Strength, agility make Wright State big man Love ‘hard to handle’

Wright State coach Scott Nagy has had trouble finding players who can push Loudon Love in preseason workouts and give the sophomore center a challenge.

But if the Raiders are having a hard time with that, almost every team they face will have that problem, too.

“We really don’t have anybody in practice who can contain Loudon,” Nagy said, “but neither does anybody else.

“He’s definitely a load. He’s going to be hard to handle.”

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Opponents know that all too well. The 6-foot-9, 270-pound Love has both brute strength and surprising agility, which is why he’s such a tough assignment in the Horizon League.

He averaged 12.9 points and a league-best 9.7 rebounds last year. He’s a preseason first-team all-conference pick after being named second-team all-league and freshman of the year in 2017-18.

And while he’s the same size as a year ago, he’s toned his body even more to help with low-post battles.

“We’ve been working on weights a lot, and I feel I have more muscle and less body fat,” said Love, who was redshirted in 2016-17 after arriving at school at a doughy 300 pounds.

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“Obviously, I won’t get rid of all my fat, but it’s something that helps me get up and down the court more.”

Love’s rebounding average (actually 9.74) is the third-best at Wright State in the Division-I era (since 1987) and the highest since Thad Burton’s record-setting 10.89 mark in 1997-98.

Love, a Geneva, Ill. native, has strong hands, which helps him keep a grip on the ball, but also a sense of where errant shots will end up.

“We have good shooters. They don’t miss left or right, they miss long or short. And that’s an easy offensive rebound,” he said. “If they miss long, it’s going to be on the weak side.

“Sometimes it just comes down to my positioning. If I’m posting up the whole time, and someone gets above me three-quarters (denying the ball), and we shoot it, I have an advantage. It’s awareness, and sometimes you just have a better angle.”

The Wright State rebound record would seem to be within range at some point in his career, but Love is zeroed in more this year on other facets of his game.

He led the team with a ghastly 84 turnovers last year, while no one else had more than 59.

And though he shot 53.3 percent from the field, he hit only 54.1 percent of his foul shots.

“I want to be able to take care of the ball. I really want those turnovers down,” he said. “And free throws — I’ve been shooting a ton.”

He never leaves the gym after practice without connecting on 10 in a row.

“Some nights, it’ll take 250 or 300 to do it. Some nights, it’ll take 10,” he said. “It’s a process and something I have to keep working on.”

Nagy has seen signs those turnovers — 2.4 per game — will dwindle.

“When we’ve looked at statistics from practice, one area where he’s gotten much better in is he’s not turning the ball over as much,” he said.

“When you’re a freshman, the game comes at you pretty quickly. He’s been able to slow down a little more and has taken better care of the basketball. He’s making better passes and is shooting a better field-goal percentage.”

His teammates appreciate Love being so conscientious.

“He’s come a long way,” senior guard Mark Hughes said. “His game has definitely improved over the summer. He’s got a lot more touch with his finishes and jump hooks, and he’s picking his spots where he can score more. I’m expecting big things out of him.”

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