The Wright State Raiders men’s basketball didn’t waste a moment of its 10-day trip to Italy. The players made the most of their time as tourists and as a team on the court in three games.
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Wright State toured Milan and visited Lake Como. They moved on to Vicenza, Verona, Pisa and then Florence. They ate authentic pizza, risotto, lobster rice, gelato, lasagna, etc. They finished the trip in Rome. Some players saw the Pope speak at the Vatican. The team visited the Sistine Chapel and saw the famous painted ceiling.
“I have come to the conclusion that the artist Michelangelo is the real GOAT,” wrote sophomore guard Skyelar Potter on Twitter.
The Raiders returned home around 9 p.m. Monday, and coach Scott Nagy mostly had overcome his jet lag by Tuesday morning when he talked about the trip.
“The basketball was just extra,” Nagy said. “It was more about the other stuff. I’d almost have to go back through all the pictures to remind myself of all the places we went. So many of the things you’ve seen pictures of or read about or heard about or seen in a movie, and to be able to stand in those places was pretty neat. So many things over there, something could be 400 years old, and they consider it new. Our entire country is 250 years old, so it’s just a lot different way of thinking over there. The history is incredible.”
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Wright State arrived in Italy on Aug. 3. They played their first game Aug. 4, beating Senna Basket 81-64 in Como. Senior forward Bill Wampler and freshman guard Tanner Holden each scored 12 points. Freshman guard Trey Calvin added 11.
In their second game Aug. 7, the Raiders beat Vicenza Locali 99-44. Junior Loudon Love, the leading returning scorer from a team that finished 21-14 and won the Horizon League regular-season championship, scored 14 points. Redshirt freshman forward Grant Basile, who missed last season with an ankle injury, had 11.
The Raiders played their final game Sunday, beating a team from Serbia, 91-60. Potter scored 17 points. Sophomore forward James Manns had 16. Love scored 10. All 15 players saw action for the second straight game. That same Serbian team — the best team the Raiders saw on their trip — beat UNC Wilmington 91-90 a day later in Rome.
While, overall, the competition wasn’t great, Nagy knew that before the trip. It’s the offseason for teams in Italy. However, the three games reinforced what Nagy already knew about his team. It’s deep.
“We have 12 guys that are eligible to play, and they’re all good players,” he said. “It’s really close in terms of who can play what position. We have a lot of versatility. There are some things we know. We know Loudon’s going to be our center. We know Cole (Gentry) is going to be our point guard. We know Bill is going to be on the floor. We’re just not sure what position he’s going to be. We’re super thrilled to get Jaylon (Hall) back off the injury from last year. Then you throw in eight guys who are all competing, whether to start or play.”
Nagy plans to play four of the eight players in that group. He said eight or nine of the players are capable of earning starting jobs, and the rotation won’t be any bigger than that. He’s not a coach who will use a rotation of 10 or 11 players.
“I think it’s too hard to play that many guys,” Nagy said. “That’s why I wish we would have played a little better talent because it would have forced us as a coaching staff to make different decisions, but the way we did it, it was almost like hockey lineups: five guys at a time. We don’t play that way. We were just trying to get everybody time and see how they played.”
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The competition for playing time will continue when Wright State begins preseason practices in the fall because the three games didn’t help the coaches differentiate between the players. Nagy said there will be some good players who don’t get playing time. It’s a good problem to have, Nagy said, but not a problem he had to deal with in his first three seasons at Wright State.
“Everybody has an ego, and I get that,” Nagy said. “When you have good players and not all of them are going to play, it can eat at the team. Without question, we have not had that since I’ve been here. We’ve kind of had our lineups set. With this one, it’s going to be the biggest challenge for this team.”
The Italy trip gave the coaches a good look at the freshman class. Nagy said all the players stood out.
“There’s a thought early on because we’re so deep and pretty experience that maybe we could redshirt a few guys,” Nagy said, “but I think in particular Tanner (stood out) because he’s so versatile and can play two positions. He played very well, and I thought in the first two games Trey Calvin was fantastic.”
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