By Andrew Call
For Greene County News
FAIRBORN — Mark Alstork, at least in his mind, has not yet arrived. That is good news for his friends, family, and teammates—and really bad news for Wright State’s opponents.
“I am so competitive, I can get in my own head and it won’t be good for anybody,” Alstork admitted. “I am just trying to get better at that. It’s a day-by-day process, but at least I’m taking steps in the right direction.”
Learning to take the fuel from his competitive fire and channel it in a positive manner has been one key component in an impressive start to the season for the 6-foot-5 junior guard. The older, wiser Alstork has averaged 30.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 5.0 assists through the Raiders’ first four games. Currently, he leads the nation in scoring average.
He was named Horizon League Player of the Week on Nov. 14 after dropping 30 points on Southern Illinois in Wright State’s season opener. He followed up with 29 points in a win over Miami (Ohio), converting 15 of 20 free throws. He then scored 39 points against Toledo — fourth most in WSU history.
“That’s amazing,” Wright State coach Scott Nagy said. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a player get to the free throw line that many times in one game. He’s been very efficient. He’s scoring way over one point per shot he’s taken.”
The numbers are impressive. Perhaps even more so are the steps Alstork has taken on a personal level.
Former Raiders coach Billy Donlon admitted in a 2015 newspaper interview that he did not attempt to recruit Alstork after observing his misbehavior at a game during Alstork’s senior season at Dayton’s Thurgood Marshall High School.
“He definitely was right,” Alstork said of Donlon’s perception. “Growing up where I’m from, certain things are not taught, at least not how other people are taught. I was taught a different way to do things, a different way to show emotions. He wasn’t wrong. But he probably didn’t have a clear understanding of the person I am.”
Alstork had to experience some adversity to develop into that person. Consider what followed after high school.
• He originally signed with Drake, but Bulldogs coach Mark Phelps was fired before Alstork arrived.
• Alstork went to Ball State instead, but decided to transfer after concluding that he and coach James Whitford did not share compatible views of Alstork’s role.
• He transferred to Wright State, but had to sit out the 2014-15 season due to NCAA transfer rules.
• Alstork suffered a broken fifth metatarsal during preseason practice last fall. Diligent attention to the rehabilitation process did allow him to return and play in 30 games.
• Donlon was fired and Nagy hired, meaning Alstork would be playing for his third head coach in three full college seasons.
“I learned that I need to be open-minded,” Alstork said. “Now I know things might change, things aren’t always going to go my way, and I might need to think about doing something differently. That’s a positive.
“A long time ago, I would have reacted differently (to adversity). Now I realize I have people depending on me. There’s no need to go down that (negative) road.”
Alstork averaged 12.4 points per game last season, second on the team. As he became more comfortable with his return to college basketball, however, he became less comfortable with where he was in terms of a wider perspective. He addressed those concerns with camp director Morris Michalski during the Athletes in Action Captains Academy this past summer.
“(Michalski) told me that, no matter what happens on the court, God is still going to love me at the end of the day,” Alstork said. “I thought a lot about that. I’ve learned a lot this year about my beliefs and values, my faith, and where I want to be.
“My teammates and coaches and family and friends believe in me and trust me to make good decisions, on and off the court. I’m trusting in God to help me make those decisions.”
Alstork would like to make better decisions on the court as well, hoping to eliminate turnovers and other mistakes. His overall performance in the early season is certainly worthy of him being named a second-team all-Horizon League preseason selection.
“Our offense gets a little stagnant when he catches the ball and we all start staring at him,” Nagy said. “He’s going to need to learn to distribute the ball a little better because teams are going to start to gang up on him. We need to have other guys ready to go and to take shots when they do that. But he’s going to have a lot of freedom.”
Many parents will agree that freedom is often a reward for having demonstrated maturity. Alstork is glad Nagy feels the same way.
“I’ve put so much work in … I know it’s going to pay off one day. I can be one of the elite guys, a guy my teammates can trust no matter what the situation is. I am nowhere close to what I need to be, but I am trying to continue to develop as a man and make strides in this life. I hope people see that in me.”
The Raiders host California State Bakersfield on Friday, North Dakota, Saturday and North Florida on Sunday as part of the Men Against Breast Cancer Classic, presented by Premier Health.