"He has a chance to be the best player to ever come out of Alaska," said Gottlieb, who knows a thing or two about talent after coaching for seven years in the D-1 college ranks. "Better than (Carlos) Boozer and Trajan Langdon. He averaged 15 points and 10 assists per game as a freshman and has excellent passing skills."
"Mario has great vision and is a first-rate shooter," added Gottlieb. "He simply knows how to play. He was born with tremendous basketball instincts."
He made enough of an impression on the Tar Heels staff that assistant coach Doug Wojcik actually made the trip to Alaska during the evaluation period more than a month ago.
"Carolina came in one day and Washington came in another day," said Ron Chalmers, who plays the dual role of coach and father to Mario. "I like Carolina. They have a new staff which is rebuilding. I have a lot of respect for the program. We're from Carolina and (Matt) Doherty's trying to prepare for the future. I have a lot of respect for a coach that plans for the future. That's the way I coach, I'm always looking down the road."
"He saw me in the open gym," Mario said. "I was kinda nervous, but I've been in that situation before so I know what to do."
Ron Chalmers grew up just outside of Sanford, N.C. and moved to Alaska when he was in the Air Force. His wife is also a North Carolina native and the family would likely have already moved back, if not for the fact that Mario's friends are all in Anchorage.
Ron said that it's not out of the question that the family could still move back to North Carolina so that Mario can face better competition.
"He has such a high basketball IQ," said Ron, who was an assistant coach at Anchorage East High when Langdon was there. "He sees things on the court that no one else sees. He's always thinking ahead in anticipation of the next play."
However, Ron is far from a rah-rah father who doesn't point out the negatives in his son's game.
"His game is way ahead of [Langdon] right now," Ron added. "I'm trying to get him to take command on the court and be more vocal. Trajan had such great work ethic. Mario is an outstanding shooter like Trajan, but he doesn't have that same work ethic yet. Some of that stuff comes so easily to him that he has a tendency not to work as hard."
Mario also attended the UNC-Charlotte team camp last summer while he was back with his family visiting the numerous relatives that still live in North Carolina. He wasn't able to speak with the staff while at the UNC camp, but he did check out the facilities.
The experience was enough to place UNC among his list of top four schools. The others are Maryland, Texas and Marquette.
"North Carolina isn't a leader, but I like them a lot," Mario said.
Chalmers and his Bartlett High team leave today for Tennessee, where they will participate in the Arby's Classic in Bristol, Tenn.
Check out IC's archived Class of 2005 articles.