The Illini are the third stop on a six-visit tour for Wright State grad transfer Mark Alstork, who will begin his official visit in Champaign on Thursday.
Alstork is coming off a visit to Georgetown earlier this week, and he went to Pittsburgh prior to that. Trips to South Carolina, LSU and Louisville still remain on the slate.
But now, Illinois head coach Brad Underwood gets to take his shot at landing the 6-foot-5 scoring guard. The Illini certainly need big men more than anything on next season's roster, but they also need an impact player who can take and make shots.
Alstork fits that bill, and Illinois wants him bad.
Looking at the film
Alstork is a dynamite scorer at 19 points per game last season. He has outstanding range from the outside. You see a quick release off the catch-and-shoot, and he hit them at a good rate of efficiency given the volume (42.3 percent on 111 attempts). Alstork has shown the ability to hit contested jumpers too. He is a threat to pull the trigger with just the slightest amount of space.
The flip side of that is Alstork doesn't see many shots that he doesn't like. He had numerous possessions on film when he would overdribble and/or force a wild shot. You can also see visible frustration playing a part at times. That being said, all needs to be taken into account considering his surrounding circumstances. Alstork has thrust into playing lead guard on a team that lacked quality options.
While he wouldn't be a lead guard at Illinois, he would certainly have the ball in his hands a lot. He had a great rating last year off the ball-screen. He showed a knack for slicing through the defense to get to the cup and finish. He can hit the pull-up as well. Bottom line: Alstork is a straight up bucket-getter. He will need to learn how to play with other scoring options, but he should be receptive to that given that was a major point of emphasis in his NBA feedback.
Going Illinois' way
Alstork wants a big stage and a big opportunity to showcase his game. Illinois can offer both. If Alstork is able to make a statement in the Big Ten, that will carry plenty of weight at the next level. They have the shots to give him. The Illini have to replace more than 57 percent of their scoring output from last season.
In addition, Alstork has a high level of respect for Underwood and his basketball mind.
"Coach Underwood is a phenomenal coach and knows what he's doing as far as allowing scorers to become the best they can be," Alstork told IlliniInquirer.com. "Executing offensive game plans. That showed with him leading the nation in offensive efficiency. I feel like they have a good situation."
"He knows how to get players good looks. He knows how to put people in the right position. All of that is at a high level. That's important for a guy like me. Just an IQ for the game of basketball. You don't get that at that level at a mid-major. Me being in a more serious environment will definitely bring out the best in me."
Underwood knows how to maximize talent. He can use Oklahoma State wing Jeffery Carroll as a perfect example. Prior to Underwood's arrival, Carroll averaged 8.2 points per game in nearly 25 minutes per game -- shooting 41 percent from the field. That transformed into 17.5 points per game with more shots and a huge spike in efficiency. Carroll shot 53.7 percent from the field and 44 percent from long range. He is now an NBA prospect.
Alstork is already on the NBA radar. He needs a coach who can refine his game and put him in positions to thrive. Underwood has the proof, and Carroll is a player with a similar skill set who lit it up last season.
There is also a good relationship between Alstork and assistant coach Chin Coleman, who watched him up close in the Horizon League the last few seasons.
"Me and Coach Coleman -- he watched me play the last couple years in the Horizon League. He knows my game," Alstork said. "He's scouted against me and knows what I do best."
Alstork is a great fit for Underwood's system with his ability to space the floor. The Illini will look to utilize Mark Smith, Trent Frazier and Te'Jon Lucas to get out in transition and penetrate the defense. Alstork can be a lethal spot-up shooter on the wing. He can push it himself as well -- allowing Smith and Frazier to play off the ball. And when you need a bucket late, Alstork can go get one.
Underwood wants a quick-hitting attack with multiple weapons on the court. Alstork would be an important one to add.
Going against Illinois
Louisville is scheduled to get the final visit, and with Donovan Mitchell electing to stay in the NBA Draft, many anticipated the Cardinals being the big dog to worry about in this fight. But that may not be the case.
Rick Pitino has said that he doesn't plan to add anyone else if Deng Adel returns to school, which is expected at this point. And according to a source, Louisville may not have the situation Alstork is looking for anyway given some other established scoring options. He isn't about picking the biggest name. He wants the best situation.
If not Louisville, there are a handful of other options Illinois has to overcome. Pittsburgh will have no shortage of shots, as they lost their top five scorers from a bad basketball team last year. Alstork will have no limitations there, but he will also likely have no postseason spotlight -- which he said is something he'd like to obtain.
LSU had a rough year last season and they bring in first-year head coach Will Wade. Again, the Tigers have the shots. They lost Antonio Blakeney, who declared for the draft after averaging 17.2 points per game last season. But will they have much else?
South Carolina was thought to be a tough one to beat early on. The Gamecocks still have the shine from their Final Four run, but they need producers with Sindarius Thornwell graduating and P.J. Dozier leaving early for the draft. Frank Martin just added 2017 wing Justin Minaya to what is now a five-man class. They are currently full on scholarships.
Georgetown isn't one to sleep on in his chase. Alstork enjoyed his visit in D.C. The Hoyas play in an NBA city. They have a coach in Patrick Ewing, who played and coached in the NBA. Like it or not, 'the league' is the primary goal in Alstork's mind. Georgetown loses their top two players, who averaged more than 34 points per game combined last season.
Chances to land in Champaign
(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the highest) 4 -- Illinois feels good about their sell. In their mind, adding Alstork and a quality big man could give them a shot at the NCAA tournament. That is obviously the goal of any season. There is a bigger plan, but don't expect Underwood to try to take a year off from his winning ways. The Illini really want Alstork, and they feel they can utilize him as well as anyone. This won't be an easy one to win, but they've got a good shot.