Philip Alston: From Division II to Leading Scorer of the Loyola Men’s Basketball Team

Philip Alston started his collegiate career playing Division II basketball at California University Pennsylvania. Now, he leads the Loyola men’s basketball team in points and rebounds per game.

Junior forward Philip Alston was under-recruited in high school and began his collegiate career at California University Pennsylvania, a Division II program. Now, he’s made his way to become the leading scorer for the Loyola men’s basketball team (9-16, 3-10) so far in the 2022-23 season. Averaging 14.6 points and 5.9 rebounds per game, Alston has stepped up for a team who lost three of its starters from last season while playing its first season in a new conference.

A Columbus, Ohio native, Alston said he grew up in a sports household. Although basketball wasn’t particularly the sport of choice in his family, Alston said he participated in a multitude of sports until he decided hooping was the one he enjoyed the most. 

Redshirt senior guard Braden Norris — who also grew up in Columbus — said he probably has known Alston since eighth grade. He said they played against each other once while they were still in high school, adding his team beat Alston’s.

However, Alston insisted his team won and told Norris they had to find the score of the scrimmage somewhere. Norris took him up on the challenge.

“I will find the score, I’ll screenshot it and post it for everybody,” Norris said as both of them laughed.

During his time playing high school ball, Alston said medical issues got in the way of his recruitment, interfering with his ability to play for a Division I program.

“Under-recruited,” Alston said. “I had some medical issues back in high school that got figured out once I was at college. My freshman year they figured out I was anemic, so once I got that figured out, it was a major increase in performance.”

Alston finished his sophomore season with the Vulcans averaging a double-double with 21 points and 10.8 rebounds per game. He received Division II Conference Commissioners Association Third Team All-America honors after finishing 15th in the nation in scoring, according to Loyola Athletics.

After his breakout campaign, Loyola Head Coach Drew Valentine said Assistant Coach Sean Dwyer found Alston’s tape, but said his talent had drawn the attention of several other programs.

“Because his stats were so insane at his Division II, he had a lot of people calling him,” Valentine said. “When you look at his tape, I mean, he’s a freak athlete, but you don’t know how freakish that’s gonna look.”

Valentine said to be the best athlete on the court, you have to make plays that put you in a different stratosphere than average players. He said he understood Alston’s potential in the offseason when they played against three professional teams in France and had a scrimmage against No. 10 Marquette University. Valentine said he was the best athlete in all four games.

Upon his arrival, Alston said the biggest difference he experienced by transferring to Loyola was the amount of work coaches expect out of players in practice. Valentine said because he was so dominant at Cal U, Alston hadn’t been held accountable towards developing, adding he’s gotten better with this coaching staff in the past eight months than he has in his entire career.

“I don’t even think he’s close to how good he’ll be,” Valentine said. “He can be way better than he even is now. Which is scary. With us as coaches, he’s super, super coachable.”

Alston said he was a bit anxious at first about taking the jump from Division II to Division I. After 23 regular season games, he leads the team in points per game with 14.6, rebounds per game with 5.9, and 42.3% shooting from three-point territory. 

Not only has Alston proven he can shoot the ball from beyond the arc, but in clutch time as well. Down three points against the University of Dayton Jan. 31, Alston drained a last second three-pointer to force the game into overtime. He later fouled out and couldn’t help his team get the win. 

Valentine said one of the areas of Alston’s game they’ve been working on the most is his three-point shot. He said because other players now have to guard him at the three-point line, Alston has an easier opportunity to just drive past them with his speed. 

Norris said Alston’s surge to becoming one of the best players on the team doesn’t surprise him, as he expressed his contentment for sharing the court with him.

“What I’m seeing doesn’t really surprise me at all,” Norris said. “I’ve known him for a while, like I said, so it’s awesome to see, you know? Two Columbus kids, doing what we’re doing out here on the floor together at the college level.”

Off the court, Alston said the transition went smoother than expected, mentioning his enjoyment of the city of Chicago after living in the small town of California, Pennsylvania. 

He said not all locker rooms have great relationships, and he had a really close bond with his teammates at his previous team. Fortunately for Alston, his new teammates welcomed him in with open arms.

“This is one of the tighter locker rooms that I’ve been in,” Alston said. “Everyone gets along, everyone’s friends outside of basketball, everyone enjoys each other, so it’s been great, honestly.”

Alston and the Ramblers will return to Gentile Feb. 17 when they host the University of Dayton. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. and is set to be broadcast on ESPN 2.

Fernando Molina Bier

Fernando Molina Bier