“We’ve been a good rebounding team, but we’re probably going to have to play smaller, and it’s a matter of whether or not we’ll be able to get the ball.”
The Raiders were one of the best rebounding teams in the nation two years ago with Loudon Love leading the way. They out-boarded foes by a robust 9.3 per game, and they’ve had positive rebound margins every year under Nagy.
“Some of these stat-wonky people get into offensive-rebound percentage and defensive-rebound percentage. And, probably, if you want to break it down, that’ll be more important. But back when I started coaching, we didn’t have all that. We had rebound margin, and that’s what I paid attention to. We used to just destroy people with that,” he said.
“Rebounding has always been an incredibly important stat to me. It gives me a feel for how hard we’re playing.”
The Raiders, who open the season by hosting Davidson on Nov. 9, have four true centers on the roster, and 6-foot-8, 235-pound forward Brandon Noel could be a breakout star after two redshirt seasons (yes, two).
But the strength of the team is on the perimeter with perhaps the best guard in the league in senior Trey Calvin, former all-conference transfer Amari Davis, an all-defensive team pick in Tim Finke and contributors like Andrew Welage, Alex Huibregtse and Keaton Norris.
“We feel like we may play quite a bit with Trey and Keaton together,” Nagy said of the two 6-footers. “We’d be small, but if you look at the Arizona game, we played almost the entire second half with those two on the floor. We did great.”
After beating Bryant in the First Four, the Raiders faced No. 1 seed Arizona in San Diego in an NCAA first-round game. They had a respectable showing in the 87-70 defeat, getting out-scored only 45-39 after halftime.
Calvin blossomed last season, averaging 14.6 points (about five more than the previous year) and 18.5 points and four assists in the two tourney games.
“Let’s face it, the way he ended the season, he was our best player,” Nagy said. “He thinks that way. He sees himself that way. It’s such an important thing. Players play the way they view themselves. And he views himself like that.”
Norris sometimes seemed overmatched athletically as a freshman last season, but he played in every game with eight starts. He averaged only 3.2 points, but he made the fourth-most 3′s with 29 (while shooting 38.7%), was strong at the foul line (78.9%) and had a solid assist-turnover ratio (65-31).
He comes from a basketball family, which probably explains why he’s so heady. He played for his father, Brett, at Hilliard Bradley, and his brother, Braden, averaged 10.4 points as a junior last season at Loyola (Ill.), which reached the NCAA tourney.
“He’s so steady and reliable,” Nagy said.
The Raiders’ two best players from last year, Tanner Holden (Ohio State) and Grant Basile (Virginia Tech), have moved on, but Davis will certainly help fill the void.
The 6-2 Trotwood native averaged 17.2 and 15.9 points in his two seasons at Green Bay. He transferred to Missouri and averaged 9.0, but he decided to head home after the coach was fired.
He has two seasons of eligibility if he wants to use his “COVID year.”
“Amari is doing a really good job. We really like him — mostly from the standpoint that he’s a great teammate. Everybody loves him. He’s not selfish. And he’s just going to score. That’s what he does,” Nagy said.
The Raiders received a surprise addition to the roster with the transfer of 6-8 freshman Alex Garcia. He’s a bit of an unknown because he started out at Cleveland St. Ignatius, played as a senior at a prep academy and then signed with San Diego of the West Coast Conference (Gonzaga’s league).
But he left there without playing and entered the transfer portal, and Verbalcommits.com listed him as walking on at Wright State on Wednesday, one of 1,784 Division-I players choosing new schools since last season (about five per team).
The staff didn’t make him available for an interview, but Nagy said: “We’re trying to get a feel for him. There’s so much for him to learn. The other guys are so far ahead of him because of having been here all summer.
“But he’s a legit 6-8. He’s thin but athletic. I think he can be a tremendous defender. He’s got high energy. He wants to get in there and get going, and we’re slowing him down a little bit.”
He’ll have to pay his own way, at least for a semester, because the Raiders have distributed all 13 scholarships. But Nagy clearly wants to keep him around.
“It’s hard to find 6-8 guys who are athletic like that. He can play a lot of positions because he can guard a lot of positions,” he said.