College basketball: Proven scorers, newcomers give Wright State hope

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College basketball: Proven scorers, newcomers give Wright State hope

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Wright State point guard Justin Mitchell drives on Valparaiso’s John Kiser last season. TIM ZECHAR / CONTRIBUTED

Mark Alstork has transferred to Illinois, and Steven Davis has graduated and is playing overseas. But even though that pair combined to average 34 points per game for Wright State last season, second-year coach Scott Nagy isn’t concerned about replacing their production.

He knows he has proven scorers in seniors Justin Mitchell and Grant Benzinger, and he sees plenty of potential in newcomers like redshirt-freshmen Louden Love and Everett Winchester.

But while the team will start practice Monday, host an exhibition Nov. 3 and play its first game Nov. 10 at Loyola, Nagy doesn’t believe fans will truly see what the Raiders can be until at least midway through the season.

By then, point guard Cole Gentry, who transferred from Nagy’s former school, South Dakota State, will be eligible. And the veterans and those recent additions will have had time to mesh.

“When I look at our team early — without Cole and having to play freshmen — I think people are going to look at us and say, ‘Oh my goodness, what’s going to be the status of the team this year?’ ” Nagy said. “But we have a team that from the beginning of the season to the end of the season is going to be completely different.

“There will have to be some patience with these guys. It’s a huge learning curve.”

Nagy resisted the urge to play the 6-foot-6 Winchester and the 6-9 Love last season, and that restraint could pay off.

He called Winchester a “good-looking athlete,” and Love has shed 50 pounds since last year, dropping down to 270.

“People who haven’t seen him since last year aren’t going to believe his body and how much different it is,” Nagy said.

“He’s getting better every day. He did a great job during his redshirt year getting his body where it needs to be, working on his game. He’s in great shape. It’s amazing for a guy 270 pounds how well he can move up and down the floor — and how athletic he is and how quick he is.”

Nagy admits he still doesn’t quite have an ideal roster to play the way he wants. He really has two centers and a gaggle of guards. In addition to losing Alstork and Davis, forward Ryan Custer won’t be back after suffering a spinal-cord injury during a swimming accident in April.

Two players Nagy knows he can count on, though, are Benzinger and Mitchell. The former will miss most of the preseason with an undisclosed injury but should be cleared for the first game. And the Raiders will be satisfied if Mitchell can put up the kind of numbers he did last year.

The 6-4 Fort Wayne, Ind., product averaged 11.5 points and was second in the Horizon League in rebounds (8.3), tied for fourth in assists (4.0), eighth in field-goal percentage (53.4) and 11th in assist-turnover ratio (1.2-1.0).

He played point guard, even though he seems more suited for a front-court role. But don’t try telling him that.

“Justin loves that position. He and I argue about this all the time — when I look at him, I don’t go, ‘Oh, a true point guard.’ And he gets mad at me because he wants to be considered a true point guard,” Nagy said.

“He did a great job for us. When you look at all the things he was able to do — in my opinion, he was our most valuable player. I don’t care what anybody says. I think because of Mark’s offensive numbers, Justin got overlooked for some of the all-conference stuff. But nobody stacked a stat sheet as much as he did last season.”

The Raiders went 20-12 last year, winning 20 regular-season games for the first time since 2008, and their RPI of 115 was their best since 2010.

To improve on that this year, they’ll probably need significant contributions from 6-11 junior Parker Ernsthausen and 6-4 junior Mark Hughes.

“Those two guys in particular have to make big jumps for us,” Nagy said. “There’s going to be so many opportunities for them, and it’s going to come down to how they view themselves and their willingness to take on that pressure — because there’s going to be pressure when people are leaning on you heavily and counting on you.”

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