Parker Ernsthausen, the lanky Wright State center, has been matched up against some bruisers in practice during his time in the program and has never shied away from a physical challenge.
The 6-foot-10, 255-pound Mike Karena was a load inside, as was the 6-9, 225-pound Tavares Sledge. But those former Raiders never tested the fourth-year junior the way redshirt freshman Louden Love has this preseason.
“He’s definitely a different beast,” Ernsthausen said.
Love transformed his 6-9 frame while sitting out last year, going from 320 pounds to a well-toned 270. And when he decides to muscle his way to the basket, there’s not much a defender can do to stop him.
“He’s going to be a great player this year and a great player down the line,” Ernsthausen said.
That’s why coach Scott Nagy held Love out of action last season. The Geneva, Illinois native had missed his senior year in high school after suffering a knee injury during the football season, and he needed to get leaner and stronger to hold his own against college competition.
Nagy is also counting on redshirt freshman Everett Winchester and true freshman Jaylon Hall to contribute this season, but Love, who dropped his body fat from 23 percent to 13.5, is expected to make the biggest impact.
“He’s just so physically overpowering and demands the defense’s attention a lot,” Nagy said. “Even when he doesn’t score, other people score because you have to really pack it in on him and keep it out of his hands.”
Love was recruited as a lineman in football and was offered a scholarship by Illinois and others. But he always preferred basketball, and he made a verbal commitment to play for Nagy when the coach was at South Dakota State.
When Nagy took over at Wright State last year, Love followed him.
“I made the right decision, I believe, because I’m really excited to be where I’m at right now. Looking back, I don’t really have any regrets,” he said.
“Following this coaching staff here has turned out great because they definitely know what they’re doing, and they have the program going in the right direction.”
Love hasn’t played in a basketball game since the end of the 2014-15 season, and he’s eager to get his first taste of college hoops when the Raiders host Wayne State, a Division II team from Nebraska, in an exhibition Friday, Nov. 3.
His only noteworthy moment so far came when he shattered a backboard with a dunk during practice.
“It’s been two years and a long two years at that,” he said. “Going into my redshirt year, looking down the road at all the games ahead, it was tough at first. But looking back, it was a great decision and I’m excited to get going.”
So are the other newcomers. Winchester, a 6-6, 195-pound Baltimore native, is one of the team’s most versatile players but will rotate in the post because the Raiders are short-handed there.
“He’s a good-looking athlete, but the only positions he’s going to play for us are the 4 and 5,” Nagy said. “There will be times when he’s the 5. He’s going to have to guard those people, and he’ll have to be more physical. But he’ll figure that out.”
Hall, a 6-5 guard from Houston, could fill a need for the Raiders on the wing — especially with returning starter Grant Benzinger out indefinitely while recovering from surgery for an undisclosed injury.
“Offensively, he’s a very talented young man. What he’s trying to figure out is the defense and rebounding side of it,” Nagy said. “For us, if you’re not getting those two things done, it’s hard to get on the floor.”
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