Most teams would want their biggest player closest to the basket. But if 6-foot-11 senior Parker Ernsthausen is lurking around the rim on offense, he’s in the wrong place.
Wright State already has a proven inside scorer in 6-8, 280-pound Loudon Love, and he needs room to operate without a teammate bringing an extra defender in the post.
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That’s why coach Scott Nagy issued a challenge to Ernsthausen before this season, telling him he needed to become an effective 3-point shooter.
“He was pretty reluctant last year to shoot that shot,” Nagy said. “With Loudon on the floor, he obviously is going to draw attention, and Parker is going to get some of those shots, and we need him to make them.
“We don’t need Parker to shoot many 2’s, we need him shooting 3’s.”
Ernsthausen might have gulped at bit at Nagy’s directive at first. He tried only one 3-pointer in each of his first two seasons and went 7-for-34 (20.6 percent) last year, never making more than one in a game.
But he’s been a threat from deep this season, going 7-for-18. He’s shooting 38.9 percent, while the rest of the team is connecting at a 38.6 clip.
“With Big Lou in the middle, we’ve got to stretch the floor as much as possible,” Ernsthausen said. “I put together a (practice plan) where I made 250 threes most days during the summer. It’s showing up a little bit this year.
“Sometimes I think I need to take more, sometimes a little less. It’s a big confidence thing. Hopefully, I can keep it going.”
He went 3-for-3 on 3’s against North Florida and 3-for-6 against SMU. And he’s following Nagy’s plan of shooting more from beyond the arc than inside it, having gone 4-for-11 on 2-point field goals.
Ernsthausen credited assistant Brian Cooley for being a willing practice partner.
“Coach Cooley was great,” he said. “Any time I texted him, he’d come in, and I’d get them up. Coach Cooley is a big country music fan, and we’d play country music. That made it fun.”
He added: “I’m a big ‘mental’ guy, and I need to know I put the work in. This year is totally different. I expect to make them. When it leaves my hand, I expect it to go in.”
Though Ernsthausen is doing his part, the Raiders have hit a rough patch, forcing Nagy to shuffle his starting lineup in search of a spark. Alan Vest will get his second straight start in place of Ernsthausen when the Raiders host NAIA foe Northwestern Ohio at 7 p.m. Thursday.
“Honestly, when you look at the film, he’s our best player right now — the way he’s playing and the way he’s shooting the ball,” Nagy said of Vest on his weekly radio show. “He doesn’t try to do things he can’t do, and he’s doing the things he can do very well.”
Vest is showing how perseverance pays off. Getting his first career start Saturday at Kent State, the 6-3 senior guard from Chaminade Julienne responded with a career-high 16 points, going 4-for-6 on 3-pointers, though the Raiders lost for the fifth time in six games.
He’s first on the team in 3-point shooting, making 10-for-19 (52.6 percent). He’s also tied with Cole Gentry for the team lead in steals with 13, despite playing roughly half the number of minutes as the savvy point guard.
“Alan is a great defender,” Nagy said. “Just because a guy steals the ball doesn’t mean he’s a great defender. He could be gambling. But Alan does a good job of staying in front of his guy. He does a great job of help defense. He’s just a really good defender.
“If you watch the tape, you can tell he cares. And that’s half of defense, just caring and putting your heart into it. Alan definitely does that.”