Sierra Tate

Sierra Tate pauses before signing her National Letter of Intent with the University of Alaska Anchorage women’s basketball program during a ceremony Thursday afternoon in the West Valley High School gymnasium. 

Sierra Tate was frequently a spectator this past season for University of Alaska Fairbanks women’s basketball games in the UAF Patty Center.

One of the games Tate watched in 2018-19 in the Patty Center was an 88-43 win for the University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolves’ over the host Nanooks on Feb. 5 in a Great Northwest Athletic Conference matchup.

Tate was impressed enough with the Seawolves that on Thursday afternoon, the 5-foot-6 point guard and 2019 West Valley High School graduate signed a National Letter of Intent  with the NCAA Division II powerhouse.

“Just how they run the floor, and I do that a lot here (for West Valley). I felt I would fit in there just by the way they played,” Tate said during the signing ceremony in the West Valley gymnasium.

This past season, UAA reached the West Region final of the NCAA Division II tournament. The Seawolves advanced to the West Region portion of the national tournament after winning the GNAC regular-season title and finishing as runners-up in the conference tournament’s championship game. 

UAA was the Division II national runner-up in 2016. That squad included Galena graduate Jenna Buchanan.

Tate, one day after graduating from West Valley, put her signature on the NLI before a crowd that included West Valley girls basketball  teammates, coaches, administrators and Wolfpack boys basketball players.

The first-team all-state and USA Today All-Alaska first-team honoree wore a white Seawolves T-shirt at the signing table. 

Tate was joined at the table by her father, Steve, a West Valley girls basketball assistant coach; her mother, Natonya; sister, Stephanie, a 2015 West Valley graduate and former Wolfpack cheerleader; Milo Griffin, West Valley girls basketball head coach; and Ellen Silva, a 6-1 Wolfpack forward who signed an NLI with UAA last fall.

 “I got really excited because I’m ready to play a few more years with her,” Silva said of Tate signing with UAA.

The Seawolves will have a trio of players from Fairbanks this coming season — Tate, Silva and Jahnna Hajdukovich. 

Hajdukovich grew up in Fairbanks and graduated from Dimond High School in Anchorage. The UAA guard is entering her sophomore season.

“I’ve played with her since I was in the fourth grade. Getting to play with her again is going to be really cool,” Tate said of Hajdukovich.

Tate averaged 17.5 points, eight assists and four rebounds per game this past season for West Valley, which won the Mid Alaska Conference regular season and tournament titles, and advanced to the Class 4A state tournament. 

“My defense has gotten a lot better since my freshman year and attacking the basket should definitely improve my shooting,” she said.

Tate anticipates challenges in playing point guard at the collegiate level compared to the high school level.

“Just seeing the floor a lot quicker is probably going to be the hardest adjustment,” Tate said.

Her father agreed.

“They’re going to push her, they’re going to try to attack her,” Steve Tate said. “She’s got to see the floor quicker and she’s got to make good decisions with the ball.

“The speed of the game is totally different. (University of Alaska) Anchorage plays at a high level. Their mantra is mayhem. They play at a faster pace and her thinking has got to be quicker.”

Sierra Tate attracted interest from several junior colleges in the Pacific Northwest and California, but she wanted to go to UAA.

“The competition level is a lot higher, and I know I will get better at a four-year college than I would at a junior college. So that’s what really pushed it over,” Tate said.

Tate said she plans to be a biology major at UAA.

The next time she’s in the UAF Patty Center for a women’s basketball game, Tate will be wearing a green and gold Seawolves uniform.

“I’m looking forward to coming back here and playing at the Patty Center,” Tate said, “because I have a lot of friends and family here and I know how this (UAA-UAF rivalry) is.”

Contact News-Miner sports editor Danny Martin at 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter:@newsminersports.