FAIRBANKS, Alaska - The UAF Men's basketball team will be playing at home this week and will see a very unique matchup on Saturday.
We're going to explore that game for this week's Nanook Corner.
This Saturday will provide a unique matchup for head basketball coach Greg Sparling. For the first time in his 25 year coaching career, Sparling will be leading a team against his Alma Mater, the Central Washington Wildcats.
"I think it's going to be kind of emotional because they have a handful of players that I recruited and I got to know very well and got to know their families well. I've got to treat this as another game. We've got to go out and battle and hopefully get the dub, then get ready for our next road swing," said Sparling.
Sparling was the head coach for Central Washington from 1994–2018 where he compiled a 386–253 record. That 386 win total is the highest of any coach in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference. His contract was not renewed after the 2017–2018 season, which led to Sparling signing with the Nooks. Sparling looks forward to the challenge of being on the other side of the court against the Wildcats.
"For thirty years I was at Central Washington, either as a student or as a coach, but at the end of the day, I'm hired to win games. We're going to go out and do the best we can and hopefully we get the dub and turn it around. But yeah, it's going to be emotional I've got three or four guys that I recruited there as freshmen and really got to know their families. We preach family and I thought we had a good thing going at central," said Sparling.
This series isn't just important for Sparling but for the Nooks as a whole. They currently sit at 4–9 overall and 1–5 in the conference. They have two opportunities this week to earn their first conference win of 2019. They host Northwest Nazarene on Thursday, and the Wildcats on Saturday.
"I think any game from here on out is huge. This GNAC Conference, it's tough from top to bottom. Obviously Western Oregon and Saint Martin's and Nazarene are up top but I think the next two weeks the middle of the pack is really going to jumble up here because a lot of us are playing each other," said Sparling.