Wright State basketball: Raiders expect big man Basile to make ‘a really good jump’ this season

Sophomore earned spot on Horizon League all-freshman team last season

Loudon Love’s coaches and teammates experienced some angst when he fractured his right elbow early last season. The star center was a first-team All-Horizon League pick, and losing such a powerful presence figured to be a major setback.

But the least-worried person around Wright State may have been the player poised to replace him.

Grant Basile, a 6-foot-9 redshirt freshman, was thrust into the starting lineup and produced Love-like numbers over the next five games, averaging 13.8 points and 10 rebounds while helping the team go 4-1, including wins over Western Kentucky and Miami.

Providing that stability in the post propelled Basile to a spot on the league’s all-freshman team. And though he knew how much the Raiders would be relying on him, he said: “I think we all rely on each other. We have the next-man-up mentality. We had seven or eight guys lead us in scoring last year. Everyone would just take their turn.”

Wright State had seven players who either led or co-led the team in scoring en route to a 25-7 record: Bill Wampler (14 times), Love (nine), Tanner Holden (five), Basile (three), Jaylon Hall (two) and Trey Calvin and James Manns (once each).

“We had to do that to have a successful year,” Basile said. “We’ll have to do that even more this year. We have a lot of guys who can score and pick up the slack for each other.”

After losing only Wampler from among that contingent, the Raiders were named preseason conference favorite, and coach Scott Nagy is plotting ways to make his lineup even more potent.

Love, the preseason league player of the year, will still only come off the floor if he’s in foul trouble or needs a breather, but Basile, who averaged 6.2 points and 4.3 rebounds with 29 blocks, has earned an expanded role.

The Wisconsin native was mostly a power forward in high school and could slide to that spot if the Raiders opt for a bigger lineup.

“We’ve got to play those two guys together some in order to get Grant minutes. We saw how well he did when we didn’t have Loudon and there were no other options,” Nagy said.

“If we play those two together, it’s going to be much harder for teams to score around the rim, which is what we want more than anything. We think defensively we can be tighter, be a better rebounding team and a more physical team offensively — just pound the ball to those two and try to beat people up.”

No Raider maximized the prolonged offseason — which included four months at home because of Covid — more than Basile. Working with his AAU and youth coach, Taylor Jannsen, who runs a basketball training outfit called Performance Max, Basile picked up 20 pounds and returned at a solid 240.

“Grant was one of the few guys during that period when we weren’t able to get with our guys to find a way to lift and put on good weight. He’s more physical,” Nagy said. “He’s got to get in a little better shape, but that’s coming. We expect him to make a really good jump for us.”

Since practice began Oct. 14, Basile’s game also has been enhanced by going against the 6-8, 255-pound Love on a regular basis.

“We try to challenge each other every day,” Basile said. “We bring different stuff to the table. He’s obviously a really big, strong kid. He finishes tough inside. He’s definitely helped me bang inside and become more of a physical player. And I try to do the same thing, get him to move around a little bit.”

The long-armed Basile provides more resistance than Love might see on most nights in the league.

Asked whether he’s blocked a shot or two in those matchups, Basile said: “For sure. The toughest part is, though, when you block his shot, he always goes and gets it. He’s one of the best rebounders there is.”

Basile is an appealing option with or without Love. His ability to shoot with either hand makes him a force inside, and a willingness to take 3-pointers means he can stretch opposing defenses.

“I’ve spent a lot of time working on my jumper,” he said. "I didn’t shoot a great percentage last year (3 of 19 on 3′s), but when you only get one off in a game — or not even that — it’s tough to get into a rhythm.

“I feel a lot better shooting it consistently, trusting my shot and believing it’ll go in.”

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