Eyes on Alaska

If you put Alaska and basketball in the same sentence, there's a good chance the only people who will come to mind are Trajan Langdon and Carlos Boozer. But there are some very intriguing underclassmen in Alaska right now that could make noise on the West Coast, if not nationally, in upcoming recruiting classes. Read on for scouting and scoop on C Ray Schafer, SF Chris Devine and a frosh PG destined for stardom.

C Ray Schafer (profile)
Wasilla (Wasilla, AK)
Ht:  6'11"  WT: 210

Ray Schafer may be a name well below your recruiting radar, but this center has been dominating the state of Alaska and is about to become a high-major recruit on the West Coast and throughout the nation.  Ray averaged a team-leading 18.8 points, 9.6 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game as the starting center on a Wasilla team that made a deep run in the Alaska state championships in March.  Wasilla (a top 5 team in Alaska all year) was a perfect 13-0 in league play through the season, but fell in a tough overtime loss in the state semifinals to Juneau-Douglas.  Schafer put down a game-high 19 points in the semifinal loss on 6 of 10 shooting from the field and 7 of 8 from the stripe, plus game highs in rebounds (11) and blocked shots (5)... oh, and 2 steals.  Ray's performance in the tournament landed him on the all-tournament team, and his season accomplishments earned him first team all-state by both the Alaskan media and AlaskaPreps.  As a junior, he stood out above all others in Alaska this year, in fact the only player in his class to make first, second or third team by the media.  He is still a raw talent, but he has skills inside and touch from midrange that have earned him the widespread reputation as the best Alaskan player since Carlos Boozer.  Ray shot better than 60% from the field his junior year, and better than 72% from the free throw line.

 

Schafer has played his AAU ball for the past year with Bob Gottlieb's Branch West Basketball Academy teams, a wise move for a kid looking to get the exposure rarely available in Alaska.  Bob Gottlieb has a recruiting service to which many coaches and recruiters subscribe, helping to put Ray squarely on their radar.  But it is this spring and summer when Ray is likely to "blow up" as the recruiting gurus like to say.

I watched Ray a few times in Vegas a few weeks ago and caught up with him for a quick chat between games...

The Bootleg:  Ray, I just wanted to find out how you think you've played so far in the tournament?
Ray Shafer:  Today I wasn't playing too well.  I was really tired.  A couple guys who came down with me, we kinda got a cold.  But that's not an excuse.  Yesterday I think I played well.

The Bootleg:  What would you say are the strengths of your game?
Ray Shafer:  Posting up.  Back to the basket.

The Bootleg:  What are you trying to work on as these coaches watch you this summer?
Ray Shafer:  My shot.  I'm really trying to get my outside shot going again.  I had that my sophomore year, but I grew an inch and then lost it. (laughs).

The Bootleg:  Coming from Alaska, is it tough getting the coaches to come see you up there?  These opportunities are rare to come down here and play in front of them like this.
Ray Shafer:  You'll rarely see the come because if they're going to come all the way up, it's usually to see one team.  There's not too many teams up there for them to see.

The Bootleg:  Are you going to continue to play with BWBA over the summer?  What are your plans?
Ray Shafer:  I plan on coming down to play in the summer league or fall league.  Whatever comes up.

The Bootleg:  Can you talk about some of the schools you've been hearing from during your recruitment thus far?
Ray Shafer:  A couple Pac-10's and a couple from the East Coast.

The Bootleg:  Can you be specific about who from the Pac-10?
Ray Shafer:  Stanford, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington and Wazzu.  And San Diego State.

The Bootleg:  When you talk about Stanford, academics are obviously important.  Can you talk about your grades and SAT thus far?
Ray Shafer:  I have a 3.5.  With the SAT, I'm scheduled for that.  I haven't taken it yet.

The Bootleg:  What are you looking for in a school?
Ray Shafer:  Great coaching staff and a great learning environment.


Another Alaskan in the junior class to keep on your radar is 6'7" small forward Chris Devine (profile) of Chugiak in Eagle River, Alaska.  Devine played on the same BWBA squad with Ray Schafer in Vegas, and actually outshone him at times.  That can be attributed to Devine's very aggressive style of play.  Chris has grown two or three inches in the last year, which has benefited him greatly.  Instead of being a middling shooting guard, he now brings solid guard skills with the frame of a forward.  It is that guard's mentality and athleticism that had him constantly charging the basket in Vegas.  Chris has a good handle and frequently looks to take the ball to the hole.  Note that Chris, despite his exposure challenges in Alaska, made Tracy Pierson's and Greg Hicks' top ten list of West Coast junior small forwards in February at PrepWestHoops.  Devine was also named honorable mention all-state in Alaska this past season by the Alaskan media, as well as second team all-state by AlaskaPreps.  He carries a 3.5 GPA in the classroom, which coupled with his athletic performances have him on Stanford's radar.

   


The final Alaskan of note I saw play on this BWBA squad was 6'1" point guard Mario Chalmers of Bartlett in Anchorage, Alaska.  Chalmers was one of the top point guards I saw play in either tournament in Vegas, and when I saw on the BWBA roster that he was just a freshman, I just about fell over.  This kid has just about everything you could ask for in a point guard: great handle, quickness, good shot and an outstanding distributor.  He was the only freshman to play for Bartlett this past season, and the starting point guard at that.  Mario Chalmers was a third team all-state performer in Alaska this year, which knocks your socks off when you consider that no frosh or sophomore was named better than honorable mention, with Ray Schafer as the only junior.  AlaskaPreps named him second team all-state.  His father, Ronnie Chalmers, is his coach at Bartlett High, by the way.  Mario was a driving force towards Bartlett's state championship title this season, scoring consistently in double figures (21 of 27 games) while distributing the ball in a high scoring fastbreak offense.   In the championship game, he scored 16 points on 4 of 6 shooting from the field (2 of 3 three-pointers) and 6 of 6 shooting from the stripe.  Mario also recorded a game-high 5 assists.  With a kid this young, it's too early to tell about a


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