Redshirt freshman Winchester an early-season bright spot for Raiders

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Redshirt freshman Winchester an early-season bright spot for Raiders

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Wright State’s Everett Winchesterdrives to the hoop during their game Tuesday, Nov. 14 at Millett Hall on the Miami University Campus in Oxford. The Miami University Redhawks basketball team defeated the Wright State Raiders 73-67 in overtime. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Redshirt freshman forward Everett Winchester had to bulk up when he first arrived at Wright State and spent much of last year feasting on high-calorie meals, which turned out to be as enjoyable as it sounds.

Though he had to stay committed to weight-lifting and conditioning, Winchester didn’t have to deny himself anything.

“I don’t have a favorite meal. Anything that’s put in front of my face, basically, I’ll eat it. I love food,” he said.

That regimen has certainly paid off for the 6-foot-6 Baltimore native. He’s gone from a rail-like 184 pounds to a muscular 207, and his sturdy frame has given him confidence to attack the basket.

While coach Scott Nagy has bemoaned the lack of energy from his team this season, that critique doesn’t apply to Winchester. He had 18 points and seven rebounds in a 73-49 win Monday over Tiffin , and he leads the Raiders in scoring with a 13.0 average despite coming off the bench.

Winchester had 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting in the opener at Loyola (Ill.) to earn the Horizon League freshman of the week award. He leads the team in field-goal shooting among those with at least 10 attempts at 50 percent and has the second-most rebounds with 21 in four games, including 11 on the offensive end.

“Even in the Loyola game, he wasn’t afraid at all. On the road, a freshman in your first game, I was honestly shocked by how he played,” Nagy said.

“They’ll get more film on him and figure out what he can do and can’t do, so he’s going to have to work to get better. But he’s a good athlete who can handle the basketball. And that’s hard for guys to deal with because he can get at you with the dribble pretty quickly.”

Winchester is oozing confidence with each outing, and he delighted the crowd of 3,133 at the Tiffin game with a two-handed dunk in traffic.

“I’m starting to get more comfortable,” he said. “The first couple games, the speed was so much different than it seemed just watching it last year. I’m starting to believe in myself, and it’s all because of my teammates helping me out and always talking to me.”

Winchester could be even more potent once he gets fully healthy, although that won’t happen until after the season.

He was born with an accessory navicular bone in his foot, which is an extra bone located just above the arch. He’s so sore sometimes that he has to wear a protective boot. He needs surgery to correct some ligament damage from it, but he’s putting it off because he doesn’t want to sit out another year.

Languishing on the bench during games last season was tough enough.

“I haven’t been off the floor like that since I started playing basketball,” he said. “It was rough but really eye-opening for me because I was able to see everything that goes on out on the floor.

“Coach told me they could have used me last year, but he just wanted me to learn, get stronger and work on my game.”

He’s done just that — and he’s earned the respect of the upperclassmen in the process.

“He’s been fantastic,” senior Grant Benzinger said. “Every time he’s in, he does exactly what the coaches want, which is go to the glass. He plays really hard, and we need that.

“He’s a big body. He can play multiple positions. He can guard all the positions from the 1 to the 5. And he’s really versatile. If he can keep this up, he’ll be amazing. I’m sure he will.”

FRIDAY’S GAME

Gardner-Webb at Wright State, 7 p.m., ESPN3, 106.5

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