Jan. 17—The crown jewel of high school basketball's regular season will take place at West Anchorage High this week with the annual Alaska Airlines Classic.
The 2024 edition will feature exclusively teams from the Last Frontier on the girls side and will include the reigning state champions at the 4A, 3A, and 2A divisions playing in a round robin.
Meanwhile on the boys side, some of the best talent at the 4A level will be going up against a trio of out of state teams, two of which feature elite players that are likely bound for Division I college programs in the near future.
St. Joseph is from Santa Maria, California and features 6-foot-5 junior forward Tounde Yessoufou who reportedly has offers from Kansas, Arizona, Texas, UCLA and 6-foot-3 sophomore guard Julius Price who has offers from Washington and Minnesota.
Nazareth is from Brooklyn, New York, and features 6-foot-6 junior guard/forward Halon Rawlins with an offer from Oklahoma State and a 6-foot-7 senior forward Tyler Francis who has been offered by Manhattan.
East Hall is from Gainesville, Georgia, and is coached by Joe Dix who led the program to the Alaska Airlines Classic title in 2012 with a 87-74 win over Bartlett.
Over the the last 30-plus years, this tournament has featured numerous prominent players both from Alaska and beyond its borders including 49th state legend Trajan Langdon, who is the current general manager of the New Orleans Pelicans. According to tournament media director Van Williams, the classic has had more than 100 Division I players, eight eventual NBA players, seven eventual WNBA players, 10 NBA G League players and a dozen McDonald's All-Americans.
Representing Alaska will be four schools from the Cook Inlet Conference and one from Fairbanks. The defending 4A state champion and currently undefeated Bettye Davis East Anchorage will be led by the duo of Muhammed Sabally and Akeem Sulaiman. West Valley was last year's runner-up and is also undefeated. The Wolves will be led by 2024 Alaska Prep Shootout tournament MVP Jamari Sims.
Host team West Anchorage is led by senior Des'Laone Cook, one of the most dangerous scorers in the state. Dimond's lineup features junior Marek Hajdukovich who hails from a rich Alaska hoops legacy, and Bartlett will be looking to make a name for itself against stiff competition.
The girls tournament runs from Tuesday through Thursday and the boys tournament will tip-off on Thursday afternoon and run through Saturday night.
2024 Alaska Airlines Classic
West Anchorage v. West Valley at 12:15 p.m.
Bartlett v. St. Joseph (California) at 4:30 p.m.
East Anchorage v. East Hall (Georgia) at 6 p.m.
Dimond v. Nazereth (N.Y.) at 7:30 p.m.
Winner of West Anchorage/West Valley v. Winner of East Anchorage/East Hall at 7:30 p.m.
Winner of Dimond/Nazereth v. Winner of Bartlett/St. Joseph at 6 p.m.
Seventh place game at 3 p.m.
Fourth place game at 4:30 p.m.
Third place game at 6 p.m.
Championship game at 7:30 p.m.
Grace Christian vs. Mountain City Christian, 6 p.m.
Tikigaq vs. West Anchorage, 7:30 p.m.
Grace Christian vs. Tikigaq, 6 p.m.
Mountain City Christian vs. West Anchorage, 7:30 p.m.
Grace Christian vs. West Anchorage, 10 a.m.
Mountain City Christian vs. Tikigaq, 2:30 p.m.
Girls tournament tiebreakers
2. Fewest Points Allowed Between Tied Teams
3. Fewest Points Allowed Overall
4. Point Differential Between Tied Teams