Archdeacon: Tough love for Wright State’s Noel

Credit: David A. Moodie

Credit: David A. Moodie

FAIRBORN – Call it the Loudon Love treatment.

After sitting out his first two seasons at Wright State to recover from ACL surgery – and wait for a time when the roster would open up and coaches felt there’d be an opportunity for meaningful playing time – Brandon Noel had just played in his third college game.

Coming off the bench Tuesday night against Bowling Green, the 6-foot-8 redshirt freshman tallied 11 rebounds and 10 points in Wright State’s 80-71 victory at the Nutter Center.

Afterward, Scott Nagy admitted he had sounded more like Ebenezer Scrooge than Wright State’s head cheerleader:

“He gets a double-double tonight and I’m going to him: ‘You can do more! You can do more!’

“My coaches had to remind me, ‘You’ve got to encourage him, too.’ I’m thankful for them. They balance me out.”

“And I’ve explained it to (Brandon). I just look at him and think he can be such a good player.

“I feel it’s a little bit of the Loudon syndrome.

“I think Loudon always felt I was a little bit disappointed in him because I believed in him so much and thought he could be even better.”

The tough love treatment worked with Love, who, like Noel, was a 6-foot-8 inside presence and was redshirted his first season at WSU. He was sidelined because Raiders coaches wanted him to lose weight and learn the game more.

He did both.

When he finally took the court for the Raiders in the 2017-18 season, he ended up the Horizon League Freshman of the Year. By the time his WSU career ended, he had scored 1,772 points, grabbed, 1,124 rebounds and twice was named the Horizon League Player of the Year.

Since then he’ gone on to play in the NBA’s G-League.

“I look at Brandon that way,” Nagy said. “I think he can be unbelievable, but I know I’m so hard on him. I have such high expectations of him that I think it discourages him sometimes. So he’s always going to feel he’s disappointing me. Although he handles me better than most people do.”

Injury issues

With a prep playing career that took him to Lucasville Valley and then Chillicothe High, Noel scored 1,116 career points and won All-Ohio Division I honors as a senior.

He had gotten only Division II college offers until Steven Ater, the Wheelersburg High coach who’d sent Tanner Holden to Wright State, contacted Raiders coaches and told them to give Noel a look.

WSU soon gave him his only Division I offer, but the clock struck midnight on his Cinderella story pretty quickly when he tore his left ACL in a preseason practice.

Although he was cleared to pay in the summer before last season, coaches thought he needed more time to strengthen his knee and his game and that he wouldn’t get enough playing time for the latter.

A month ago the 235-pound Noel – who went against since-departed, 6-foot-9 Grant Basile every day in practice last season -- talked about the disappointment of the past:

“The only time I wore my uniform the past two seasons was on picture day. And then I’d take it off right after that and sit on the bench in street clothes every game. "

Basketball family

Noel is his own harshest critic.

After the game, you heard that from both and his mom, Melinda, who once was a basketball standout herself. She scored nearly 1,100 points at Lucasville Valley High, won All State recognition and played collegiately at Walsh.

She raised Brandon on her own and taught him the basics of the game.

“He is really hard on himself, harder than he needs to be,” she said. “He’s always been a perfectionist. Always been very critical of himself, whether it’s how he plays or what he does in life in general, not just on the basketball court.”

Noel’s teammates know how he sometimes beats himself up.

It was because of that – and the fact he’s waited two years for moments like this – that they seemed overjoyed when he had a streak of success late in the second half.

In a 3 ½ minute span, he grabbed an offensive rebound and immediately scored on an up-and-under put back, then hit two free throws and finally snared a Bowling Green turnover in the paint, turned and slammed down a two-handed dunk.

When the Falcons quickly called a time out, Noel’s teammates mobbed him on his way off the court and Amari Davis, who led WSU with 19 points, embraced him at the bench.

“He’s hard on himself,” Davis explained. “He works hard, but anytime he’s on the court, he feels like he’s not playing well. It’s our job to pick him up. Anytime he makes a good play, we’ve got to cheer him up.”

Afterward Noel admitted: “Man, I’m grateful to be out here. I’m happiest about the rebounds. That’s been a struggle since I got to college. Coach (Clint) Sargent is on me all the time just to rebound, rebound, rebound! I did some of that this game, but there’s a lot of things I could do better.”

Melinda was at the game Tuesday night with Brandon’s Aunt Rita, his grandmother and another uncle and aunt.

Melinda plans to come to almost all the games this year – including the Raiders’ trip to the Vegas 4 Tournament next week in Las Vegas – just as she did the past two seasons when he wasn’t playing.

“We figured he needed the support,” she said. “We’re a basketball family and that’s what you do.”

After Tuesday’s game she gave him some home-cooked meals she’d made. She also offered some unfrosted assessment:

“I’m excited he’s finally able to be out there on the floor playing. He’s handling himself well and playing pretty well. He had a little trouble finding the bucket, even though he did finish 4 for 9. But I still think he has a long way to go.”

Mom sounded a little like Nagy there.

Call it the Loudon Love treatment.

About the Author