SARNIA, Ont. — Once again, the SEC is loaded with talent in 2018-19.
Fans in the SEC will be all too familiar with the talent in the league, but several of the team’s top contributors have flown under the radar on a national scale throughout their careers. With the player turnover in the league following the 2017-18 season, there will be new faces of the conference this year.
The Kentucky Wildcats loaded up with several high-profile freshmen, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody. Teams like the Tennessee Volunteers and Mississippi State Bulldogs will rely on experience and talent to get them back to the NCAA Tournament. There is a healthy mix of experience and youth in the conference, which in turn will lead to excitement and an unpredictable race for the SEC title.
Looking ahead to the season, here are 10 names who have flown under the radar so far in their careers on the national scene that you will want to watch over the course of the 2018-19 campaign.
COLUMBIA, SC. — After missing out on another graduate transfer guard, who committed to a fellow SEC school, head coach Frank Martin and the South Carolina Gamecocks completed their 2017-18 roster on Wednesday by adding another talented piece to the back court.
The Gamecocks were recruiting Randy Onwuasor, who transferred from the Southern Utah Thunderbirds after averaging 23.6 points and 6.6 rebounds per contest. After Onwuasor committed to Will Wade and the LSU Tigers, Martin turned his attention to another graduate transfer guard.
Enter Wesley Myers, who led the Maine Black Bears in scoring in his first season with the program. After some off-court issues which resulted in Myers being kicked off the team at Maine, he was searching for a new home for his final year of eligibility.
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.
The transfer market has dominated the 2017 College Basketball offseason thus far. Big name talents like Marcus Evans and theLawson brothers have headlined a strong class of players changing teams.
But while the likes of Evans and the Lawson’s are the center of attention right now, their transfers will soon be forgotten until they step foot on the basketball court. They’ll have a quiet year to acclimate to school, while familiarizing themselves with the new coach, teammates, court, and any of its warps or tricky dead spots. The NCAA requires non-graduate transfers to sit out a season before they play for their new team. So we will have to wait until November 2018 before we see KJ, Marcus, and all the other transfers play for their new schools.
For the first time since December 1, Gamecocks‘ star senior Sindarius Thornwell will be in uniform and back to scoring the basketball. Thornwell was suspended for a violation of athletic department policy.
“Sindarius has taken full responsibility for his mistake that led to his suspension,” said South Carolina head coach Frank Martin in a press release. “He has worked hard over the course of the last few weeks and has done everything we’ve asked of him to make his way back to the court.”
Thornwell, an SEC All-Defensive Team player last season, was off to a terrific start prior to suspension. The 6’5″ guard was averaging 18.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game through the first seven of the season. In addition, he had at least 20 points in four of his seven games played.
Following the beginning of his suspension, The Post and Courier of Charleston reported Thornwell was arrested in May. The four-year starter was driving with a suspended license while possessing marijuana, which resulted in a fine. While no one, including Martin, commented whether the suspension was connected to his arrest, many analysts believed there was a correlation.
If there has been any positive from Thornwell’s suspension, it is undoubtedly the development of PJ Dozier. The former McDonald’s All-American assumed the responsibility of go-to scorer and thrived in the role, scoring 20+ points in five games and averaging 19.7 points per game in December.
In addition to benefiting Dozier, the senior’s absence has supplied South Carolina with the opportunity to compete without its best player. Outside of a road loss to Memphis, the Gamecocks were defeated by a total of 5 points. Thus, with the team’s competitiveness without Thornwell, their quality of play will only improve with the stat-sheet stuffer back in the lineup.
10-3 South Carolina opens up SEC play January 4 at Georgia. The conference is wide open outside of Kentucky as only Florida (ranked #25) is currently in the Top 25.
The Gamecocks are looking to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004.
When the suspension of star senior Sindarius Thornwell was announced on December 4, a concern for the South Carolina Gamecocks lied in who would pick up the scoring slack. With the four-year starter averaging 18.7 points per game, the responsibility appeared to be a multi-player job.
Fortunately for head coach Frank Martin, sophomore PJ Dozier was personally up for the task.