Pat Ewing, certainly one of the tallest people ever to visit the 49th state, stood in the Anchorage airport, looking forward to his first intercollegiate basketball game and looking back to the Lower 48.
So this is a college road trip, huh?
The 7-foot center stood in the ample shadow of his coach, Georgetown's John Thompson, who considers this heralded freshman, all of his heralded freshmen, part of his eminent domain. They are his silent protectorates.
"Yeah, the freshmen will be googly-eyed in Alaska. But the point of this tournament is to get some of the starry-eyed looks gone before the season starts," said Thompson, who refuses to let his freshmen speak with the press.
"This is a developmental thing. This is different from playing Seton Hall or Syracuse."
This is true. Alaska is not the Big East, although the team is not too far from Siberia, part of the real Big East.
The Hoyas, ranked fifth in the nation in the preseason polls, will play Southwestern Louisiana Friday at midnight EST (WWDC-1260) in a first-round game in the eight-team Great Alaska Shootout.
As he twirled his swizzle stick on board the last leg of the drain of Washington-San Francisco-Seattle-Anchorage, Thompson said he would not alter the lineup he used in the 79-64 win over Cibona of Yugoslavia at McDonough Arena last week.
The freshmen won't start, he said. "We are here to explore," said Thompson. "I planned to establish a starting lineup over the first four or five games of this season. Right now, we want the established players to lead in. Starting isn't that important, anyway."
Which means that when the game announcer broadcasts the Georgetown lineup Friday night across Fort Richardson's Buckner Field House (capacity 4,000), he probably will say the names Eric (Sleepy) Floyd and Fred Brown at guard, Ed Spriggs at center and Eric Smith and Mike Hancock at forward.
And what of Ewing, Anthony Jones and Bill Martin, the heralded freshmen, and Alvado Smith, the unheralded freshman? "They will get their time," Thompson said.
When Georgetown made the trek here last year, they had class company: North Carolina and LSU, two teams who would defeat Georgetown in the Shootout and ultimately make it to the final four in Philadelphia.
Now, though, the Hoyas are not only ranked No. 5 in the country, but they are ranked No. 1 in Alaska. Friday night's other first-round games are: McNeese State versus Marquette, Washington State versus University of Anchorage, and Ohio State versus Iona. Georgetown is in the same bracket as Washington State and the host team.
Georgetown is the only team here that made it to the NCAA field of 48 last year. Consequently, just as the snow is expected to fall, so are Georgetown's opponents.
The seniors said as much.
Floyd: "We've worked hard to get this national ranking and to get to be favored in this tournament. It's not like we should feel bad about it. We have a saying back in the gym: 'We fear no one. We respect everyone.' "
Spriggs: "There is more pressure on us this year. Everybody is watching us more carefully. We'll get to see North Carolina and LSU somewhere along the line this year, anyway."
Smith said of the freshmen in the Alaskan freeze, "These guys have done a lot of traveling already with all of the high school all-star games they played in. Anyway, its not like we're going to be playing outside."
Which is a good thing. The snow is on the ground, the thermometer is stuck, jammed in the 20s. It is fall in Anchorage.
Senior guard Ron Blaylock said of this Thanksgiving affair, "I guess you could call it cold turkey."
One of the primary draws of the Great Alaska Shootout is that it has an exemption from the NCAA, which allows teams to play in Alaska without counting the games against the season limit of 27 contests. Simply, it gives these teams an incentive to come to the ice.
While Thompson says it doesn't matter which players start, he does say it is important how the team starts.
"These games may not count against the season limit but they do count on our overall record," said Thompson, who in nine years at Georgetown is 176-84. "We will play to win."