Jason Kaiser

It was the dunk heard around Alaska; a two-handed thunderbolt hammered home by Seawolves’ star Jason Kaiser of Anchorage.

The 6-foot-5 guard out of Service High was a smooth jump shooter, not a rim rocker. But there he was alone on the break, throwing down a jam as his signature on a 35-point masterpiece that rocked the crowd of 5,943 at Sullivan Arena and no doubt sent shock waves among those watching the nationally televised game on ESPN.

It was the defining moment of UAA’s stunning 70-68 victory over ACC power Wake Forest at the 1993 Great Alaska Shootout on Thanksgiving Day.

The image of Kaiser hanging on the rim is an iconic picture that was memorialized on a Shootout poster years ago. The dunk symbolized the moment the Seawolves slayed the dragon as they staked a 68-60 lead with a minute left.

It should have been the time to celebrate for UAA, but a referee issued a ticky tack technical foul to Kaiser for hanging on the rim too long. The call canceled UAA’s momentum and nearly changed the outcome as Wake Forest hit two free throws and got the ball and scored again to creep back into contention.

“The end was too bad. We should have been able to enjoy the last minute,” said Rusty Osborne, UAA’s current head coach who was an assistant in 1993. “The undeserved technical both helped them and rattled us. We missed some free throws and got tentative but were able to hold on.”

As the standard, UAA was the only NCAA Division II team in the Shootout field and the idea of a Seawolf upset seemed like a fantasy against a Wake Forest team coming off a 21-win season and featuring three future NBA players in Randolph Childress, Tim Duncan and Rusty LaRue.

Wake Forest might have had kings of the court, but the Seawolves had a Kaiser – the German word for emperor.

He was the undisputed ruler on this night as he delivered a takeover performance and carved up the Demon Deacons of Winston-Salem, N.C., on 12-of-21 shooting, including 5-of-10 3-pointers.

“Jason’s performance was one for the ages,” Osborne said. “He made a 3 in transition, a basket off a set play and then got fouled scoring a layup on the break as part of that. This got the crowd going and seemed to put some doubt on the faces of Wake Forest. Once he got rolling the entire team fed off him.”

The Demon Deacons had seven players 6-foot-8 or taller to UAA’s two and outrebounded UAA 54-44. On a team with future pros, it was forward Trelonnie Owens who dominated inside with 19 of his 26 points in the first half as Wake Forest seized a 41-32 halftime lead.

The second half belonged to Kaiser, who pumped in 25 points in 20 minutes, including a three-point play that gave UAA a 49-48 lead.

Kaiser started his college career at Weber State and two years later transferred home and earned player-of-the-game honors in his Shootout debut.

“That kid Jason Kaiser had a career night,” Wake Forest coach Dave Odom told reporters that night. “Give him a lot of credit. We tried everybody we had on defense on him, and he met every single challenge.”

Other Alaskans to get on the court that night for UAA included starting point guard Bryan Anderson of Anchorage and reserve guard PJ Page of Fairbanks.

Anderson was from Dimond High and played 32 minutes, collecting two points, five rebounds and three assists while guarding Childress, a Second Team All-American and future first-round NBA draft pick.

“This game was really a turning point for BA,” Osborne said. “I believe his success against a player like Childress really convinced him he could be a very good PG. Up to that point he really thought of himself as a shooter/scorer, but after that he really came into his own as a PG. He ended up setting the school record for assists in a season.”

Childress finished with 13 points, missing 9 of 10 3s. Duncan started at center and had seven rebounds and a blocked shot in 10 minutes but was otherwise invisible.

That Wake Forest team also featured Marc Blucas, a starting forward who scored eight points and went on to star in a Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series, and Stacey Castle, a backup guard who was part of the Oak Hill team that beat East in the title game of the 1991 Great Alaska High School Classic.

The Demon Deacons went on to beat No. 2 Duke and No. 5 North Carolina that season and finished 21-12, advancing to the NCAA Tournament and losing to No. 4 Kansas in the second round.

The Charlie Bruns-coached Seawolves had a similar ending, winning 21 games and going 1-1 at the NCAA Tournament.

Kaiser wrapped up his UAA career as a two-time Pacific West Conference Player of the Year with 1,363 points – the eighth most by an Alaska player at the D2 level. In 1995, he was inducted into the Seawolf Hall of Fame.

Osborne remains in contact with Kaiser and occasionally they will talk about night they beat Wake Forest, the second greatest upset in school history behind the 1988 win over No. 2 Michigan.

Rusty Osborne has been on the UAA coaching staff for 32 years and ranks No. 1 among head coaches with 335 wins. Photo by Skip Hickey/UAA Athletics

“Those memories seem like they happened last month,” Osborne said. “I tell current kids stories that happened years before they were born that are very clear to me and all those players live in my mind as they were then.”

Of course, he has other ways to know just how long it’s been. Gray hair and being called grandpa are good reminders.

His son Sagan was 2 months old on Nov. 23, 1993.

“He is now 30 and has a 9-month-old of his own.”

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