FAIRBANKS—Purple, before Wednesday, wasn’t the favorite color of West Valley High School senior Hannah Mattson. For one, it’s the primary color of Lathrop, West Valley’s crosstown and Mid Alaska Conference rival.
On Wednesday afternoon at West Valley, Mattson adored purple because it’s the primary hue of the University of Portland, where she will be attending classes and playing NCAA Division I women’s basketball.
The 5-foot-9 guard and owner of a 4.03 grade-point average wore a purple University of Portland hooded sweatshirt while signing a National Letter of Intent for the Pilots of the West Coast Conference on the first day of the early signing period for Division I. She was joined at a table by her parents, Mark and Brenda; Steve Caciari, West Valley girls head basketball coach; and a vase which included purple flowers.
“I could probably say yes now, but it hasn’t been in the past,” Mattson said with a laugh when asked if purple was her favorite color.
Friends, Wolfpack teammates and West Valley administrators and teachers at the ceremony also saw Mattson become the first girls high school player from Interior Alaska to sign a D-I basketball letter since Monroe Catholic forward Melissa Rima, played for Boise State from 2007-2011.
A visit to the campus in Oregon’s largest city convinced Mattson to commit to the UOP despite scholarship offers from 10 other Division I schools, including Nevada, Fresno State, Colorado State, Eastern Washington and Idaho State. She was seen by coaches from the schools while playing for two Alaska girls summer squads — Team Alaska in 2010 and Tree of Hope for the past two summers.
Several Division II programs expressed interest, too, including the Alaska Nanooks of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, which is next door to West Valley.
“It was the one school that really stood out to me as being the place I was most comfortable,” Mattson said of the University of Portland. “Both the people and atmosphere of the university ... it was super relaxing to me.”
The Pilots’ chemistry also appealed to her.
“It was fun being around them and you could see they liked being around each other,” Mattson said.
Mattson has had a standout high school career, receiving the 2011-12 Alaska Gatorade Girls Basketball Player of the Year honor and earning three straight Class 4A all-state selections, including first team as a sophomore and junior.
She has 1,326 career points in 91 games, averaging 15 points per game. Mattson also has averaged 7.5 rebounds, five assists and three steals while helping the Wolfpack to a 73-18 record, the last three Mid Alaska Conference titles and three appearances in the Class 4A state tournament, including second place last season.
“She is a type of player who spends a ridiculous amount on the details of the game and asks a lot of questions,” Caciari said. “She takes care of her body with nutrition, with working out and continuous skill work. She’s also great for our team and her teammates help her, too.
“It doesn’t really surprise me that she earned a Division I scholarship,” he said.
Mattson is a student of the game and part of a basketball family.
Her mother played guard for Ferris State University in Michigan. Her sister, Rose, played basketball for West Valley before heading to a volleyball career with Pacific Lutheran University in Washington, where she was an assistant coach this season for the Division III program. Her father, a former two-way football lineman at Valparaiso University in Indiana, coaches the eighth-grade girls basketball team at Randy Smith Middle School and Hannah is an assistant coach for him.
“I just like to analyze what goes on on the court and I’m always looking to help out my teammates,” Hannah Mattson said. “I’ve always liked to learn more and as much as I can. I’m an educational player.”
If Portland’s coaches want Mattson to play as a freshman, she’ll be ready. If they want to bring her along slowly and let her adjust to the Division I game, she’ll be ready for that, too.
“Everyone hopes to not sit on the bench; but if that happens, I’m not going to be dampened by that,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity and I’m going to go out there and try my hardest.”
Contact staff writer Danny Martin at 459-7586.