Local Raider

Wright State’s Mark Alstork explains the benefits of playing ball close to home

By Marc Katz

Now that we’ve had this colossal Best Movie mishap, I don’t feel so nervous writing about a Wright State men’s basketball player even though last weekend’s Horizon League Tournament could have ended the Raiders’ season. After all, the Raiders could be playing in Tuesday’s championship final as well, something they did last year.

Even though this is tournament time, something else is on my mind: local players.

There was a time when local rosters across the country were filled with players from the state, and many times, their own city.

Ohio State almost never went beyond the boarder during coach Fred Taylor’s long, successful run.

At the University of Dayton, there was a steady stream of local players—and their sons.

Sometimes, all you had to do is walk outside your coach’s office, and the kid you saw play last night at a local gym says he’d like to be on your team. That’s the hurry-up version of how Don May signed on at UD.

Coaches don’t always get the local kid these days, where the allure of a perennial Top 25 team such as Duke (Franklin’s Luke Kennard) or Michigan State (Wayne’s Travis Trice or Jefferson’s Adreian Payne) or—going back—Kentucky (Roth’s Dwight Anderson) will swoop in and take your area’s best player away.

It seems for every Jim Paxson you keep, a John Paxson goes to Notre Dame.

Sometimes, a local kid just doesn’t want to stay home, thinking he’s going to run into a parent every day, or a high school chum who wants to run the streets rather than run the court.

But there are plenty of kids who have stayed in town and played locally at the University of Dayton (where St. Henry’s Ryan Mikesell starts and sometimes Wayne’s Xeyrius Williams does, too) or Wright State. This week I want to concentrate on WSU’s best player, Mark Alstork, who at first didn’t think staying home was such a good idea.

“I honestly didn’t want to go to a school near Dayton at first,” says Alstork, a 6-foot-5-inch guard from Thurgood Marshall, who was recruited by both local teams until UD found other recruits it wanted more, and WSU couldn’t make the final, convincing argument.

“I think there are more temptations and distractions being around people you’ve known all your life. Some of them are good; some of them are bad. Growing up in the area where I grew up, it was more bad than good.”

Alstork first went to nearby Ball State, but didn’t like it.

“I think I’m glad I got to see another place,” Alstork says. “When you only see one situation, you only get one viewpoint.

“I think it benefits people to be around [their] family. You’re playing basketball, you’re playing basketball, you’re playing basketball. You’re not going to get sick of it, but you want a break. People need that. People want to talk about what you do, not who you are. That’s what’s important.”

Alstork is completing his junior year at WSU and has warmed to his coach, Scott Nagy, who was hired after more than two decades at South Dakota State, where his best local recruit may have lived a state or two away.

“Our last three years in South Dakota, we didn’t have a player in the whole state that could play for us,” Nagy says. “There are way better players a lot closer, here, but there’s more competition for those players, too.”

He means competition from Dayton and Miami, Ohio State and Cincinnati, Xavier and Kentucky, Louisville and Indiana…

A few years ago, Chris Wright out of Trotwood was a big local catch for UD, showing local players they could thrive at a local college.

“It’s different for every kid,” Nagy says. “Local kids, for the most part, tend to take a much bigger ownership in the program. Their people are close. If you get a kid from Texas, he’s not playing in front of his family all the time.

“It doesn’t mean as much for him to see a program grow as much as it does a local kid to see that program grow and have the family watching. There’s just a little more accountability for a local kid than there is a kid from a distance.”

Of course, I have also seen up close families who do not think their sons are playing enough, or shooting enough, or put in the right situations.

Coaches dealing with a local family can sometimes find themselves in discussions they don’t need.

Alstork says he has 10-12 family members at every home game, from his mom to nieces and nephews.

“It’s different here,” Alstork says. “At any given time, you can see your mom. You can go see your family. There’s way more benefits than being away, in my eyes.”

There’s a benefit of being able to help build a program, as well.

“I want to play well,” Alstork says. “I want to be part of the wins. I want to be an important piece.”

It’s a nice local touch.

The views and opinions expressed in On Your Marc are the views and/or opinions of the author and do not reflect the views and/or opinions of the Dayton City Paper or Dayton City Media and are published strictly for entertainment purposes.

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Columbus-born Marc Katz had a 44-year newspaper career, 41 of those years covering sports, 40 of them at the Dayton Daily News. He now blogs at KatzCopsNSports.com. Reach Dayton City Paper sports writer Marc Katz at MarcKatz@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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