Athlete of the Week: Alissa Pili helps Utah women’s basketball to first-ever top 10 ranking

AOTW Alissa Pili
Published: Jan. 10, 2023 at 8:11 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Alissa Pili transferred from the University of Southern California to the University of Utah this year, and has already helped the Utes women’s basketball team to their first ever top 10 ranking.

Pili is the third leading scorer in the Pac-12 with 19 points per game and ranks No. 23 in the nation, shooting an incredible 63.7 percent from the field.

Those stats make Pili among the 25 players that are making a case for the John R. Wooden Award, which is given to the best collegiate player in the country at the end of the season. This season is Pili’s fourth, but she is just a Junior and still has an extra year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Honestly, it’s my fourth year, so I have a lot of experience in this league,” Pili said. “The experience helps a lot, with just knowing what’s coming and kind of what it takes to be a player in this league,” Alissa Pili said.

After transferring to the University of Utah, Pili says that she feels like Utah is a second home and that everyone has made her feel comfortable — yet another reason why she is having a career year.

“My coach — I’ve played against her for three years, so she is pretty familiar with me and my game. So she knew how to use me to my advantage and to the team’s advantage” said Alissa.

Pili has always been a very dynamic player, going back to her amazing basketball career at Dimond High School where she earned the Alaska state scoring record with 2,614 points. Pili also holds 13 state titles — not just from basketball, but from volleyball and track and field, too.

“She’s just always been good, I mean, growing up she’s always been strong — that’s her strength. And that’s what, going into college, I think she was going to start because of her strength. She can play the post and won’t let nobody back her down,” said Alissa’s father Billy Pili.

But just because she is strong doesn’t mean she sits in the post — this season Pili has really started to expand her game to the three-point line and is shooting it with much more confidence. Some of that confidence comes from knowing people back in her home state are watching.

“It’s kind of like a pride I carry with myself, just knowing that I have a bunch of people that are counting on me and just looking up to me,” Alissa said.

Pili also said that she gets more “hype” when one of her teammates scores then when she puts it in the basket herself, and that jumps off the tape when you watch the Utes play — that skill likely coming from her Alaskan upbringing and experience of almost always being the best player on the floor. Pili sees and reacts to things differently.

“A good player can get his own, but a great player will make the others around you better. I like her being unselfish, and just playing and having fun,” Billy said.

Utah is now 14-1 for the season and are still ranked in the Top Ten, according to the AP women’s basketball coaches poll. The Utes’ next game is on Friday against Arizona State, which can be streamed on the ESPN+ service.