Video: MaxPreps 2017-18 Female High School Athlete of the Year
Ten-time state champ is first Alaska athlete to win award.
just finished a seven-hour basketball camp when she returned a call from a reporter asking to recap her vast athletic history.
After playing tackle football with the boys from third to eighth grade, the rising senior from Dimond (Anchorage, Alaska)
has earned three varsity letters each in volleyball, basketball and track and field and another in wrestling.
Her volleyball team has won three state titles. The basketball team played in three consecutive state championship games and finally broke through for a title in March. She also has three individual state crowns in the shot put, two in the discus and another in wrestling.
Pili has Division I college basketball offers from BYU, Butler, Colorado State, Hawaii, St. Mary's and Washington State.
On top of that, she carries a 3.5 grade point average and wants to be an engineer.
When in the world does she find time to sleep and eat? And why does she fill every waking hour on a court or athletic field?
"I was blessed with an athletic ability and being pretty strong so I just don't want to keep contained," she said.
In the middle of her answer, Pili was contained abruptly by one of five younger siblings, asking for assistance with something trivial. Pili politely excused herself briefly and then continued with her motivation:
"I want to show everyone what I can do. … I want to make it big to help repay my family, especially my parents, for all their support they've given me over the years."
How's this for a payoff, Mr. and Mrs. Pili? Your daughter is the 2017-18 MaxPreps Female High School Athlete of the Year.
Blessed with a unique combination of size, strength and agility, the versatile 5-foot-11 star beat out UConn-bound basketball star
from Central Arkansas Christian (North Little Rock, Ark.)
and softball POY Montana Fouts
of East Carter (Grayson, Ky.)
for the award.
Other top vote getters included basketball and softball standout Hayley Frank
of Strafford (Mo.)
, and prolific volleyball-basketball players Olivia Nelson-Ododa
of Winder-Barrow (Winder, Ga.)
and Lexie Hull
of Central Valley (Spokane Valley, Wash.)
Pili joins an elite sorority of previous Athletes of the Year, including five-time Olympic swimming gold medalist Missy Franklin
, All-American distance runner Jordan Hasay
and current WNBA stars Nneka Ogwumike
, Chiney Ogwumike
and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis
The younger sister of 6-foot-4, 320-pound USC defensive tackle Brandon Pili, Alissa is the first winner for the nation's third-least populated state – a fact not lost upon Pili or her basketball coach Jim Young.
"It's a special award for Alissa, her family, the school and the state of Alaska," Young said.
"It's cool to help put Alaska on the map," Pili said. "There's a lot of talent up here that goes unnoticed. People underestimate us."
Pili herself was vastly underestimated when she played youth football with the boys. Pushed and inspired by Brandon, she more than held her own. But heading into high school she had found a keen interest in volleyball.
The outside hitter has increased her hit total every season, starting at 272 to 287 to 373 this past season, leading the Lynx (26-4-3) to a third straight state crown.
On the hardwood is where she really excels. She earned MaxPreps All-American honors while leading Dimond to 31-0 record and No. 24 national ranking.
The Lynx beat Bay Area programs Miramonte (68-66) and Cardinal Newman (68-51) on consecutive nights to win the West Coast Jamboree's Diamond division. Pili was an easy choice for tournament MVP honors.
In the state title game, a 61-46 win over Wasilla, Pili had 22 points and 20 rebounds. A post player with excellent interior moves growing up, Pili has developed an effective perimeter and mid-range game.
"She's probably the best I've ever coached," said Young, in his 18th season. "Genetically and athletically, she's just ahead of her peers. What makes her so special to me is how she excels in multiple sports. I applaud her parents for not having her specialize."
In track and field, she won her third straight state shot put title, while missing a state discus crown by less than an inch. She has bests of 43 feet, 10 inches (shot put) and 133-6 (discus).
Pili said part of her success has been due to a large, athletic and supportive family, including cousins, nephews and nieces. Brandon, an All-Pac-12 honorable mention pick as a true freshman, particularly pushed Pili.
She figured out at family gatherings that basketball was her game.
"We'd end up in one-on-one tournaments and I'd end up playing Brandon," she said. "I'd always beat him in front of all the guys. He'd get mad and say 'let's put on some (football) pads and see how we do.' "
Young figures little sister would do just fine.
"She's one of the greatest athletes the state has ever seen," he said. "Winning this award certainly demonstrates that."
Past MaxPreps Female High School Athletes of the Year
2007-08 – Nneka Ogwumike, Cy-Fair (Cypress, Texas): Basketball, volleyball
2008-09 – Jordan Hasay, Mission Prep (San Luis Obispo, Calif.): Cross country, track and field
2009-10 – Chiney Ogwumike, Cy-Fair (Cypress, Texas): Basketball, volleyball
2010-11 – Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.): Basketball
2011-12 – Missy Franklin, Regis Jesuit (Aurora, Colo.): Swimming
2012-13 – Missy Franklin, Regis Jesuit (Aurora, Colo.): Swimming
2013-14 – Ariana Washington, Long Beach Poly (Long Beach, Calif.): Track and field
2015-16 – Mikayla Pivec, Lynnwood (Bothell, Wash.): Cross country, basketball, track and field
2016-17 – Tara Davis, Agoura (Calif.): Track and field
2017-18 – Alissa Pili, Dimond (Anchorage, AK): Volleyball, basketball, track and field.