But that doesn’t mean they can’t duplicate the success they had last season and maybe even surpass it — though they might go about it in a sightly different way.
“Offensively, I’m a little unsure of where we’ll be. It’ll be hard to beat last season — we were pretty good,” Nagy said. “But I think our defense and rebounding will be better. We’re going to be bigger. We’re going to be more physical.”
Horizon League Player of the Year Loudon Love will return after averaging 15.9 points and 9.7 rebounds and leading the Raiders to a 25-7 record and their first outright conference crown.
Defensive ace Jaylon Hall also is back along with two of the five conference all-freshman team picks in Tanner Holden and Grant Basile.
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Love has 1,393 career points, which is 15th in school history. The senior-to-be won’t be able to reach Bill Edwards’ all-time mark of 2,303 career points, but he’ll only have to average 15.2 to overtake DaShaun Wood for second place if the Raiders play at least 32 games.
The 6-8, 260-pound center also has 882 career rebounds. He’ll likely break Edwards’ school record of 907 by mid-November.
He transformed himself by dropping about 25 pounds before last season, making him much more nimble.
“I think that helped a lot,” Nagy said. “He was still as physical as ever. He has better balance. And he was more aggressive offensively, which I wanted him to be. I’d like to see him shoot a higher percentage (than 48.6). But just the fact that he was aggressive opened things up for our shooters.”
Nagy wanted to play Love and the 6-9 Basile together last season, but that never really materialized — partly because almost all league opponents play small ball. The Raiders also didn’t have enough practice time during the season to give the duo a chance to mesh.
That won’t be an issue with an entire offseason to work out the kinks.
“Since we’ll be bigger, I think we’ll be a much more physical offensive team,” Nagy said.
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Basile averaged 6.2 points and 4.3 rebounds as a redshirt freshman, but he started five non-league games when Love was out with a fractured elbow and averaged 13.8 points and 10 boards.
The 6-6 Holden will be a fixture again after finishing third on the team in scoring (11.8) and second in rebounding (6.5) as a freshman. He had four double-figure rebound games, including 17 against Toledo, and shot a team-high 61.1% from the field and 42.4 on 3-pointers.
Classmate Trey Calvin has the inside track on claiming the vacant point-guard spot. He averaged 4.8 points while playing in all 32 games.
James Manns, who averaged 5.7 points and shot a team-best 44.9% on 3’s as a sophomore, also probably earned increased minutes. The 6-7 forward provided instant offense while Love was out, scoring more than a point per minute in one three-game stretch (58 points, 54 minutes).
Tim Finke, a 6-6 sophomore-to-be, will be eligible after transferring from Grand Canyon. He scored more than 2,000 points in high school and was the No. 2 recruit in Illinois, according to ESPN.com.
Andre Harris, a 6-3 guard from Lyndhurst, Ohio, also will see his first action after redshirting last season.
The Raiders signed a three-player recruiting class: 6-8 Brandon Noel of Chillicothe; 6-3 Alex Huibregste of Grafton, Wis.; and 6-7 Andrew Welage of Greensburg, Ind.
Noel averaged 18 points and was named first-team All-Ohio in Division I. Huibregste scored 24.2 per game. And Welage averaged 24.2 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists while shooting 47.3% on 3’s and 86.0 on free throws, earning conference MVP honors.
“We’ve got good young kids coming in. It’ll be hard for them to play, but we’ll have Tim Finke, who is a big, physical guard,” Nagy said.
The Raiders tied their all-time mark for wins, and their 15-3 league record was the best in school history. But after getting bounced in the conference tourney, they finished with a NET ranking of 127 and weren’t an NCAA at-large candidate.
They’ll likely need a meatier non-league schedule if they want that to change — they didn’t face any major-conference foes — but the league did them no favors since it had only one other team in the top 200 of the NET.
“I don’t want to go through and have our 25 wins count for nothing. In order for that to happen, our league has to get better,” Nagy said. “The (non-conference) schedule is a portion of it, but you also can’t count as much on it because you really don’t know what kind of year teams are going to have.
“We’d just like to see our league get better. It’s incumbent upon everybody to be serious about that.”