When Roderick Wilmont was a freshman playing basketball for Sitka High School, only true hoops aficionados in Southeast Alaska ever saw him play - and they had to get to the gym early to watch the junior varsity or C team game.
Now, all local basketball fans have to do is check the TV listings for the next televised college game featuring the Indiana Hoosiers.
Wilmont, who lived in Sitka for five years before moving to Florida, is a 6-foot-4 redshirt freshman guard with the Hoosiers. So far this season he's played in all 22 games for Indiana (12-10 overall, 6-5 Big Ten), starting four, including the last two. Wilmont is averaging 3.5 points and 2.6 rebounds a game.
"I liked it," Wilmont said of living in Sitka. "It was fun. It was part of what got me here. ... When I lived in Sitka, it didn't cross my mind that I'd be playing for the Hoosiers."
Wilmont was born in Texas, where his mother, Carla Williams, was a basketball player for Baylor in the 1980s and one of the state's top high school high jumpers. But in 1994, he came north to live in Sitka with his aunt and uncle, Sophia and Lincoln Chapman. He stayed in Alaska until 1999, when he moved to Florida to rejoin his mother.
Wilmont didn't play on the varsity team for the Wolves, although he did help the Sitka JV team claim a rare victory over Juneau-Douglas High School in the Small Schools Tournament for area Class 2A varsity teams and Class 4A JV squads. At Blatchley Middle School, Wilmont played basketball with his cousins, Elgin Hollins and Antwan Wilmont.
"Roderick was a kid who liked to have fun," said current Sitka girls varsity basketball coach Rich Krupa, who coached Wilmont on the boys JV team in 1998-99. "I remember him trying to dunk in middle school using the girls ball and just laughing all the time."
Once he arrived in Miramar, Fla., Wilmont became the star for Miramar High School. By his senior year, Wilmont averaged 31.9 points a game for the Fighting Patriots and led the state of Florida in scoring. Amare Stoudemire, who went directly from high school to the Phoenix Suns, was a senior at Cyprus Creek High School in Orlando, Fla., the same year and only averaged 29.1 points a game.
"I had to leave," Wilmont said. "I wasn't getting the exposure and I went where I could get some real competition."
When he was growing up in Sitka, Wilmont said he followed the exploits of former East Anchorage High School player Trajan Langdon and Juneau's Carlos Boozer - who both went on to star at Duke University and then play in the NBA with the Cleveland Cavaliers. At times, he dreamed of following in their footsteps.
"I believe if I'd stayed in Alaska I'd have been like Trajan was and Carlos was," Wilmont said.
Even though he moved to Florida, Wilmont said he still felt a connection to Alaska. In fact, what sold him on going to school at Indiana was a snowfall during his recruiting visit. It was the first snow he'd seen in three years. Another selling point was the year he was recruited was the same year Indiana lost to Maryland in the NCAA Championship game and also eliminated Boozer's Duke team in the Sweet Sixteen.
"I liked it, I liked snow," Wilmont said. "And Indiana was one of the best places to play basketball."
When he arrived in Bloomington, Ind., Wilmont was redshirted for a year. That gave him a year to get adjusted to college life - Wilmont is a criminal justice major and wants to be an FBI agent - while practicing with the team and not losing a year of eligibility. The Hoosiers were deep in the guard position, so Wilmont wouldn't have played much last year anyway.
Wilmont said the redshirt year also gave him time to learn Indiana coach Mike Davis' system. It gave him a chance to learn how to improve the other parts of his game besides scoring.
"When I was in high school, everything went through me," Wilmont said. "My redshirt year was helping me play in Coach Davis' system. I'd never run a system like this before."
Wilmont was projected to start at the beginning of this season, and he did start twice in early season games. But with injuries to some of Indiana's key players forcing some lineup juggling, Wilmont moved to the bench. Normally a shooting guard, in Indiana's small lineup Wilmont played some power forward.
"We're looking at Roderick to give us a lot of energy," Davis told The Courier-Journal of Louisville, Ky., early this season. "Here's a kid who is 6-4, is athletic and plays hard. Those are two things you can't teach."
Wilmont's best game was in a loss to Vanderbilt in November, when he came off the bench to score 13 points and grab nine rebounds. Even though his first two starts came after that game, Wilmont struggled and wasn't getting much playing time in early January, when Indiana lost 79-45 to Wisconsin.
But in the next game, starting guard Bracey Wright collided with a referee and suffered a minor injury. That gave Wilmont a second chance to show his stuff, and he took advantage. Wilmont replaced Wright off the bench and scored 12 points as the Hoosiers beat Michigan 59-57, starting a five-game winning streak.
Wilmont scored five points during a 9-0 run that gave Indiana a 73-62 victory over Northwestern the next game. Two games later, Wilmont had five points and five rebounds off the bench in an 86-81 overtime victory over Minnesota. Then came Indiana's 63-58 upset victory over then-No. 21 Purdue on Jan. 27, when Wilmont made two 3-pointers in the last minute of the game.
The Hoosiers lost their next three games, and Davis decided to shake things up again with his lineup. Last Wednesday, Wilmont started for the third time this season as Indiana beat Penn State 75-56. Wilmont started again on Saturday, when Indiana lost a rematch with Purdue, 71-56. Indiana's next game is Wednesday against Minnesota.
"We should be more consistent and better now," Wilmont said. "I think we can make a run now. I know if we keep working hard we can do it."
As for Alaska, Wilmont said he hopes to return for a visit this summer, especially since the Chapmans and all his Alaska cousins showed up for an Indiana game early this season.
"I miss the kayaking, and the fishing and hunting," Wilmont said.
Holy Names College freshman 5-foot-8 point guard Julius Cumlat (Juneau-Douglas) is leading the California Pacific Conference in assists with 6.09 per conference game, is third in steals with 2.55 per game, third in assist-turnover ratio (1.76) and sixth in free-throw percentage with 78.1 percent (25-for-32) for games through Feb. 10. Holy Names is an NAIA Division II school in Oakland, Calif., and has a 19-11 overall record, 15-1 conference.
Two University of Alaska Fairbanks freshmen players from Southeast 6-4 guard-forward Bryan Hamey (Juneau-Douglas) and 6-3 guard-forward Darren Edenshaw (Hydaburg) - are redshirting this year for the NCAA Division II Nanooks (15-6 overall, 8-4 Great Northwest Athletic Conference).
Whitman College senior 6-5 post Casey Nelson (Ketchikan) is averaging 11.0 points (second on the team) and a team-high 5.2 rebounds a game for the Missionaries (6-15 overall). Nelson has started 19 games and seen action in all 21 for Whitman, which is an NCAA Division III school in Walla Walla, Wash.
Linfield College sophomore 6-2 forward Ryan Monagle (Juneau-Douglas) has appeared off the bench in 15 of the 20 games played by the Wildcats (13-7 overall, 8-2 Northwest Conference), an NCAA Division III team from McMinnville, Ore. Monagle is averaging 2.5 points and 1.1 rebounds a game.
Shoreline (Wash.) Community College freshman 5-10 guard Devin Edenshaw (Hydaburg) is playing for the Dolphins (7-16 overall, 4-10 NWAACC), who are in the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges. Edenshaw was averaging 8.7 points a game through Feb. 4.
Wenatchee Valley (Community) College freshman guard Raymond Douville (Craig) is playing for the Knights (16-9 overall, 6-5 NWAACC), but no stats were available for last year's Alaska Class 3A Player of the Year. On Friday, Douville scored 10 points for the Knights as they beat Blue Mountain (Community) College 80-74.
Dickinson State (N.D.) University junior 6-2 guard Mitch Snyder (Skagway) is on the roster for the Blue Hawks, but has not seen action this year and may be redshirting. Snyder transferred to Dickinson State after playing two years at Peninsula (Community) College in Port Angeles, Wash., where he averaged 12.0 points per game last season.
College of the Redwoods freshman 6-0 guard Karl Stedman (Sitka) is on the roster for the Corsairs, but no stats were available for the junior college in Eureka, Calif.
Allan Hancock College freshman 6-9 post Aaron Severson (Petersburg) is on the roster for the Bulldogs (12-12 overall), but no stats were available for Severson. Allan Hancock is a junior college in Santa Maria, Calif.
University of Alaska Anchorage senior 5-8 guard Tanya Nizich (Juneau-Douglas) is averaging 12.4 points and 3.0 rebounds a game for the Seawolves (9-13 overall, 4-9 Great Northwest Athletic Conference). Last week, Nizich was tied for 16th nationally in NCAA Division II with 2.7 3-pointers a game (now has 57-for-165 for 34.5 percent), and she's second in the GNAC. Earlier this season, Nizich made the all-tournament team when the Seawolves won the Women's Great Alaska Shootout. In January, she also was honored by the school as one of 77 student-athletes to post a GPA of 3.0 or better during the 2003 calendar year. Also honored by UAA was freshman cross-country runner Anjuli Haydu (Craig).
The University of Alaska Fairbanks Nanooks have two Southeast players on the roster - junior 5-6 guard Adrienne Taalak (Mount Edgecumbe, resident of Nuiqsut) and junior 5-4 point guard Courtney Mason (Juneau-Douglas, also played at Skagway). Taalak, who was GNAC co-Player of the Week on Feb. 9, leads the team (7-14 overall, 3-10 GNAC) in scoring with 17.5 points a game and has 5.5 rebounds a game. Her best game was 30 points, 12 rebounds in a loss Feb. 5 to Northwest Nazarene. Last week, Taalak was tied for 20th nationally in 3-pointers with 2.7 3-pointers a game, but since then has raised that to 2.8 a game and 41.5 percent shooting (59-of-122). Mason has seen action in all 21 games off the bench and is averaging 1.8 points and 1.0 assists a game.
Central Washington University sophomore 5-11 wing-forward Amber Beardslee (Petersburg) has only played in four games for the Wildcats (13-9 overall, 6-5 GNAC) of Ellensburg, Wash. Beardslee, who transferred to CWU after a year at the University of Portland, is averaging 1.3 points and 0.5 rebounds a game.
Colorado State University-Pueblo sophomore 6-2 center Hilary Rehfeld (Juneau-Douglas) has started five of the ThunderWolves' 23 games this season and is averaging 5.1 points and 3.6 rebounds a game for the school formerly known as the University of Southern Colorado (15-8, 11-4 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference). Rehfeld is averaging 5.4 points and 3.2 rebounds a game in 15 RMAC games this season.
Peninsula (Community) College freshman 5-11 post Danielle Larson (Juneau-Douglas) is averaging 16.2 points (59 percent field goals) and 7.2 rebounds a game for the Pirates (11-12 overall, 6-8 NWAACC). In December, Larson was 11-for-11 from the field and scored a career-high 28 points in a victory over Green River (Community) College. On Saturday, Larson had 11 points and nine rebounds in an 80-63 victory over Bellevue (Community) College. Larson ranks 12th in the NWAACC in scoring as of Feb. 4.
Southwest Oregon Community College freshman 5-4 point guard Prema Warren (Mount Edgecumbe) is one of nine Alaskans playing for the Lakers of Coos Bay, Ore. Warren doesn't appear among the leaders in the NWAACC, but she scored a team-high 16 points in a 74-64 victory over Portland Community College on Saturday.
Santa Barbara (Calif.) City College has two Southeast residents on the roster - freshman 5-8 forward Heather Douville (Craig) and freshman 5-7 guard Ashley Hayward (Ketchikan, also attended Metlakatla). No stats were available for the Vaqueros.
Auburn University senior sprint freestyle-backstroke specialist Derek Gibb (Petersburg graduate, family now lives in Juneau) competed in USA Swimming's Spring National Championships this past weekend in Orlando, Fla., one of several Tigers in the meet that featured several past Olympians. Gibb finished 17th in the 100-meter backstroke (57.92 seconds), winning the C Final, and he was 19th in the 50-meter freestyle (23.36). Gibb, who took fourth the 50-yard freestyle in last year's NCAA meet and competed this summer in the World University Games, is gearing up to help the defending NCAA Division I champions repeat their victory in March. The Tigers were unbeaten during the dual-meet season.
Western Illinois University senior breaststroke-individual medley specialist Travis Watson (Sitka) has seen limited action this year for the Leathernecks, despite ranking as one of the top swimmers in the Mid-Continent Conference (he was the 100-yard breaststroke champion in 2002). In this year's Mid-Con Championships in December, Watson took second place in the 100-yard butterfly with a personal-record time of 52.08. A week earlier at the Eastern Illinois meet, Watson took third in the 1,000 freestyle (10:31.95) and fourth in the 200 backstroke (2:04.17). Watson's name has not appeared in any January or February meet results. WIU is an NCAA Division I school in Macomb, Ill.
University of Northern Colorado junior breaststroke-individual medley specialist Hannah Robus (Juneau-Douglas) won the 200-yard breaststroke (2:37.99) and was part of the Bears' winning 400-yard medley relay team (4:11.03) when UNC beat Colorado College 253-47 on Feb. 6. She also took third place in the 200 IM (2:22.17) and was on UNC's third-place C team in the 400 free relay (3:56.88), plus she had an exhibition third-place finish in the 100 IM (1:05.32). While Robus is a junior in athletic standing (she redshirted last year with an injury), she was honored with the seniors for their last home meet of their careers. UNC is an NCAA Division II school in Greeley, Colo.
University of Tampa (Fla.) sophomore butterfly-backstroke specialist Teri Jo Hasbrouck (Petersburg) is on the roster for the Spartans, but hasn't shown up in any results this year for the NCAA Division II school.
Colby College freshman distance freestyle spcialist Weather Potdevin (Juneau-Douglas) took second place in the 500-yard freestyle (5:32.03), fourth place in the 1,000 free (11:27.92) and fourth in the 50 free (26.61) during the Mules' 187-105 victory over Bowdoin College on Feb. 7 in Waterville, Maine. Potdevin also was on Colby's third-place B 400 free relay team (3:51.07).
Linfield College sophomore sprint freestyle specialist Annie Fox (Juneau-Douglas) finished eighth in the 100-yard freestyle (57.64) and took ninth in 50 free (25.87, winning the B Final in a time that would have been seventh in the A Final) during the Northwest Conference Swim Championships last weekend in Federal Way, Wash., where the Wildcats of McMinnville, Ore., took sixth place in the women's team standings. Fox also was part of Linfield's seventh-place 400 free relay team (3:50.37), was part of Linfield's sixth-place 200 medley relay team (1:58.80), was part of Linfield's seventh-place 800 free relay team (8:47.90) and was part of Linfield's fourth-place 200 free relay team (1:44.18).
University of Minnesota freshman 141-pounder Jestin Hulegaard (spent two years at Juneau-Douglas before moving to Anoka, Minn., to finish high school) has a 5-4 record this year with one pin and two major-decision victories for the Gophers, ranked No. 13 in NCAA Division I. Hulegaard, the fall-season state wrestler of the year for Alaska in 2000-01 when he won the 125-pound title and a two-time Minnesota state champion, is backing up sophomore Tommy Owen, who is ranked 17th nationally at 141 pounds.
Southwestern Oregon Community College sophomore 157-pounder Gary Reid (Juneau-Douglas) is competing for the Lakers of Coos Bay, Ore. Reid's season record wasn't available, but on Jan. 31 he won two matches, both by pin, as SWOCC claimed a pair of dual-meet victories over Yakima Valley Community College and Clackamas Community College.
University of Colorado sophomore alpine skier Sarah Fischer (Juneau resident, attended Rowmark Ski Academy in Salt Lake City) finished 24th in the slalom (two-run time of 1:49.03) and 33rd in the giant slalom (two-run time of 2:20.36) during the New Mexico Invitational Feb. 6-7 in Taos/Red River, N.M. On Jan. 15-16, Fischer took 33rd in the giant slalom (2:14.48) and 23rd in the slalom (1:29.69) at the University of Nevada Invitational at Sugar Bowl Resort in Donner Summit, Calif. Former Juneau resident Erika Horst, who is not on a college team right now, did not finish the second run of the giant slalom.
Montana State University junior alpine skier Hilary Turner (Juneau-Douglas) is on the roster for the Bobcats, but has not appeared in a meet this year.
Whitman College director of skiing and alpine ski coach Tom Olson (former University of Alaska Juneau ski coach) is in his 13th year with the Missionaries, who won six straight U.S. Collegiate Ski Association combined national titles from 1995-2000. Whitman, of Walla Walla, Wash., started making the transition to NCAA Division I in skiing last year and now competes in the Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association with Colorado, Utah, Montana State, the University of Alaska Anchorage and several other top national ski programs.
The Juneau Empire's College Corner feature runs periodically during the school year and is compiled by sports editor Charles Bingham from school Web sites and tips from readers, coaches and parents. Due to space constraints, athletes participating in spring sports such as baseball, softball, tennis, rowing and track will be featured in the next College Corner feature. If you know of any other college athlete from Southeast Alaska who should be included in the feature, please let us know. You can fax information to 586-3028 (attention Sports), or you can e-mail the information to firstname.lastname@example.org (please do not send text attachments).