Wright State basketball: Raiders have talent, experience

FAIRBORN — College basketball teams have 30 practices over a 42-day span before their season openers. And if there’s ever been a year where Wright State coach Scott Nagy didn’t need his full allotment, it would seem to be this one.

The Raiders return four established starters and have just one spot up for grabs. Nothing to it, right?

Well, that’s not the way Nagy sees it.

“ALL of those spots are up for grabs. That’s how we’re looking at it,” he said.

Nagy understandably doesn’t want anyone getting too comfortable, but first-team All-Horizon League pick Tanner Holden, second-teamer Grant Basile, all-defensive team honoree Tim Finke and steady point guard Trey Calvin are all safe bets to start if they flash the same form they displayed last season.

The real position battle is at center. And the Raiders will likely go with several combinations over the season to fill the void left by two-time league player of the year Loudon Love.

Before signing to play pro ball in France, the 6-foot-8, 255-pound Love racked up 1,792 points (third-most in school history), 1,123 rebounds (first) and 139 blocks (first) and is the only Raider to be named first-team all-league three straight years.

He averaged a double-double last season at 16.6 points and 10.1 rebounds as Wright State won its third straight regular-season title, sharing it with Cleveland State.

“Losing Loudon, my biggest concern is the defensive-rebounding side of it,” Nagy said. “He’s a big hole to fill from that standpoint.”

He also was an underrated defender, seldom needing help to guard opposing post players.

But almost all of his buckets came at the rim. And the Raiders’ offense, as measured by points per possession, was actually better when he wasn’t on the floor.

“We should have better spacing not having somebody in the post all the time,” Nagy said. “That’s why I think offensively we’ll be fine.”

The 6-9 Basile blossomed into the team’s best 3-point shooter, going 20 of 42 (47.6%). He went into preseason practice with an ankle injury, but Nagy expects him to be healthy for the season-opener Nov. 9 against Lake Erie College.

The 6-6 Holden averaged 15.8 points and 7.3 rebounds. The 6-5 Finke, a transfer from Grand Canyon, averaged 10 points in his first season with the Raiders. And the 6-0 Calvin averaged 9.7 points and a team-high 3.5 assists.

“We should be able to score,” Nagy said. “We’ve got a lot of really good offensive players and a lot of experience.”

Jaylon Hall, who spent four years in the program and started as a junior, saw his role reduced last season and transferred to Morehead State. But Nagy won’t have any problem filling out his rotation.

Riley Voss, a 6-6 Cornell transfer, is battle-tested. Brandon Noel, a 6-8 redshirt freshman, is back after sitting out last season with an injury. And even the true freshmen, 6-9 A.J. Braun and 5-11 Keaton Norris, could work their way into the mix.

“We have a lot of good players, and how it’s been in the recent past, we’re going to have good players who don’t play,” Nagy said. “Realistically, you play seven or eight guys. But injuries sometimes take care of that. And competition takes care of the rest.

“We can go big, we can go small. We have a lot of options. It’s highly competitive for all those spots.”

Wright State finished 18-6 in 2020-21, which was shortened by the coronavirus pandemic. And it ended with the most shocking loss in the six-year Nagy era: a 94-92 OT defeat at home to Milwaukee in the HL quarterfinals.

The Raiders led, 72-48, with 6:26 to go. But the Panthers, which had a losing record, scored 33 points over the final 6:15 of regulation, including a pair of 3-pointers in the last eight seconds.

But if the players have come back more motivated — or have had trouble letting it go — Nagy hasn’t noticed.

“Nobody talks about it, and it’s not brought up. The whole year was weird anyway. I go back to watch film, and you don’t see people in the stands. It was just different,” he said.

“I think everything for us is all about ‘now,’ That’s what the focus is, not what happened in the past. We expect to be good and have a lot of confidence.”

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