Midway through Wright State’s season opener against Central State last week, Cole Gentry, who was getting a breather, took three steps on the court during a dead ball to bark instructions at center Loudon Love.
Gentry was animated about what Love needed to do. And while it’s a cliché to refer to a point guard as a coach on the floor, Gentry, who is in his third year running the show for the Raiders, actually in that moment looked exactly like a coach on the floor, minus the suit and tie.
The longtime friends are close enough to challenge each other in a way no one else can.
“We have good talks back and forth. He’s receptive. He’ll tell me stuff, and I’ll tell him stuff,” Gentry said.
“It’s all with the same goal of trying to win the game. There’s times where we’re at each other a little bit, but it’s never personal. We have a good communication on the court.”
Gentry, who had 13 points and five assists in the opener and 12 points and five rebounds against Miami, was the team’s third-leading scorer last season with an 11.7 average and was first in assists at 3.2 per game.
But his value to the Raiders goes beyond numbers.
“He’s probably our most important player,” coach Scott Nagy said. “He’s been our most consistent guy in effort and energy, and he’s being a leader for us like we need.”
Asked how he’s improved since last season, Gentry said: “I’m more mature. As you get older, as you’ve been through more stuff, you can help the younger guys. I feel like that’s going to be a big role for myself (and the other seniors). We’ve been through some battles.”
»ARCHDEACON: Less Love a good thing for Raiders
Gentry was second in the Horizon League and 40th nationally in assist-turnover ratio last season with 2.51 assists for every miscue.
He shot 90.2 percent on free throws, the fourth-best mark in school history, making 46 in a row over a 13-game stretch. That streak was one short of Jesse Deister’s program record for consecutive foul shots.
“I’m just looking to do whatever it takes to win games. Nothing more than that,” Gentry said. “I want to have the most successful season we can. Whatever that means from me and the other guys, that’s what we’re going to do.”
Gentry’s contributions will include knocking down 3-pointers — he was tied for second on the team last season with 56 — and generally being a pest to opponents.
As teammate Bill Wampler put it, “He just gives maximum effort all the time. He’s always flying around. He looks like a mosquito. He’s in everyone’s grill. He kind of sets the tone for us and keeps us going.”
Gentry, the 5-foot-10 transfer from South Dakota State, appeared headed for all-league honors last year before a late-season slump.
He averaged just 7.1 points over an eight-game span, shooting 35 percent from the field. He was averaging 13.0 points while hitting 44.5 from the field through the first 25 games.
Part of the dip could be blamed on fatigue since the Raiders struggled to find suitable back-ups for him.
That’s not the case this year. Jordan Ash, a grad transfer from Northwestern, and freshman Trey Calvin can handle the point. In a pinch, 6-6 wing Jaylon Hall can even slide over to that position.
“That’s one of the good things about our team. We have three or four guys who can play point guard,” Nagy said. “We’re so much better as a ball-handling team than we’ve been in the past, which is really helpful.”
But he knows the Raiders are always better with Gentry on the floor.
“He’s got a great motor. He shows up every day and forces guys to get to his level,” he said.
Thank you for reading the Dayton Daily News and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to your daily ePaper and premium newsletters.
Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Dayton Daily News. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.