Alaska Nanooks Men’s Basketball Team Looks at Weekend Ahead

Aiming to extend win streak to four
Published: Feb. 10, 2022 at 2:42 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The Alaska Nanooks Men’s basketball team has put together three straight wins coming against Western Washington (WWU), Simon Fraser (SFU), and Montana State University Billings (MSUB). To make the streak more impressive, the Nanooks only had six available players for two of those three games.

The Nanooks haven’t had the start that they had envisioned. UAF Men’s Basketball entered 2022 with a 3-5 record and also had a pair of games postponed or cancelled. The Nanooks have gone 4-5 since the new year began and currently hold a 7-10 overall record and a 4-7 record in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) which puts them at ninth out of ten teams.

The records of this season’s team do not accurately reflect the potential that the team holds. For multiple different reasons, the Nooks have been undermanned seemingly the entire season, but heading into the weekend, there is a good chance they’ll have a full bench heading into the weekend. In their last game, Monday, against MSUB, Jaren Carle burnt his redshirt and will be available for the remainder of the season too.

“He came into our office and explained the amount of academic time he had,” said head coach Greg Sparling. “They’re not going to give him a ‘covid-year.’ He said he wanted to play and we’re going to give him the chance. He’s a great kid.” Carle, is a freshman from Anchorage and graduated from Dimond High School.

In addition to Carle coming onto the court, Shadeed Shabazz and Willie Thomas III returned to action on Monday after missing the two prior games against WWU and SFU for undisclosed reasons, but they both were dressed in street clothes and on the bench for the aforementioned games. Shabazz ended with five points, six rebounds, and five steals; Thomas III played twenty one minutes and recorded four points, seven rebounds, and one block.

After the recent successes, the team seems to have embraced a phrase adapted by sophomore, Abdullahi Mohamed: “Stack the days.” “Stacking days means, it starts with practice. It starts when you wake up. It starts in the classroom,” explained Mohamed. “If you build a level of perfection every single day, and you keep stacking it, it only takes about a month to build a habit. Then it’s a part of your life. If we keep stacking the days and practices. I don’t think anyone would be able to hold us.”

Now, the Nanooks will take on the Central Washington Wildcats tonight, 6:30 P.M. (AKST) at Nicholson Pavilion in Ellensburg. Last time these two teams squared off, it was an overtime thriller at the Patty Center. Shadeed Shabazz and Quin Barnard each scored twenty three points and three more Nanooks would score in double figures on the way to a nail-biting 97-95 overtime finish.

As if the overtime antics didn’t already add to the emotional level of the game, Central Washington is the program that Greg Sparling coached for twenty four years before taking over at UAF. Sparling’s son, Coleman grew up in Ellensburg and even started his college career as a Wildcat.

“You have to understand he was born in that gym. He made his first basket in that gym. That was our home for years and he got it taken away from him and now he’s going to go back in there,” said Greg Sparling on what CWU means to his son. “I couldn’t write a better script, and we’ll see what happens. We just have play together. If we keep playing the way we have, the last three games great things are on the horizon.”

Following the win against CWU last month, the Sparling father and son duo shared an emotional moment on the court hugging one another with visible emotions on their faces.

“Let’s just keep going man. I head home on Thursday”, said Coleman before leaving Alaska for the weekend. “I’m going to act like it’s just another game, but man it means a lot to me. We’re going to keep stacking the days and keep on going, that’s all I have to say.”

Following tonight’s game, the weekend will continue for the Nanooks will continue to head east into Nampa, Idaho to take on the Northwest Nazarene Nighthawks (NNU), Saturday. The game against the Nighthawks will tip-off at 3:15 P.M. (AKST) inside Johnson Sports Center. NNU and the Nanooks met just under a month ago, but UAF was stifled at home losing by eight.

Tonight, one the opponent will be rearing for revenge, and Saturday, the Nanooks will seek some revenge of their own and even the season series at 1-1, Saturday. Including this weekend’s pair of games, there are six games remaining in the Nanooks’ regular season before the GNAC Championships begin at the beginning of March.

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