FAIRBORN — Loudon Love always figured the best way to get to the basket was a direct route.
Finding a place to play after Wright State, though, took some twists and turns.
Though he’d put together an incomparable career through last season, he still had one year of eligibility left. But looking for the best path to grow as a player, he signed with a pro team located on the coast of France.
That may sound appealing — basketball on the French coast? What’s not to like? — but Love isn’t afraid to admit he never felt comfortable overseas.
“I was there for two and a half or three weeks. It was just a lot to deal with at once, I think,” the burly center said while back in town to attend the last two Raider regular-season games.
“Knowing that my family wasn’t going to be able to see me (they were delayed because of COVID-19 protocols), and, on top of that, with the Delta variant just being released, there was a lot of stuff with that.”
He could have dealt with the homesickness. But his team, Stade Rochelais, played in the country’s third-highest pro level, and the two-time Horizon League player of the year could find better competition elsewhere.
“This is nothing against the league — the basketball part was fun, and it was a beautiful town — but the reason I left Wright State was to play at a higher level and push myself,” he said.
Love could do in France what he did as a Raider while finishing with the most rebounds (1,123) and third-most points (1,792) in school history, which was use his 6-8, 260-pound frame to bull his way inside and dominate at the rim.
Needing to expand his game, he signed with the Texas Legends of the G League, the NBA’s developmental circuit.
He averaged 8.4 points and 6.3 rebounds in eight games for the Dallas Mavericks’ affiliate before needing minor knee surgery, which ended his season.
“Although I didn’t shoot the ball (from mid-range) in games, I was working on it constantly with the coaches,” he said.
“The Texas Legends have a great staff, and they care a lot. They’re similar to Wright State. It was really nice to be around those guys and a great experience.”
Getting released from his pro contract in France, though, wasn’t easy.
“I was somewhat of a nervous wreck. I came home and didn’t have my rights. That team in France actually had them, meaning I wasn’t able to play in the G league,” he said.
“Luckily, I handled it well, and they were very gracious in providing me my rights back. But it was a scary time. I take ownership of (reneging on his deal). I was very indecisive last year.”
Love is hoping he’ll get a shot on the Mavericks’ Summer League team. If not, the goal is to get as many tryouts with other clubs as possible.
He’ll never lose his connection with Wright State, though.
In his four years, he led the team to three straight regular-season league titles and a conference tourney crown as a freshman in 2017 — putting them in the NCAA tourney for the first time in 10 years.
He’s been following the Raiders from afar and believes he knows the reason behind their up-and-down season.
“The hardest part with the team this year — it’s the highest expectations for these guys,” he said. “The high expectations are definitely warranted, but they’re a lot to deal with, too. And they’ve been dealing with them for a long time, being at the top of the conference.”
But Love believes they’re capable of sweeping three games in the league tourney and being part of March Madness for the fourth time in program history.
“I see Grant Basile, one of the best ‘bigs’ I ever played against in practice. Tanner Holden is one of the best players I’ve been around. Trey Calvin has come a long way. He’s a very, very good piece for the team,” Love said.
“They’re going to find their groove, hopefully, and get ‘dancing’ like we did. We weren’t the No. 1 (seed) that first year I was here. Typically, in the Horizon League, you have teams getting knocked off, so it’s anybody’s tournament.”
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