The good times rolled for the Wright State University men’s basketball program last season. There were 25 wins, a Horizon League tournament championship, lots of individual and coaching honors and a rare appearance in the NCAA Division I tournament.
Now, as junior guard Cole Gentry confirmed, the hunter (Raiders) has become the hunted. There will be no surprise attack by WSU on unsuspecting league brethren. After just his second season, the success bar has been significantly raised by coach Scott Nagy.
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But before another tourney journey begins, the returning Wright State players will undergo an attitude adjustment. On Friday the entire team will leave for the Dominican Republic for a week-long Samaritan’s Feet mission trip. It’s a By Grace Alone Ministries excursion that will have little to do with basketball.
“It’ll be an experience like none other for them,” Nagy said from his office at the WSU’s Setzer Pavilion/Mills Morgan Center earlier this week. “They’re going to see some pretty tough stuff.”
This trip is personal for the Nagy family. His youngest daughter, 15-year-old Naika, is a native Haitian whom Scott and his wife Jamie adopted, their fifth child. That made for a rowdy household. “Thankfully, my wife has handled it well and really raised five kids on her own,” said Scott.
It also inspired him to “figure out ways I could help (Naika’s) country.”
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And that’s just what the Raiders will do. They’ll make new friends at an orphanage. They’ll distribute shoes and socks to those in need. They’ll befriend those living on a trash dump site. Yes, they’ll wash feet, a modern-day symbolic nod to Jesus and the 12 Apostles.
“It puts you in an uncomfortable situation and that’s good,” said Gentry, the St. Charles, Illinois, junior who emerged as the floor general after transferring from South Dakota State and becoming eligible midway through the banner season.
“You learn something about yourself and your teammates. It helps you grow as a person and helps the leaders on the team grow as leaders, too.”
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Nagy has been involved with By Grace Alone Ministries and Samaritan’s Feet for about 11 years, ever since Naika was added to the family roster. It’s a global outreach program that targets barefoot children who “are infected with diseases that are transmitted through contaminated sold,” according to the World Health Organization.
That awareness has been embraced by collegiate basketball coaches. Their devotion to the cause is easy to spot: Once a season they’ll coach a game in bare feet to raise awareness for the organization’s shoe-first provision. It’s often anchored around the Martin Luther King holiday weekend in January.
Initially headed to Haiti, WSU hastily revised travel plans after looting and protests that turned violent and related to a work strike shook the Port-Au-Prince capital last month. Instead, the Raiders will fly to Santo Domingo, on the same Caribbean Island as Haiti, but in a safer locale.
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“It will help give (WSU teammates) good perspective and that’s one of the reasons I do it,” Nagy said. “We come back here and there’s so much pressure on these guys to win all the time. You go through a two-three game losing streak and everybody thinks the world’s coming to an end. You have something to point back to and give yourself perspective and how good you have it here.”