A.J. Pacher solved a problem Friday night. He found something pretty interesting to show his new teammates.
The Wright State Raiders have so many new faces on their roster this season — five freshmen and two junior college transfers — that they should be wearing nametags.
To speed up the learning curve and turn a disparate bunch into some semblance of a team — and maybe prove wrong the prognosticators who picked the mostly-baby faced Raiders to finish last in the Horizon League this season — coach Billy Donlon has come up with some projects to build familiarity and camaraderie.
“Last year we had a bunch of new guys, too, and it took us a long time to play together,” said Pacher. “Coach has done a lot of things this year to bring us together and get us bonding on the weekend.
“Four of our guys took the other players to their homes for the weekend so we’d get to know each other and show them around,” the 6-foot-10 junior said. “I took Miles (Dixon) and Reggie (Arceneaux) home with me to Vandalia.
“Miles is from Houston and Reggie, even though he was here last year, is from New Orleans originally and now Charlotte, so they’re both far from home. My mom’s a great cook so they got a home-cooked meal and kind of an at-home feel.”
And what else did he show them?
He thought for a second, then shook his head. “You ever been to Vandalia? There’s not a whole lot of things to show somebody. I didn’t really have anything special.”
He changed that Friday night at the Nutter Center.
The Raiders’ big man gave his new teammates a show in the second half as WSU broke away from a 27-27 halftime deadlock to overpower Central State, 78-56, in an exhibition game.
Plagued by foul trouble in the first half, Pacher finished with 16 points on 7-for-10 shooting from the floor, added eight rebounds and closed out the game by diving for a pair of loose balls.
“In the first half, A.J. didn’t play many minutes because he got two fouls and I sat him,” Donlon said. “I told him, ‘Since it’s an exhibition I could play you right now and teach you a lesson and see how many fouls you get. But I want you to play the second half better and freer.’
“And he finished the game with two fouls even though he was going against guys who were playing him physical.
“If he can stay on the floor, A.J. is a guy who can get you 12 to 20 a night. He can score inside and out and there aren’t a lot of big guys who can stretch the floor and make a three. And he scored his first four points on right hand jump hooks.“
Donlon also singled out Arceneaux, his sophomore point guard who had nine assists and Dixon, a junior college transfer from Texas who had 12 points.
But if the Raiders are going to prove the naysayers wrong, it’s going to depend on the team’s three veteran players — Packer, Matt Vest and Cole Darling — all juniors (there are no seniors) who played extensively the past two seasons.
“They’ve got to step up when times get tough and put the team on their back, especially from an emotional standpoint.” Donlon said.
Pacher agreed: “It’s time for the three juniors to grow up. Now it’s our team. We have to lead these guys and show them something.”
Friday night he finally found that Vandalia attraction: himself.