Wright State basketball: Raiders’ Hall finding his ‘groove’

Wright State guard Jaylon Hall shoots over Green Bay guard Lucas Stieber during a men's basketball game at the Nutter Center in Fairborn Saturday, Dec. 26, 2020. E.L. Hubbard/CONTRIBUTED
Wright State guard Jaylon Hall shoots over Green Bay guard Lucas Stieber during a men's basketball game at the Nutter Center in Fairborn Saturday, Dec. 26, 2020. E.L. Hubbard/CONTRIBUTED

FAIRBORN -- When Jaylon Hall had a scoreless first half in the opening game against Green Bay last weekend, coach Scott Nagy had an uh-oh feeling, wondering whether the fourth-year junior would mentally check out for the night.

It’s happened before. If the multi-talented wing didn’t get off to a good start in his younger days, he wasn’t much help to the Raiders after that.

“Here’s the deal with Jaylon: Offensively, he was a little bit of a wreck in the first half. And I’m telling you, in the past, we probably would have lost him for the whole game. I’m super proud of him — SUPER proud — that he was able to overcome that,” Nagy said.

“He was able to work through that IN the game, so we didn’t lose him.”

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With his confidence at an all-time high, the Louisville native recovered after an 0-for-5 first half, which included clanking all three of his 3-point attempts, and finished with 12 points, seven rebounds and five assists in the 67-53 win.

He followed that with a career-high 22 points on 7-of-9 shooting in Sunday’s win.

He’s on pace to have a double-figure average for the first time in his career with an 11.4 clip so far.

“I’m definitely thinking ‘offense’ a lot more and getting up shots and letting it fly,” he said.

The 6-foot-5 Hall has come a long way since opening the season with three straight scoreless halves, missing his first nine shots. But that ragged start had nothing to do with his mental approach.

Because of contact tracing, he had to go into quarantine when a teammate tested positive, returning to practice just two days before the first game against Marshall.

“I was out for two weeks with the COVID protocol. I was really just going out there and trying to give as much as I could give,” he said. “Now, I feel like I’m in a better groove of things. I’m starting to get my wind back. The more I get my wind back, the more I feel like my game and everything else is coming back too.”

Hall is just one of many players making extreme sacrifices because of how important their seasons are to them.

Being separated from his closest friends and the sport he loves during his hiatus was hard to endure.

“I could do little workouts here and there in my house, but I couldn’t really run outside because of the weather,” he said. “I really didn’t get into the gym. I couldn’t leave because I was on quarantine. I really just did pushups, sit-ups, stuff like that — and watching a lot of basketball and a lot of film.

“Two weeks was a really long time without basketball and without seeing anybody I’m used to seeing on a daily basis. Yeah, that two weeks is pretty tough.”

Hall, though, is playing better than ever these days. Since that forgettable start to the season, he’s 24 of 47 from the field and 11 of 25 on 3′s.

“He has a way different rhythm to him,” Nagy said.

But the coach can always find areas still in need of improvement.

“For Loudon Love and him, I wish they’d take better care of the ball,” he said, referring to Love’s team-high 22 turnovers and Hall’s 19.

“But Jaylon probably leads us in assists, too. He’s always looking for Loudon on rolls. He does a nice job of that.”

Hall is tied with point guard Trey Calvin for first in assists with 22 apiece.

And while his 22-point effort against Green Bay was five more than his previous career high, Nagy doesn’t want him to be so focused on offense that the rest of his game falters.

“Jaylon could be the best defensive player I’ve ever coached. I want him to be. He’s not at that level now, but he could be. He has that ability,” Nagy said.

FRIDAY’S GAME

Wright State at Oakland, 7 p.m., ESPN3, ESPN+, 106.5

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