On the eve of what could be a historic day for Wright State athletics, Bill Wampler was talking love and hoops.
“She’s the most understanding girlfriend I’ve ever had,“ Wampler said Monday night. “For one thing, she’s been in the same situation I’ve been in my entire life.
“She understands basketball – whether it’s practice or what goes into a game – and how that often comes first. Not a lot of people would understand that. But she does.
“She understands everything I’m going through.”
His girlfriend is Emily Vogelpohl, one of the stars of the Raiders women’s team, and now, more than ever, she understands what he’s going through.
And Wampler, the second-leading scorer on the men’s team, knows what she’s facing, too.
At noon today Vogelpohl and the WSU women meet Green Bay in the championship of the Horizon League Tournament at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit. The winner advances to the NCAA Tournament.
Then at 7 p.m., Wampler and his Raiders teammates face Northern Kentucky in the title game of the men’s tournament. That winner goes to the NCAA Tournament, as well.
In the history of the program, the WSU women have sent just one team – in 2014 – to the NCAA Tournament
Since it became a Division I program with the 1987-88 season, the WSU men have had three teams in the Tournament: 1993, 2007 and last season.
The men and women have never gone to the NCAA Tournament in the same season, but should they do so this season, a couple of big reasons would be the play of Vogelpohl and Wampler for their respective teams.
Vogelpohl, who has scored 1,355 points in her four-year career – sixth best all time at WSU – leads this season’s 26-6 team in steals and assists, is third in rebounds, fourth in scoring (9 points per game) and was voted to the All Horizon League Defensive Team this season.
In Monday’s 60-51 victory over IUPUI in one of the tournament semifinals, she finished with 10 points including eight in the fourth quarter to help break open a one-point game.
Wampler came off the bench in the men’s 66-54 semifinal victory over Green Bay – hit his first four three point shots – and finished with a game-high 18 points.
He led the Raiders in their tournament opening 71-56 victory over IUPUI last Tuesday at the Nutter Center, scoring 18 points then, as well.
That night, as he left the court, he spotted Vogelpohl sitting on a straight back chair near the walkway to the dressing room.
She was waiting for him and when he got to her, he leaned down and gave her a hug and a kiss.
“She does a wonderful job supporting me,” he said. “It’s just awesome.”
The same could be said for him.
When Vogelpohl was honored at Senior Day festivities in late February, Wampler joined her family on the Nutter Center court.
Should the men’s and women’s teams both make the NCAA Tournament, it would be the first time either Wampler or Vogelpohl would play in the celebrated postseason spectacle.
The Raiders men team made the tournament last year, but Wampler was forced to sit the season out to comply with NCAA transfer rules. He practiced with the team – he was the star of the scout team that mimicked each upcoming opponent – but come game night’s he was in street clothes on the bench.
He played his first two college seasons at Drake University and then left the Bulldogs program after experiencing no post-season success there.
“In the Arch Madness (Missouri Valley) Tournament at my last school, I never got out of the first round really,” he said. “The tournament always opened on Thursday and they always called that first night ‘Drake Night’ because we’d always loose.”
Both of his Drake teams finished 7-24. Freshman year they lost the opening round to Missouri State and the following season they fell to Bradley in the opener.
Ironically, once he decided to transfer, Wampler – who’s from Eau Claire, Wisconsin – thought of returning home to play for Green Bay, which fell victim to the Raiders Monday night.
“I was originally going to transfer there, but at first they didn’t have a scholarship available for me,” he said. “That’s when I opened it up again (his recruitment) and I ended up at Wright State.”
He said the season he sat out was good for him:
“Overall, it made me a completely different player. I developed in ways I never could imagine because I was put in a lot of different scenarios.
“In practice I would play the other team’s best player. Maybe I’d have to dribble and not shoot. Or drive. Do all kinds of things. It helped me develop me as a player.
“And I had Mark (defensive specialist Mark Hughes) guarding me, so I leaned to play with one of the best defenders in the league on me.”
This season his growth continued when, in late December – after seven losses in 10 games – Raiders coach Scott Nagy told him he was moving him out of the starting line-up and making him the first man off the bench in hopes he would provide an instant offensive spark when he came in.
Nagy told him it wouldn’t detract from his minutes.
“Coach told me it didn’t matter if I started,” Wampler said. “He said it would be the best thing for the team because we were struggling early in games.
“I might have been upset for five minutes, but then I could see how it would help and that was alright with me.”
Nagy stills commends Wampler’s willingness in the matter.
“Probably the only way you can do that as a player is if you have a good relationship with the coach,” Nagy said. “I explained to him, ‘We’re not punishing you, we’re just trying to figure out the best way to make it work for all of us.”
Since the switch, WSU has gone 15-4 and Wampler has played well enough to win second team All Horizon League honors.
Off the court, he said things have been just as good for him.
He said he and Vogelpohl starting “talking a lot over the summer and have been dating about nine months.”
Both agree, in a game of H-O-R-S-E, Wampler would probably win.
“I can shoot pretty good with my left hand, too,” he grinned.
“He has a lot of trick shots,” Vogelpohl said the other day,
While Wampler also thinks he certainly would triumph in a 1-on-1 contest because he’s 6-foot-6 and she’s 5-8 , Vogelpohl thought otherwise.
“I can play defense on him,” she laughed.
While there’s debate on whether she could get to his shot, she’s certainly gotten to his heart.
“Just look at her, she’s amazing,” he said Monday night. “She’s just one of the most beautiful human beings I’ve ever been around. She lights up the room for me and that’s the most important thing.”
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