Wright State basketball: Huibregtse relishes playing for approachable Nagy

Credit: Joseph R. Craven

Credit: Joseph R. Craven

FAIRBORN — Every shooter faces it sooner or later — that mental tussle between taking a shot he knows he can make, while also risking the wrath of the coach if he misses.

Wright State’s Alex Huibregtse was experiencing the internal tug-of-war with just over four minutes left and the Raiders nursing a 10-point lead at rival Northern Kentucky on Feb. 1.

He found himself with an open 3 early in the shot clock and let if fly, only to have it clank off the rim.

A media timeout was called 20 seconds later, and the junior guard approached coach Scott Nagy in the huddle with trepidation — but quickly discovered he had no reason to be skittish.

Nagy said of their interaction: “I was like, ‘Be aggressive. That’s a shot I want you taking. You flat out BETTER take that shot.’”

Perhaps Huibregtse, who scored 17 points in the 88-77 win, should have known he’s done enough by that point to have earned the green light, but it was still nice to hear.

“Honestly, I wasn’t sure if it was the best shot at the time. He said to keep being aggressive and that he liked the shot a lot. That gave me confidence to jump up and shoot the next one,” said Huibregtse (pronounced HUE-bricks).

Nagy, though, will be the first to admit his reactions under pressure are sometimes less than ideal.

He knows he’s demonstrative on the sidelines and can unleash criticism that’s not exactly constructive.

His solution is always to apologize to his players and vow to do better.

“That’s one of the goals of our program — for our guys to feel loved. If you feel loved, you can’t play scared,” he said.

“I don’t always coach that way. I say this all the time: There’s ways I want players to play, but sometimes, I hurt it by the way I coach. That’s why I’m thankful for my staff.”

The 57-year-old Nagy said he wants to rid his program of negative emotions like fear and anxiety. And he knows it starts with him.

“I’m the leader of it. I can get anxious, and normally when I am, it’s because my mind is on myself and not the players,” he said.

“I tell them all the time that the opposite of love is not hate, it’s fear. You can’t love your teammates and can’t love other people when you’re scared. And there’s just no reason to be.”

Nagy’s way may sound a little too touchy-feely for today’s player. But Huibregtse finds those self-critiques from his coach freeing.

“For a player, you love to see that because if your head coach is willing to say he messes up, as a player, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to say it when you’ve been messing up,” he said.

“He tells us he’s working on stuff, so we can do the same and trust him. He’s very open about that. I think we all appreciate his honesty, and we can tell he truly means it.”

Nagy held a video session with the team this year and showed clips of his poor sideline behavior as a lesson on how not to be.

“That’s rare,” Huibregtse said. “There’s a lot of head coaches who would just blame the players — especially the way we’ve been playing a little bit this year. For him to just continue to put it all on himself, it means the world to us.”

Nagy has an open-door policy and wants feedback from his players.

That may not have been encouraged in his younger days.

“Coach listens to us. There’s definitely times where you can go in there and talk to him — just like he’s a teammate,” Huibregtse said.

“You’ve got to be respectful about it, obviously, and go about it the right way. But you can work together and figure it out.”

Huibregtse is in his first year as a full-time starter and making the most of it.

After a sluggish start, he’s averaging 11.3 points and shooting 51.3% from the field, 37.8 on 3′s and 84.2 on foul shots.

And while Trey Calvin is normally the go-to player in crunch time, Huibregtse had that role in a 107-99 overtime win at Cleveland State.

He scored a career-high 32 points, going 10 of 14 from the field, 3 of 3 on 3′s and 9 of 9 on foul shots.

He hit a 10-foot banker to force OT and linked up with and Calvin to score all 20 of the team’s points in the extra session, getting 10 each.

Setting up for the last shot in regulation, Nagy said Huibregtse was the obvious choice because he had the hot hand.

“The coaches have started to lean on me a little bit more,” Huibregtse said. “And I have the trust from my teammates, too.”

He certainly did on that game-tying bucket at CSU.

On Nagy’s decision to put the game in his hands, Huibregtse said: “It wasn’t just Coach. It was Trey, too.

“When I’ve got those two telling me to shoot the ball, I’d better shoot it. It definitely gave me a lot of confidence.”


Wright State at Detroit Mercy, 7 p.m., ESPN+, 101.5, 1410

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