When Mark Alstork was named to the preseason All-Horizon League second team last October, coach Scott Nagy predicted the junior guard wouldn’t be overly thrilled with that recognition.
Given the player’s confidence and competitive nature, Nagy figured he’d look at it more as a snub than a sign of respect.
He was right.
“I definitely wasn’t satisfied with that,” Alstork said. “I think I’m one of the hardest players in the league to guard.”
The Thurgood Marshall product proved that over the season, finishing third in the conference in scoring (18.9 per game) and eighth in assists (3.5) while being named first-team all-league Wednesday.
His field-goal percentage dipped to 39.8 this year, but his free-throw accuracy jumped from 69.4 to 85.6. He also was 10th in the nation in free throws made (172) and 24th in attempts (202), including two games with 15 foul shots. That helped him increase his scoring average from 12.4 last season.
He had the fourth-most points in a game by a Division I player this season with 39 against Toledo.
“We’ve leaned on him pretty heavily this year. He’s done a great job of us,” Nagy said. “There are things he knows I feel like he can get way better at, and those are things we need to focus on.
“The individual honors don’t mean a lot, other than it gives you a chance to pat a guy on the back. But he’s responded to our coaching, and we’re proud of him.”
Valparaiso’s Alec Peters was named player of the year. The other first-team selections were Oakland’s Jalen Hayes, Northern Kentucky’s Drew McDonald and Youngstown State’s Cameron Morse.
NKU’s John Brannen was named coach of the year. The Norse, who meet Wright State in a Horizon League quarterfinal game at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, improved from 9-21 to 21-10 this season.
The Raiders’ Justin Mitchell wasn’t one of the 10 players to make the all-conference teams in the vote of coaches, media and SIDs, though he probably deserved consideration.
The junior point guard averages 11.5 points and is second in the league in rebounding (8.2), fifth in assists (3.9) and seventh in field-goal percentage (53.6).
“I think the people who don’t really know the game, they just look at points. Justin wasn’t going to make it on that — even though his field-goal percentage is one of the tops in the league,” Nagy said.
“There’s several guys like Steven Davis and what he did this year,” Nagy added of the Raider senior forward who averages 15.3 points. “I’m sure on every team, guys will feel like they were slighted. But the most important thing is not individual honors. It’s holding up that championship trophy.”
That’s the way Alstork feels. The fifth-seeded Raiders (20-11) will need to win three games in three days at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit to win the tourney title.
“My mind is on playing three games this weekend. That’s what we care about,” he said. “Whether I made (all-league) or not, that’s what my mind was going to focus on anyway. Being a leader, I really want to end up being proud of what happens this weekend.”
The Raiders have reached the Horizon League finals four times since claiming their only crown in 2007. One win away from an NCAA automatic bid, they fell short in 2010, 2013, 2014 and last season. The ’14 setback was particularly painful since it was a 69-63 defeat at home to Milwaukee.
Asked if reaching the NCAA tourney has been in the back of his mind, Alstork said: “That’s at the FRONT of my mind all the time. That’s what I want to do. I want to part of one of the Wright State teams that did that. I want to continue to have the faith and be determined to do it.”