As Kodiak’s girls prepare for Thursday’s 4A state basketball opener against Lathrop, they can lean on the experience of Jerica Nelson.
Nelson is the only player on Kodiak’s roster who has played at the state tournament inside spacious Sullivan Arena. This is Nelson’s third state appearance; the first two were with Colony.
“I am just going to tell the team to play like it is any other game — don’t let it get to you,” Nelson said.
This season has been a homecoming for Nelson, whose family moved from Kodiak to the Mat-Su Valley when she was in seventh grade. The family relocated back to the island last summer.
Nelson’s impact on the team was evident from the first game of the season as she led fast breaks and caused havoc with her in-your-face defense.
“She brings another dimension on offense, another dimension on defense and she brings enthusiasm,” Kodiak coach Stephanie Smiley said.
Coaches from around the state took notice and on Monday placed Nelson on the all-state second team, which is decided by members of the Alaska Association of Basketball Coaches.
Teammate Hannah Wandersee made the third team.
Nelson is enjoying being back in Kodiak, especially since the Bears are making only their fourth state appearance since 1987.
“This has been great. I am so happy to be back here playing with my old friends — we played together when we were little kids,” Nelson said.
She even has a cousin on the team in junior Megan Pyles.
“She grew up with these kids so it was an easy transition for not only her, but the rest of the girls on the team,” Smiley said.
Nelson is Kodiak’s No. 2 scorer and opens up opportunities for other players with her passing. Her arrival has made it easier on last year’s starting guard Carissa Cannon, who moved to shooting guard this season.
“I love it,” Cannon said. “She is such a good point guard … it puts less stress on me so I can focus on other things.”
Nelson has missed three games this season and has played through pain after getting her ankle stepped on midway through the season against Colony. She said Smiley puts extra padding on her ankle when she gets it taped.
“It feels like a big bruise,” Nelson said. “If it gets bumped at all it really hurts — it is kind of scary.”
Because of Nelson’s desire to play, Smiley has had a tough time resting her for state. Nelson missed only the regular-season games against Wasilla and the endowment game against Dimond.
“You appreciate that kind of drive and that kind of ambition to be on the court and to try your hardest,” Smiley said.
Wandersee, as a junior, made a giant leap in production this season and landed on the all-state third team.
The 6-foot-1 center leads Kodiak in scoring (13.5 points per game) and rebounding. She is averaging five points more than last season, which is a credit to second-year assistant coach Nick Billings.
The 7-footer, who played professionally overseas, works with Kodiak’s forwards and centers at least three times a week.
“He teaches you to go up strong and not fade away from contact and that really helps me because you are always creating contact,” Wandersee said.
What sets Wandersee apart from most post players, is that she has the ability to stretch the defense with jump shots.
“She can take it inside and if they are taking things away inside she can hit a 15-footer,” Smiley said. “If I gave her the green light, she could hit 3-pointers.”
Wandersee has even out shot Smiley, who made 174 treys during her career at Eastern Michigan University, in a long-distance contest.
“It was a pretty amazing feeling,” Wandersee said.
Contact Mirror writer Derek Clarkston at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Class 4A boys
Player of the Year – Adam Klie, Service
Coach of the Year – Josh Muehlenkamp, East
FIRST TEAM — Adam Klie, Service; Jarred Laws, East; Connor Looney, Palmer; Damon Cikanek, Dimond; Shaquan Rhoades, Eagle River.
SECOND TEAM — Marquise Robinson, Service; Dane Kuiper, Wasilla; Hunter Eisenhower, Colony; Iziah Sherman-Newsome, Bartlett; Damien Fulp, Colony.
THIRD TEAM — Louis Page, South; Amu Aukistino, Service; Theo Oghide, West; Sam Jahn, Thunder Mountain; Jack Hobbs, South.
Class 4A Girls
Player of the Year – Kyla Dinkel, Wasilla
Coach of the Year – Stephanie Smiley, Kodiak
FIRST TEAM — Kyla Dinkel, Wasilla; Alysha Devine, Wasilla; Alexis Imoe, Wasilla; Sierra Afoa, Dimond; Aminata Cole, Dimond.
SECOND TEAM — Mary Klapperich, Colony; Taylor Blake, Palmer; Kaillee Skjold, Soldotna; Jerica Nelson, Kodiak; Ruthy Hebard, Lathrop.
THIRD TEAM — Hannah Wandersee, Kodiak ; Gabi Fenumiai, Juneau-Douglas; Jayley Taylor, Ketchikan; Tara Thompson, Dimond; Chantel Bookert, West
Class 3A Boys
Player of the Year – Augustus Simmers, Anchorage Christian
Coach of the Year – Dave Cronk, Bethel
FIRST TEAM — Augustus Simmers, Anchorage Christian; Scooter Bynum, Monroe Catholic; Calvin Hoffman, Anchorage Christian; Jalen Terry, Anchorage Christian; Tyler Wells, Monroe Catholic.
SECOND TEAM — Daren Silas, Hutchison; Austin Miller, Bethel; Theodore Naneng, Bethel; Dominique Hall, Nome; David Stepovich, Monroe Catholic.
THIRD TEAM — Hans Karlberg, Grace Christian; Carlie Romer, Bethel; Tyler Eide, Nome; Brian Way, Sitka; Ryan Morgan, Mt. Edgecumbe.
Class 3A Girls
Player of the Year – Mimi Wood, Hutchison
Coach of the Year – Darrin Powers, Anchorage Christian
FIRST TEAM — Mimi Wood, Hutchison; Alex Derifield, Valdez; Dallas Dickerson, Anchorage Christian; Shayla Johnson, Nome; Hilary Lowery, Barrow.
SECOND TEAM — Sarah Gaegel, Anchorage Christian; NeNe Hale, Houston; Lynette Hepa, Barrow; Angela Miguel, Barrow; Colleen Snyder, Kotzebue.
THIRD TEAM — Sid Riggs, Sitka; Marian Wamsley, Valdez; Taryn White, Mt. Edgecumbe; Dana Chrestman, Barrow; Jess Reiter, Delta.
Class 2A Boys
Player of the Year – Kacy Green, Hooper Bay
Coach of the Year – Albert Green, Hooper Bay
FIRST TEAM — Kacy Green, Hooper Bay ; Stuart Towarak, Unalakleet; Brady Parmenter, Glennallen; JJ Fernandez, Unalaska; Kendell Alvarado, Dillingham.
SECOND TEAM — Colin Corsetti, Unalakleet; Brydin Pacheco, Bristol Bay; Cameron Peters, Glennallen; Dawson Matthews, Susitna Valley; David White, Tri-Valley.
THIRD TEAM — Cade Schlagel, Dillingham; Joe Simon, Hooper Bay; Kyan Monroe, Nenana; Everett Moorcroft, Bristol Bay; Tristen Ticket, Unalakleet.
Class 2A Girls
Player of the Year – Drew Carlos, Dillingham
Coach of the Year – Sean Carlos, Dillingham
FIRST TEAM — Drew Carlos, Dillingham; Chelsea Tooyak, Point Hope; Jonisha Wilson, Unalakleet; Brynn Tennison, Dillingham; Justene Henry, Selawik.
SECOND TEAM — Auna Stone, Hooper Bay; Amanda Sage, Point Hope; Maggie Dinon, Craig; Arianna Dougall, Glennallen; Kerri Tall, Chevak.
THIRD TEAM — Tierra Schroeder, Dillingham; Roberta Walker, Unalakleet; Mariah DelaRosa, Nenana; Catherine Ivanoff, Unalakleet; Jasmine Tooyak, Point Hope.
Class 1A Boys
Player of the Year – Danny Wells, Noorvik
Coach of the Year – Jim Holein, Klawock
FIRST TEAM — Danny Wells, Noorvik; Tyrus Morgan, Klawock; Anthony Ashby, Noatak; Jack Wheeler, Ninilchik; Eric Mametieff, Nikolaevsk.
SECOND TEAM — Hubba Jay Charlie, Scammon Bay; Blake Klaich, Nikolaevsk; Joe Kohler, New Stuyahok; Pat Moran, Lumen Christi; Michael Rud, Birchwood Christian.
THIRD TEAM — Billy Brown, Yakutat; Timmy Smithwick, Cook Inlet Academy; Joe Bifelt, Huslia; John Tretikoff, Newhalen ; Casey Sherman, Golovin.
Class 1A Girls
Player of the Year – Tonya Busse, Klawock
Coach of the Year – Susie Rilling, Shishmaref
FIRST TEAM — Tonya Busse, Klawock; Megan Bauder, Cook Inlet Academy; Nianiella Dorvall, Nikolaevsk; Nicole Moffis, Cook Inlet Academy; Cassi Williams, Klawock.
SECOND TEAM — Emma Weyiouanna, Shishmaref; Kilina Klaich, Nikolaevsk; Jessica Robertson, Lumen Christi; Alice Amaktoolik, Golovin; Helen Bruns, Brevig Mission.
THIRD TEAM — Sophia Kalugin, Nikolaevsk; Madison Orth, Cook Inlet Academy; Denise Fernandez, Shishmaref; Marina Koonooka, Gambell; Jazzlyn Garnie, Teller.