For Soldotna senior Tony Besse, a lot of motivation in sports has come from accomplishments by his three older sisters.
First, Heidi competed in track and field at North Dakota State University. Then Greta played junior college basketball in Arizona. Finally, Rachel currently stars for Vanguard University’s women’s basketball team. Vanguard is the undefeated and the top-ranked National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics team. Rachel has started every game and averages 12.6 points and eight rebounds per game.
“Having them as role models, I wanted to play up to that level,” Tony said.
Besse will follow his sisters into college athletics. The 6-foot-6, 195-pounder has signed to play basketball for Division II University of Alaska Fairbanks.
“It’s very exciting,” Besse said. “I really don’t like big, populated states like California. I like being close to home. Besides basketball, I like hunting, fishing, and not traveling too far to do it.”
Soldotna boys basketball coach Chris Hanson said UAF knew about Besse from last year, when the school scouted him at the Northern Lights Conference tournament at Colony High School.
UAF had another chance to check Besse out when Soldotna traveled to a team camp in Fairbanks this summer. Head coach Frank Ostanik also came to Soldotna to do a skills camp, where he was able to check out Besse again.
“As Tony’s body develops and he gets bigger and stronger, he’s going to have an opportunity to be very good,” Ostanik said in a statement released by the university. “The key is that he loves to play.
“Every time I have watched Tony play, he has gotten better. We don’t want kids who have potential; we want kids that are going to realize their potential. I think Tony is that kind of player.”
The summer before his junior year, Besse said he turned down an invitation to play on a team of Alaska’s best high school players. He said the invitation made him realize he was approaching the level needed to play in college.
“I always tell my players it’s not about how good you are, it’s about how good you are going to be,” Hanson said. “I think Tony wants to be good.
“He’s a good leader for us. He’s got a great work ethic and it’s getting better all the time. I think he’s having a great senior year.”
Besse joins David Cannamore of Eagle River, Jesse Bean of Wasilla and John Clark of Wrangell for an all-Alaska Class of 2007 for the Nanooks.
Cannamore and Besse are the most recent additions.
“To get two more players from our state is very exciting,” Ostanik said in a released statement. “They are exactly what we are looking for more and more in our recruits: They come from great families, they are well-coached and they are Alaskan. We can’t have enough guys with those attributes.”
Besse said he has long admired the skills of NLC rival Bean.
“I’m really excited to play with Jesse Bean,” Besse said. “I thought he was a phenomenal player watching him when he was a freshman and sophomore. The player from Wrangell I don’t know. I played with Cannamore from Eagle River in a spring league.”
Hanson said Besse will have to get stronger and improve his perimeter game to play at the Division II level. Besse said the Nanooks are considering redshirting him.
“I’m really happy for him,” Hanson said. “It’s a great opportunity to be able to play at a pretty high level in the state of Alaska, somewhat close to family and friends. I’ve got a lot of faith. I think he’ll do well.”
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