Holden feels at home at Wright State with help from Love

Wright State guard Tanner Holden shoots over Marshall center Goran Miladinovic during a mens basketball game at the Nutter Center in Fairborn Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. (E.L. Hubbard for the Dayton Daily News)

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Wright State guard Tanner Holden shoots over Marshall center Goran Miladinovic during a mens basketball game at the Nutter Center in Fairborn Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. (E.L. Hubbard for the Dayton Daily News)

FAIRBORN — Loudon Love has a pretty hearty amount of assists this season for a center, averaging just more than two per game.

But the most important assist he’s provided for the team can’t be found in a box score.

Tanner Holden knows all about that. Although the Wright State sophomore seems to always exhibit confidence, adjusting to college basketball two hours from home hasn’t been easy.

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That’s where Love comes in. The Raiders’ lone senior has a knack for spotting a teammate who needs his big-brother influence, and he’s taken a special interest in Holden, setting him up for success.

“He’s always in my ear. He’s always talking to me, always encouraging me,” Holden said.

“If I’m ever down, he’ll text me. I feel like our relationship since last year has grown so much.”

While Love is the team leader in scoring with a 16.7 average, Holden is a close second at 16.2 — despite taking 35 fewer shots. That duo is also one-two in rebounding at 10.2 and 7.2.

The 6-5 wing is shooting 78.2% from the foul line, the best mark on the team among players with at least 10 attempts.

That’s where Holden — who made the league all-freshman team last season after averaging 11.8 points and 6.5 boards — does much of his handiwork. His post moves put opponents in a quandary, leading to repeated trips to the foul line.

His 119 attempts (in 21 games) are 22 more than the next-highest total.

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“That’s the one nice thing I really like about Tanner — he’s got a good feel,” coach Scott Nagy said. “He takes good care of the ball. He doesn’t turn it over a lot, even though he has it a lot. And he’s a really good rebounder for a guy 6-5.

“But it’s not like (his season) is a shock. It’s a little bit of an improvement on what he did last year. At any age, what he did last year would have been a great year. As a freshman, it really was.”

Holden had a slew of schools who recruited him at Wheelersburg High School.

West Virginia, Ohio State and Dayton expressed the most interest at first, and then Marshall, Cleveland State and Winthrop came through with scholarship offers.

Holden’s father, Rodney, was a Hall of Fame player at Marshall. But, with little explanation, the Thundering Herd suddenly went into radio-silence mode.

“College basketball and any collegiate sport is a business. They made a business decision to pull their offer away and look for another prospect,” Holden said.

“It’s perfectly fine. That’s just how the dice rolled. I think it definitely worked out in my favor.”

Not that there weren’t some hurt feelings. Marshall was 45 minutes from home, and he was receptive to continuing the family legacy.

“It was tough at first. My mom told me, ‘God closes one door and opens up another,’” Holden said.

Enter Wright State, which couldn’t have expected to see a player of Holden’s caliber still on the market.

“When Marshall backed out, (Wheelersburg coach Steven) Ater helped me in reaching out to coaches. That’s when Wright State came in and started really pushing hard,” Holden said.

“I came on my two-day visit, and I fell in love with the place, the city, the guys around me and the coaching staff. I felt this would be the best fit for me to develop into a great player.

“I couldn’t be happier with the decision I made.”

He’s certainly relished toiling beside Love. The 6-8, 255-pound center has 1,096 career rebounds, which is the third-most by a Horizon League player. He’s also got 1,744 points, which is fifth all-time at Wright State.

“As big as he is, to have the footwork and finishing touch he has, it’s really crazy to think about all the things he does so well,” Holden said.

“He’s had ups and downs, but these last few games, he’s turning it up. He’s not looking back. He’s taking everything personal, and he’s playing really well.”

The same could be said for Holden, who is producing at an all-league level.

But he insists he couldn’t have gotten there on his own.

“He’s helped me so much with my game,” he said of Love. “He’s been a great leader for me.”

FRIDAY’S GAME

Wright State at Northern Kentucky, 6 p.m., ESPN3, 106.5

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