Shizz Alston emerges as a Temple basketball standout
The only time in basketball Alston hasn't found sustained success have been one-on-one games with his father.
After a freshman year in which he saw limited time, combo guard Shizz Alston blossomed last season, leading Temple in scoring, averaging 13.9 points. He also led the American Athletic Conference in free-throw shooting (.868), was second in assist-to-turnover ratio (4.1) and third in steals (1.7 per game).
Not bad for somebody who is winless lifetime against his dad.
His father Levan Alston, played for two Temple NCAA tournament teams in the 1990s after beginning his career at the University of New Orleans.
The two have always maintained a close relationship, which over the years has endured through some testy one-on-one games.
"I am 25-0 lifetime against him," Levan Alston boasted in a recent phone interview.
When seeking confirmation, Shizz sadly agreed.
"I've never beaten him," the son said after a recent Temple basketball practice.
Of course, he had an excuse.
"He cheats," Alston said, cracking up when he was explaining it. "It would be game-point and he would make a [foul] call, somehow get the ball back and score."
His father a cheater? Apparently, guilty as charged.
"As he got older, I would have to cheat," Levan Alston said. "I would start fouling him when he shot and calling fouls on him when he didn't foul me."
Despite his father's gamesmanship, the time the two have spent over the years has been invaluable to his son's game.
His father's guidance was needed most during Alston's freshman season, one in which the former Haverford School star spent most of the time on the bench for a team that went to the NCAA tournament.
Alston averaged just 2.0 points per game and 10.4 minutes.
"He was very discouraged and at one point he didn't love basketball," Levan Alston said. "He [had] always played and never sat on the bench and he wanted to help his team."
Shizz Alston had his moments early in his freshman year, including scoring 12 points in his college debut, a loss to a North Carolina team that would reach the NCAA title game before losing an epic 77-74 decision to Villanova.
As the season went on, his playing time diminished on a veteran Temple team. He would end up playing just two minutes in Temple's overtime loss to Iowa in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.
"We had older guys like Devin Coleman, Quenton DeCosey, and Josh Brown was a junior, so I had guys in front of me and had to respect that and learn from them," Alston said.
Still, it was a difficult lesson.
That season, fellow freshman Trey Lowe saw considerable time as a guard mainly off the bench, but he suffered upper-body injuries in a February 2016 car accident and missed all of last season.
Then Brown suffered an Achilles tendon injury in May 2016. He would try to return but eventually received a medical redshirt after playing in only five games last season.
"Shizz realized, with Trey sidelined and Josh then getting hurt in May, that he was going to see more action last season," Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. "He knew he was going to play a lot and he took advantage of the opportunity."
Now that Brown is back, Alston won't be playing point guard as much as he did a year ago, but he's looking forward to the pairing.
"With Josh, we have another ballhandler and it will make it easier on me," Alston said.
This past offseason, Alston worked as hard as ever, he says. He got a great workout going up against several NBA players.
Alston would go to La Salle for workouts with players such as former 76er and current Los Angeles Clippers guard Lou Williams. Others at the games included Miami Heat guard Dion Waiters and the Morris twins, Markieff (Washington Wizards) and Marcus (Boston Celtics).
"It was very intense," Alston said.
Providing much of the intensity was Williams, a former NBA sixth man of the year, who never met a shot he didn't like.
"Playing against a guy like that, who can score at will and shoots the ball all the time, really helped me out," Alston said.
With the success he had last year, Alston enters this season with greater confidence, although his father won't let his head swell too much.
The two still engage in friendly trash talk.
"I tell him he never led his team in scoring," Shizz says smiling.
His father responds by saying he went to two NCAA tournaments, while his son has been to one.
Back and forth they go, but despite his unenviable record in one-on-one games with his dad, Shizz Alston says he can't thank both his parents enough for the foundation they have provided.
"He and my mom [Robin] are the most influential people in my life," Alston said. "Basketball-wise, he taught me everything I know."
Shizz has learned his lessons well, except for maybe the cheating part.