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PODCAST EPISODE 41: ALASKA ELITE

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Steve Drussell joined the Upper Hand Pod to talk about his work as Head Varsity Coach of Bartlett High School where he was awarded Cook Inlet Conference Coach of the Year. Steve is also the Founder and CEO of Alaska Elite, where he coaches both men and women teams. Coach Drussell displays his 18 years of coaching by providing unique perspectives on training methods and the difficulties of running an elite level program in Alaska.

You can read an overview of the interview with Coach Drussell or listen to the podcast below for the full interview.

Q. Being in Alaska you are separated from the mainland and don’t have the population of a New York or a Boston, what are the challenges that you saw or you have starting this program and how have you overcome them?

A. It does get repetitive playing the same teams over and over and that’s why we like go out and travel not only for the experience but for the exposure as well. There is a lot of talent here, I tell a lot of coaches that Alaska is a hidden gem. We only have 2 division II schools, no NAIA, JuCo, no Division 1. There are a lot of talented kids up here. A lot of barriers we face are college coaches don’t come up here and scout the kids or look at the talent. But I will be the first to tell you that when we get off the national circuit you will find a scrappy team. This is our chance to get in front of those coaches. That is a barrier for us, the lack of exposure in comparison to lower 48 states.

Q. You mentioned the basketball youth sports industry taking a hit overall but how your kids have this scrappy mentality, playing with a chip on their shoulder. What are you doing to ensure and to build the love of the game for your athlete in your training?

A. Great question. You know what we do, there has to be a love and a passion to get better, and that’s the thing about Alaska Elite is we take the mentality of quality over quantity. The kids that we pick, they love the game already. They are NBA fans. We will have events at the house where we have 2k tournaments or watch NBA games. And we do a lot of stuff outside of practice, basketball related, even parents vs kids. It just helps overall with the love of the game. We try and make it fun and competitive, especially in the offseason. Our kids know there is a time to play and a time to be serious. Practice times, want the season hits, they really flip the switch and its 100% focus. The offseason is when we get into the gameplay and team bonding. But every kid we bring in has a huge love and passion with the game of basketball. We aren’t forcing it on them. They want to get better. They want to imitate their favorite player and they come in with that love and mindset. Work hard and be like them.

Q. You mentioned there are only 2 division II schools in Alaska which makes the competition to get scholarships or even noticed extremely difficult. Obviously, you are doing the work on the court to get your kids ready for the next level, but how are you helping them get that exposure and getting coaches to recognize them and come to watch them play?

A. I run this Alaska College Exposure Showcase. I remember when I started this, coaches were telling me “Steve there is no way you can get college coaches up here, “…”, because there is so much competition in the lower 48 that they can just recruit in their backyard.” I took it upon myself to email every coach in Northwest 11 conference in Washington and Oregon Junior Colleges, I emailed everyone one of those coaches to see if I could put this together. I didn’t send a bulk email, I individually personalized each email and explained the benefits of coming to Alaska. Logistically, you can go see all of Alaska, it is a big state. Some remote villages don’t even have wifi, how are you going to get the game film? What we do is one weekend in April we do an all-star game and Alaska Exposure Showcase where kids from all over Alaska come up on a weekend. What they get to do is work out in front of college coaches. We have had coaches like Jeremy Groth from Spokane University, Mike Trautman from Everett Community College, London Wilson with Yakima College, Trevor Hoppe from Southwestern Oregon, Mitch Freeman who was at Peninsula College but recently got a job with Corban. Those guys come up and they recruit, sign kids from Alaska which normally wouldn’t even be on the radar. But once they come down here and see the talent, we have a big differential of talent, I had a kid who recently just signed with North Dakota. He had no offers coming out of high school he went and did one year with national junior college in Kansas and now he is playing d1 basketball in North Dakota. It makes you think, was it that one year of basketball or was the talent always there? Knowing he had no offers, that brings exposure and opportunity into question. I get a lot of help with local high school coaches, but it is the best thing we got going on here in Alaska for kids to get exposure, college scholarships and move on.

Learn more about Coach Drussell and the Bartlett Golden Bears at https://www.asdk12.org/bartlett. You can follow Steve on twitter @SteveDrussell