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Ninilchik’s White first Class 1A star named Gatorade Alaska Player of the Year

03/22/2017, 1:00pm AKDT
By Van Williams

“I wanted to show that I was a great player at any level, not just 1A,” said the 6-foot-7 forward headed to the University of Alaska Anchorage.

Being from a small town, Ninilchik basketball standout Austin White never imagined he would be selected Gatorade Alaska Player of the Year.


He figured one of the big-city boys would get the honor.


But he was wrong. It was him.


It was a case of the big guy scoring one for the little guy.


“I knew I was a finalist for the award but I definitely wasn't getting my hopes up on winning it,” White told me. “With so many great player in the higher classifications like Jeremiah Bailey and Erik Jenkins, I really felt it leaned in their favor.”


The 6-foot-7 senior forward led the Wolverines to a 21-8 record this season and a second straight Class 1A state championship.


White averaged 17.3 points, 13.7 rebounds, 4.1 blocks and 3.7 assists per game.


“My teammates did a great job getting the ball to me in a good position to score so it was fairly easy to put up some good numbers,” he said. “I think over this last year I've done a pretty good job rounding out my entire game from defense, to scoring, to facilitating on offense and handling the ball.”


White is a two-time first team all-state honoree, and now he’s a Gatorade Alaska Player of the Year.


“When I found out I was selected, I was just baffled. I feel very accomplished and blessed to have been given this prestigious award,” White said.


“Really, it's an amazing feeling. I feel like all the work I've put in over the years and the countless hours in the gym with Coach Nick [Finley] really paid off.”


White and Finley swept top player and top coach honors for 1A in the Alaska Roof Coatings/Alaska Association of Basketball Coaches All-State Team voting before the state tournament.


At the state championships, Ninilchik went 4-0 and won its final two games by a total of 60 points. In the final, White collected 23 points and 14 rebounds for the Wolverines in a 79-39 victory over Gambell.


“I felt like I did a fairly decent job beating the other team’s defensive efforts to stop me,” White said. “I wanted to show that I was a great player at any level, not just 1A, and with the Gatorade Player of the Year in the back of my mind, I pushed myself to work as hard as I could when I was on the court.”


White is the first 1A player to earn Gatorade honors since the award started in 1986.


But he’s not the only small-schools player to garner the honor. In 1987, Mike Cronk won the award for 2A Northway.


In addition, 3A winners included Kamaka Hepa of Barrow in 2016 and 2015, Scooter Bynum of Monroe Catholic in 2014 and Kyle Fossman of Haines in 2010.


Other than that every other year was a 4A player.


“I think it's great that small schools are starting to get a little recognition and I'm honored to be part of helping that recognition along,” White said.


The player of the year is headed to the University of Alaska Anchorage this fall to begin his college career with his home-state Seawolves.


“I definitely have a lot more to improve on and definitely look forward to doing so at UAA,” White said. 


Gatorade Alaska Players of the Year

2017 Austin White, Ninilchik

2016 Kamaka Hepa, Barrow

2015 Kamaka Hepa, Barrow

2014 Scooter Bynum, Monroe Catholic

2013 Adam Klie, Service

2012 Connor Devine, Wasilla

2011 Devon Bookert, West

2010 Kyle Fossman, Haines

2009 Ryan Hanley, Dimond

2008 Kevin Winford, Bartlett

2007 Jesse Bean, Wasilla

2006 Ramon Harris, West

2005 Mario Chalmers, Bartlett

2004 Mario Chalmers, Bartlett

2003 Ray Schafer, Wasilla

2002 Andrew Smith, Bartlett

2001 Ricky Brown, East

2000 Jason Erickson, Chugiak

1999 Carlos Boozer, Juneau-Douglas

1998 Carlos Boozer, Juneau-Douglas

1997 Eli Wilson, Colony

1996 Cameron Rigby, Bartlett

1995 Mao Tosi, East

1994 Trajan Langdon, East

1993 Trajan Langdon, East

1992 Jumoke Horton, East

1991 Jeff Lentfer, Service

1990 Chris Toomer, West

1989 Ray Macon, East

1988 Pierre Newsome, West

1987 Mike Cronk, Northway

1986 Brian Petro, Bartlett

Gatorade Alaska Notes

  • Mario Chalmers won NBA titles with the Miami Heat in 2012 and 2013 and is the only Alaskan to win championships at the high school, NCAA D1 college and professional levels.
  • Kamaka Hepa – 6-foot-9 nationally ranked junior forward – transferred to Jefferson and helped the Democrats win the Oregon Class 6A title with a 70-67 win over Clackamas. 
  • Trajan Langdon, Carlos Boozer, Mario Chalmers, Jason Erickson and Devon Bookert each eclipsed the 1,000-point milestone at the NCAA D1 level.
  • In 2010, Kevin Winford of Eastern Washington scored 39 points - the most for an Alaskan at the NCAA D1 level.
  • Mario Chalmers, Carlos Boozer and Trajan Langdon are the only Alaskans to play in the NBA.
  • Mao Tosi is the only player on this list to play in the NFL when he was a defensive lineman for the Arizona Cardinals in 2000 and 2001.
  • Andrew Smith was part of the 2002 University of Alaska Fairbanks team that won the Top of the World Classic – the first NCAA D2 men’s team to win an eight-team D1 Tournament.

Van Williams is a freelance writer in Anchorage and a correspondent for the Alaska School Activities Association.

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