All posts by Peyton Wesner

Peyton Wesner is a University of Illinois journalism major who has religiously watched MMA since July of 2013. He has written about the sport since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @pcwesner.

Faith & Family: The Story of Mark Alstork

Photo courtesy of Wright State Raiders.

Mark Alstork is more than a basketball player.

He may be a graduate transfer who can lead his new team to the NCAA Tournament, but he is also a symbol for Dayton, Ohio.

“I play with passion. I play with a chip,” said Alstork, a Dayton native and former star at Wright State, on Watching with Wesner. “You can tell when someone is from where I’m from, how they play and the passion they play with.”

Alstork is one of the most talented scorers left on the transfer market; he averaged 19 points per game and scored 27 plus points on 7 separate occasions last season. 

Last week he narrowed his list to four teams, leaving Illinois, LSU, Pittsburgh and South Carolina as potential suitors.

Throughout the month, Alstork has been frequently posting on social media, chronicling his experiences and campus visits. The 6’5” scoring guard has an altruistic reason for his persistent Snapchat videos and tweets.

“I wanted to take my people from Dayton, Ohio, who have supported me from day one. I wanted them to be with me in the process,” he said. “They have been with me for this long. I don’t want them to feel like that I am going to change up on them or that I am not going to continue to be the same person I am. I’m never going to change who I am.”

Alstork did not want to transfer from Wright State. After all, as a hometown product playing at a local university, the benefits were abundant. However, being a part of the Raiders became toxic.

“During the season, I went through a time with myself that a lot of people don’t get out of. I was frustrated with some of the things — Some of the things at Wright State wasn’t normal,” Alstork recalled. “I actually didn’t want to leave, to be honest. I wanted to stick it out and try to become an NBA player from Wright State.

“It’s not easy leaving your family and friends,” said Alstork. “They can be looking forward to watching me play two times a weekend. It’s a place to come and be happy and smile and enjoy life.”

Two values of importance to Alstork is faith and family. As the son of a preacher, a relationship with God was forged early on — one that has not weakened with age.

“Faith and prayer is a huge part of me being who I am and continuing to be in God and continuing to grow a relationship in God,” he said. “I know God leads my life.”

For many student-athletes, athletics and academics dominate. Add being a transfer with a plethora of top-tier options and a disconnection from core values can occur.

This was not the case with Alstork.

“I know exactly the reason why I am on this earth,” said the 2016-17 Horizon League first teamer. “It has nothing to do with me and it has all to do with God.”

Six visits and fourteen flights later and the memories of a lifetime have been given to Alstork and his family.

“The most memorable moment for me was being able to have my mother and brother there the whole time,” said Alstork. “I’m just glad, I’m able, that God has allowed me to be in this position in my life. I never would have thought that this would happen again. The opportunity that I am having is straight from God.”

Three years after receiving a release from Ball State, Mark Alstork will call one final school home. Another decision must be made; but, with it, perspective and advice will be given to aspiring basketball players in Dayton.

“I’ve had some people hitting me up,” said the Thurgood Marshall High School product. “Older kids who say, ‘You motivate me. You aspire me. Your work ethic speaks for itself. And no matter who gets you, you’re not going to change.’”

Alstork confirmed he will tweet to the college basketball world his decision tomorrow, exclusively on Twitter.

With his decision, one major domino for next season will fall and one team will be closer to a trip to the Big Dance.

– P. Wesner

Dom Cristiano transfers to New York University

Photo courtesy of Don Cristiano’s Twitter.

Dom Cristiano is heading to “The Big Apple.”

Cristiano, who spent his freshman season with Lafayette of the Patriot League, has transferred to NCAA Division III New York University, he announced via Twitter on Thursday night. The 6’8″, 195-pound forward has three years of eligibility remaining and will suit up for the Violets next season.

“[I] didn’t get the opportunity I was looking for there,” Cristiano said in an exclusive interview. “[The] slow half-court style of play there, also, doesn’t use me in a way which utilizes my skills effectively.”

Cristiano says academics played a significant role in his decision; New York University has a business school, the Stern School of Business, while Lafayette College does not.
His pursuit of a degree aside, the former Greens Farms Academy star envisions something special at NYU.

“I will have a great opportunity there, including two other big transfers that will make us very competitive.”

Last year the Violets were 7-18 overall and 2-12 in the University Athletic Association.
However, Cristiano, who scored 1,472 points in his high school career, has the skills to be an immediate contributor.

“I am a 6’8 inside-out player with a great motor. I get out and down the floor, play above the rim and have range out to the three-point line,” Cristiano said. “I am a mismatch because I can post smaller defenders and drive by bigger defenders. [I am my] best in transition.”

New York University, formerly a Division I school, last made the Division III NCAA Tournament in 2016. Head coach Joe Nesci is entering his 30th season at the helm.

– P. Wesner

John Walker III weighing options going into signing deadline

Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Eric Gay.

Signing day has arrived.

Entering today’s Division I NLI signing deadline, some talented high school seniors remain unsigned.

John Walker III is one of the highly touted but uncommitted.

“I can go get you 10 blocks, 10 assists and 10 rebounds,” said Walker III. “I just try to do whatever the coach asks.” Continue reading John Walker III weighing options going into signing deadline

RECAP: #4 UCF advances to NIT semifinals, beats #2 Illinois, 68-58

Photo courtesy of Peyton Wesner.
ORLANDO, Fla. — UCF guard A.J. Davis dreamed about playing at Madison Square Garden. 

Now, he can check it off his bucket list.

The Knights advanced to the National Invitation Tournament semi-finals, fighting off Illinois, 68-58. The Fighting Illini led for only one minute and 53 seconds during a game in which they shot an anemic 30.6 percent.

“Every game we are just trying to not give up threes and layups (and) make guys shoot tough twos,” UCF center Tacko Fall said. “We work on it every day.”

The Matt Williams Show began at 7:00 p.m. sharp. The senior sharpshooter from Orlando swished 3 three-pointers to charge UCF ahead, 11-3. Continue reading RECAP: #4 UCF advances to NIT semifinals, beats #2 Illinois, 68-58

Wesner: Power conference bias, strength of schedule will send Wichita State to AAC

Photo courtesy of Peyton Wesner.

Tic. Tock. Tic. Tock. Tic. Tock.

Do you remember waiting on a decision after your first job interview?

Sitting in your living room with a racing mind and constantly checking for a missed call or email, you begin to second guess whether your first impression was strong and your answers crisp.

The Missouri Valley Conference is now engaged in a waiting game with mid-major powerhouse Wichita State.

Will they stay, or will they go?

Reported by The Wichita Eagle’s Paul Suellentrop Tuesday, the Shockers’ move to the American Athletic Conference is “almost inevitable.” Continue reading Wesner: Power conference bias, strength of schedule will send Wichita State to AAC

Syracuse sophomore Tyler Lydon to enter 2017 NBA Draft

Per Jon Rothstein of FanRag Sports, Syracuse’s Tyler Lydon will sign with an agent and declare for June’s NBA Draft. The sophomore forward stuffed the stat-sheet with 13.2 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.0 steal and 1.4 blocks per game this season.

Lydon, a 2016-17 All-ACC honorable mention, made an immediate impact off the bench as a freshman. The 6’9″ New York native posted four double-doubles and averaged 10.1 points and 6.3 rebounds during the Orange’s 2016 Final Four run. This past season, he one upped last year’s totals with nine double-doubles. Continue reading Syracuse sophomore Tyler Lydon to enter 2017 NBA Draft