Tough schedule awaits rebuilding Raiders

Wright State guard Jada Roberson scores against Northern Kentucky during a Horizon League quarterfinal at the Nutter Center in Fairborn Mar. 2, 2021. Wright State won 74-56. E.L. Hubbard/CONTRIBUTED
Caption
Wright State guard Jada Roberson scores against Northern Kentucky during a Horizon League quarterfinal at the Nutter Center in Fairborn Mar. 2, 2021. Wright State won 74-56. E.L. Hubbard/CONTRIBUTED

FAIRBORN — Her colleagues in the Horizon League may find playing an unprecedented 22 conference games this season a little daunting, but for new Wright State women’s basketball coach Kari Hoffman, it’s business as usual.

Her teams routinely played 22 in her five years at Cedarville University. And with every school in the league facing the other 11 twice, no one can complain about anybody getting a scheduling break.

“I’m a big fan of ‘the more games we play in the league, the better’ — especially at this level,” Hoffman said. “I’m not sure how important it is to play out-of-league games to improve our RPI or NET score. I think we’re probably a one-bid league anyway.”

ExploreWSU's Nagy: 'It'll be our most challenging season yet'

She added: “I just think it makes it fair in the league. And I appreciate not having to work as hard finding non-league games.”

Her predecessor, Katrina Merriweather, took care of most of that before leaving for Memphis, And the Raiders probably will wish she didn’t get as far as she did.

Five of their seven non-league games are on the road, starting at Bradley on Nov. 9.

They have trips to Indiana, which advanced to the NCAA regional finals last season, and another to south Texas to play a return game with Abilene Christian.

The league also did Wright State no favors with the conference schedule, which was released Thursday. The first two games are against perennial power Green Bay and Milwaukee on the road.

“When Trina and I talked, she said, ‘This is a gauntlet of a schedule. I’m really sorry,’” Hoffman said with a laugh.

The schedule was actually set up for a battle-tested defending league champion — which is what the Raiders would have been if Merriweather hadn’t left.

But the top three players transferred — star guard Angel Baker bolted for Ole Miss and Emani Jefferson and Tyler Frierson joined their coach at Memphis — leaving Hoffman with a major rebuilding job.

The only experienced returnees are Jada Roberson (6.9 points per game), Shamarre Hale (5.4), Destyne Jackson (4.3) and Jada Wright (3.0).

“Everyone is fighting for their spot. They see an opportunity this year, and they’re all competing hard,” Hoffman said.

Merriweather built a solid culture. The Raiders, who notched their first NCAA tourney win last season in their third trip, thrived through rugged rebounding and dogged defense, and that mentality hasn’t changed.

“I think we’ll be those things as well. They also were really good rebounders in the past. I can tell these guys have a knack for that. They go after the boards really hard,” Hoffman said.

One glaring weakness, though, was shooting. They hit 39.8% from the field (seventh in the league), 26.8 from 3 (11th) and 60.6 on free throws (11th).

“We’ve spent a lot of our offseason shooting. The players have said they’ve never shot this much in their lives,” said Hoffman, who is Cedarville’s career leader in 3-pointers (338) and 3-point percentage (45.8).

“The way we play, we need to be able to shoot some 3′s and be successful behind the arc,” she said. “Hopefully, we can add that to the athleticism we have and our ability to get to the rim.”


2021-22 SCHEDULE

Nov. 9 at Bradley

Nov. 13 at Toledo

Nov. 18 at Milwaukee

Nov. 20 at Green Bay

Nov. 24 Xavier

Nov. 30 at Marshall

Dec. 3 Purdue Fort Wayne

Dec. 5 Cleveland State

Dec. 12 at Abilene Christian

Dec. 15 Lake Erie

Dec. 21 at Indiana

Dec. 31 at UIC

Jan. 2 at IUPUI

Jan. 7 Youngstown State

Jan. 9 Robert Morris

Jan. 13 at Oakland

Jan. 15 at Detroit Mercy

Jan. 20 at Northern Kentucky

Jan. 22 Northern Kentucky

Jan. 27 Green Bay

Jan. 29 Milwaukee

Feb. 3 at Cleveland State

Feb. 5 Purdue Fort Wayne

Feb. 10 IUPUI

Feb. 12 UIC

Feb. 18 at Robert Morris

Feb. 20 at Youngstown State

Feb. 24 Detroit Mercy

Feb. 26 Oakland