Wright State basketball: Raiders playing nervous, and Nagy wants it to stop

FAIRBORN — Wright State coach Scott Nagy was an accomplished player in his day, ending his career as the all-time assist leader at Delta State.

And while he’d like to pass on to his players some of the traits that made him successful, he also wants to eradicate one of the things that held him back.

“There’s nothing that gets me more fired up and eats at me and makes me angrier than when I see guys play nervously. It bothers the heck out of me,” he said.

“It goes all the way back to when I played (in the mid-1980s). I just know, particularly when I was young, there were several games when I played nervous. I wish I hadn’t, but I did. I regret it, and I don’t want our guys to regret it.”

He saw far too many jitters in a 105-77 season-opening loss at Colorado State.

He also felt he had a few too many Nervous Nellies on the floor in an 89-80 defeat at Indiana.

The Raiders are playing for an animated coach who admits he has trouble staying positive, but that shouldn’t matter with so many veteran players.

The tightness seems to stem from starting a new season and not finding a comfort level yet with playing before big crowds.

“You can’t just talk it away or talk them out of it. You have to work through it. But worrying too much about what others think is a bad street to go down,” Nagy said.

One player who has been slow to revert to his previous form is sophomore forward Brandon Noel, the Horizon League Freshman of the Year last season and a preseason second-team all-league pick.

He averaged 13 points and 8.7 rebounds last season but is averaging 7.3 points and 6.7 boards through three games.

He’s shooting only 31.8% after hitting a league-best 60.9 in 2022-23.

Noel has contributed elsewhere, which is why he played the full 40 minutes against Toledo and has played a team-high 113 minutes this year. He’s gone 3 of 7 on 3′s and has five blocks.

He also may be the team’s most consistent player on defense, which has been a sore point for Nagy.

The Raiders went into the weekend 345th in the nation in scoring defense, giving up 90.7 points per game.

They’re 349th out of 360 Division-I teams in defensive efficiency, allowing 1.234 points per possession.

“If we can’t figure out our defense, we’re going to struggle,” Nagy said.

He’s trying some new things — like playing more zones. But offenses have gotten better over the years, making it harder than ever to keep up defensively.

The NBA adopted the Euro-step long ago, and that has morphed into the Euro-step-plus-one, meaning traveling is virtually never called.

That’s begun trickling down to the college game.

“They call the game differently. They want it to be exciting,” Nagy said. “And it’s hard to be physical and not foul. That benefits the offense.

“But to me, it’s more of a mindset. Players today have gotten so much attention for scoring that it’s hard to convince them of what’s really important.”

Wright State opponents shot only 43.5% last season.

So far this year, they’re hitting 55.7.

“It won’t change for us until the players are bothered by it and not just me,” Nagy said.


Wright State vs. Louisiana, 5 p.m., 101.5, 1410

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