It’s not often Alaska and Utah high school basketball teams get to play one another.
But that’s what will take place for the second time in three years Wednesday in Las Vegas. The Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaat.at Kalé boys team plays Timpanogos High School of Orem, Utah, at the Tarkanian Classic, one of the largest high school tournaments in the country. The tournament will feature 10 different brackets going at once.
At JDHS’ first Tarkanian appearance two years ago, one of their two losses came against Layton Christian, a private high school about an hour north of Timpanogos.
“We love the atmosphere and the environment of this tournament and the games that it provides for us,” JDHS coach Robert Casperson said by phone Tuesday. “We’re able to get four high-quality opponents out-of-state that essentially give us a great measuring stick for where we are in the season.”
JDHS and Timpanogos play at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Desert Oasis High School in the Premier Bracket. There will be seven other Premier Bracket first-round games earlier in the day featuring teams from Nevada, Florida, Pennsylvania, California, Arizona, Oregon and the Bahamas.
“We watched some film from them this year, and they play really hard and they go after the boards with reckless abandon,” Casperson said of Timpanogos.
Win or lose Wednesday, the Crimson Bears’ tournament will continue with additional games Thursday, Friday and Saturday. JDHS played all Las Vegas teams at last year’s tournament, losing their first three contests before mustering a 61-52 win against Valley High School.
JDHS furnished a 2-2 record at the 2017 tournament.
“Our first year, coming down here blind, we were 2-2, last year we were 1-3, but really we lost a game on a buzzer-beater that we should’ve won … so we could have been 2-2 last year,” Casperson said. “So, I feel like if you’re coming out .500, they got you in the right spot. If we were blowing people away, then we’d probably be in too low of a bracket or if we were getting blown away, it might be too high of a bracket.”
The 2017 tournament was the first time the program left the state in three decades, Casperson said.
“We stayed local for a long time and filled our schedule in-state, but I wanted to get these guys out, give them different opportunities, see things that are going on,” Casperson said.
Sierra Canyon High School of California will be playing in one of the higher-end brackets. The basketball team this year features LeBron “Bronny” James Jr., the son of NBA star LeBron James, and Zaire Wade, the son of retired NBA great Dwyane Wade.
The Crimson Bears will play the remainder of their 24-game regular season in-state, with 11 games to be played in Juneau. The JDHS boys and girls teams will play in their respective home openers at the Princess Cruises Capital City Classic Dec. 27.
Thunder Mountain High School boys and girls team open their respective seasons next weekend on the road.
The TMHS boys play at the Punahou Invitational in Honolulu, Hawaii, Dec. 27-30, and the TMHS girls play at the Clarke Cochrane Christmas Classic in Ketchikan Dec. 27-29.
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or email@example.com.