Wright State basketball: Holden relishing being back with old teammates

FAIRBORN — Tanner Holden was only away from Wright State for a year, but he knew how important it’d be to re-establish old ties.

He was even willing to go outside his comfort zone to make it happen.

“When I got here, Trey said, ‘Hey, I play golf all the time.’ That was pretty much the first thing we did,” Holden said.

Standout guard Trey Calvin hits the links almost every day and has some skill, while Holden just picked up the game.

They’ve been going to Twin Base golf course at Wright-Patterson and hacking around with teammates Alex Huibregtse, Andrew Welage and Keaton Norris.

“It was good to get away from basketball and build those relationships,” Holden said. “We shared a lot of laughs.”

There may have been hurt feelings when he left last spring for Ohio State, but he’s been embraced by the Wright State administration, coaches and players since his return.

The Raiders tumbled to an 18-15 record last season while adjusting to the absence of Holden and fellow star Grant Basile, who transferred to Virginia Tech.

But while the 6-foot-9 Basile thrived — leading the Hokies in scoring with a 16.4 average and then signing a three-year pro contract with Bertram Dethrona in Northern Italy last month — Holden never found his niche with the Buckeyes.

He needed another year of college hoops to prove himself to pro scouts.

“I wanted to play someplace where I can have an impact and be surrounded by people who really love me and care about me — not for the player I am on the court, but because of the person I am. That’s what I have here,” he said.

The Raiders, though, are also excited about the player they could potentially add next season.

The 6-6 wing averaged 20.1 points and 7.1 rebounds in 2021-22. He also led the nation in free throws made and attempted, a point of emphasis in coach Scott Nagy’s system.

But transfer portal rules only allow a player to transfer once without a sit-out year unless he graduates, and Holden is still working on the academic piece.

The NCAA sometimes grants an exception because of off-the-court hardship, and Wright State has filed a waiver on his behalf.

Asked when he’ll know the outcome, Nagy said: “There’s no timeline, and we’re not in a big rush on those things. From what I understand, the NCAA will deal with football and volleyball first — the fall sports — because they need to have a yes or no.”

Holden will be starting his fifth year of college with one season of eligibility left.

He wants to be able to move on next spring, but he knows it’s out of his hands.

“It’s always tough, just the uncertainty of it,” he said. “I’m hopeful, my family is hopeful, everyone is hopeful that I’ll be eligible. But you can’t really bog your mind up in that. You have to keep preparing and staying ready.”

Holden was ninth in scoring (3.6 per game) and minutes (13.5) at Ohio State, and the team went a dismal 16-19 overall and 5-15 in the Big Ten.

He’s never had to sit much before as a player, and he had six games where he didn’t even get off the bench.

“It was an adjustment,” he said.

Though no figures were made public, NIL money was believed to be a factor — but not a big one, according to Holden.

“That’s not who I am or what I’ve ever been about. The money isn’t anything that intrigued me in any way. It’s the cherry on the cupcake, but at the end of the day, that’s not the reason I would leave,” he said.

“I felt it was the right decision for me. You live and you learn. Throughout that experience, I got to learn a lot about myself and play with great players. I just wanted to challenge myself.”

He said he has no regrets. And if the NCAA gives him the OK, the Raiders will be loaded.

“I just like to win. It doesn’t matter about stats or the points you put up. It’s all about the wins,” Holden said.

“That’s the big thing everyone here is desperate for — to get back to the way the Raiders play.”

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