college season ends in March, follows the WNBA draft in April.
“That’s always been a childhood dream of mine to be drafted,” Pili said. “Plans are, after the season, just to enter my name in the draft. My coaches have talked to me a little about things I need to work on to make my stock higher.”
Pili is on track to graduate this spring with her degree in sociology. Her older brother Brandon Pili plays is a defensive lineman for the Miami Dolphins in the National Football League.
“It definitely hit me coming off the plane, we got a little cold breeze. The thing that hit me the most was seeing my whole family there, it was what, like almost 11 o’clock at night, they were all there at the gate,” Pili said. “It was pretty emotional for me just to see them, and just to see their support, and it just makes me that much more excited to play in front of them.”
Tim Rockey is the producer of Alaska News Nightly and covers education for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at email@example.com or 907-550-8487. Read more about Tim here.