Mark Tikhonenko commits to AState

Mark Tikhonenko has committed to play basketball for Arkansas State

With relationships established with two Arkansas State coaches, all Mark Tikhonenko needed was to see Arkansas State University to make up his mind.

He made that visit Labor Day weekend.

He was sold.

“I really liked it there,’’ he said. “But when I was going to make my visits I wanted to go someplace where I knew people. Coach Jareem Dowling was my coach at prep school and coach (Grant) McCasland recruited me last year when he was at Baylor.”

A native of Moscow, Russia, Tikhonenko, who plays for Hamilton Heights Christian Academy in Chattanooga, Tenn., committed to the Red Wolves coached before they started practice on Tuesday.

He is the third commit for the Red Wolves’ Class of 17, joining Jonesboro point guard Marquis Eaton and Virginia guard Travis Ingram.

Tikhonenko also had an offers from Iowa State and was getting attention from Missouri, Georgia Tech among others. He said his decision came down to Arkansas State, Iowa State, Vanderbilt and Baylor.

“It was a very hard decision,’’ said Tikhonenko. “My family wanted me to go high major so they could watch the games on TV. But the relationships I had with the coaches made a difference.

“It doesn’t really matter where I go I just want to get better.”

Tikhonenko, who has been in the United States for two years, plays what he calls a stretch-4 and sometimes the small forward spot. This past summer he played for Russian U-16 team and practiced with the U-18 team.

He is the son of Valeri Tikhonenko, who won a gold medal with the USSR team in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, S. Korea. Like his father, who was drafted twice by the Atlanta Hawks, he is a deadly long-range shooter. His dad Valeri, who is now a general manager for a pro team in Spain, played professional ball in Europe and in Russia.

“No doubt he is the better shooter; the better player,’’ he said. “But in some ways our games are similar.”

Hamilton Heights will also play some games in the area, Dec. 1 vs. Memphis East at Southwind High School and Jan. 6-7 at the Penny Hardaway Hoopfest in Memphis