Men’s basketball reflects on historic Great Alaska Shootout

The Central Michigan basketball team raises the trophy after winning the Great Alaska Shootout on Nov. 25, 2017.

Kentucky, North Carolina, Michigan State, UCLA, Duke and Kansas have all went to the Great Alaska Shootout, competed and walked away with a championship trophy in hand. 

However, there is one aspect of the Great Alaska Shootout which sets Central Michigan apart from the rest – the final championship. 

“It’s such a historic tournament and means a lot to win the last one,” CMU head coach Keno Davis said. “Not only to be there, but to play well and earn a championship is something they will remember for a long, long time. We jumped at the chance when there was an opening for the tournament and I’m glad we did.”

The Chippewas won three games in four days over Sam Houston State, Cal Poly and Cal State Bakersfield to bring the 40th and final Great Alaska Shootout title to Mount Pleasant, Michigan. 

“You look back and see all the great teams that have played there,” freshman guard Matt Beachler said. “It’s pretty cool that we get to be the last champs. It was pretty special.”

Junior guard Shawn Roundtree was named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament. He averaged 15 points, 3 rebounds and 5.6 assists in the showcase. 

“We didn’t put too much pressure on our self,” Roundtree said. “Our thing was to just go out and play Central Michigan basketball. Coach came with a game plan and we stuck with it. Now that the tournament is over, we all are grateful for the opportunity.” 

Senior guard Josh Kozinski is one of CMU’s captains for the 2017-18 season. As a leader, he noticed a plethora of team bonding over the Thanksgiving break in Alaska. 

“It was awesome to win especially with our group of guys,” Kozinski said. “We still have a lot to prove and it’s a long season, but to be able to come in with this group and leave with a championship is great. Overall, we had a great time.”

As an eighth-grader, Davis was a part of the Great Alaska Shootout tournament. Tom Davis, Keno’s father, won the championship in 1986 with Iowa and Keno traveled alongside him to Anchorage. 

A lot has changed in 31 years, including the switch from Sullivan Arena to a brand-new Alaska Airlines Center in 2014. 

“It’s a first-rate facility,” Keno said. “We even talked about some things we could copy if we were to upgrade some of our stuff at CMU. From the entire travel to the way we were treated, it was a great memory.”

Even though the Great Alaska Shootout tournament is no longer an option going forward, Keno is still hoping to be able to bring future CMU teams to Anchorage for an exhibition game early in the season. 

“I would definitely consider it,” Keno said. “It’s a special place. Our student-athletes don’t know what to expect, then they see everything and experience it.”

The biggest takeaway from the Chippewas’ tournament victory was experience, as it helped prepare CMU for the rigid Mid-American Conference schedule, the MAC tournament and potentially the NCAA Tournament. 

“Everyone wants to be able to play in March,” Keno said. “This will give us some experience to help us know we can do it. To be able to go through three games in four days and win, that’s extra special.”