Former Turlock High graduate and boys basketball standout Alek Carlson is coming off one of the most successful seasons in school history but it wasn’t with Turlock, it was with California State University, Stanislaus.
In his sophomore season with the Warriors of Stanislaus, the Turlock native was an asset to the men's basketball team that managed to make their way into the Division II NCAA West Region Championship, also known as the Elite Eight.
The seventh seeded Warriors did so many things right in a game as they led by as many as 18 points, but for the first time this postseason they were out-rebounded.
With such a strong year and team the Warriors unfortunately fell by one point to Chico State, 80-81 after two late free throws cost the local team a chance at the Final Four, but Carlson's experience after a lengthy season has prepared him for his third year playing at the collegiate level.
“It was a great experience being a part of the most successful team we've had,” Carlson said. “The whole community really got behind us which was awesome. It was also really cool for me personally because we were kind of competing with my high school coach Cornfoot's team back in the day.”
With a 6-3 start for the Warriors this year, the team is off to a better beginning than last season.
Without their leading point guard from last year in Sam Marcus, Carlson and his team have needed to pick up the pieces and step up if they hope to repeat even similar records.
“The expectations from last year have helped all of the returners because we don't panic, we know it’s a long season and we know we're capable of winning,” Carlson said. “So when something goes wrong, we don't panic since we know it’s fixable.”
Carlson's minutes compared to last season have also gone up.
Last year, Carlson was averaging about 12.2 minutes per game and after nine games this year, the local boy is averaging 18 minutes per game.
Not only is his time on the court exceeded the last two seasons but his field goal percentage is at an all-time high thus far.
Carlson is shooting .422 from the field and .310 from three-point range while averaging over six points per game, all career-highs.
“I think I am playing more now because I have more experience in game situations and the game has really slowed down since my freshman year,” said Carlson. “Also, I think I've gotten better defensively, which has helped me play more.”
The business major is also leaning towards completing his degree in the four-year span which nowadays has become difficult to do for many student-athletes.
“I don't regret red-shirting because I think I learned a lot from my freshman year and I plan on graduating in four years anyways,” he said. “This year I haven't really done anything different shooting wise. I now know what are good shots to take and even if I miss, my teammates and coaches give me confidence to keep taking those shots because they know I can make them.”
Not only has the local already surpassed all of his accomplishments up to this point but he has pointed out that being from the area has helped his development.
“Being the hometown player is definitely a special experience,” Carlson said. “When my friends come back to town for winter break they come to the games as well as my parents, old coaches and friends that still live in Turlock. It gives me a little extra motivation just knowing that when I'm in they're probably focusing on me a little more.”
With the season not even halfway finished the Warriors opportunity to repeat and perhaps edge out another big year is still up for grabs but it will only be possible with the help of the veterans—including Carlson.
“My expectations for this season are to get back to where we were last year and hopefully go farther,' Carlson said. “I'll help this year’s team by providing experience and doing whatever is asked of me on the court. All of the older players, myself included, help the younger players as much as we can with anything and everything.”
Stanislaus' men's basketball team will take on UC San Diego at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 2.