Cole Gentry drives to the basket against Milwaukee at the Nutter Center on Monday, Dec. 30, 2019. Joseph Craven/WSU Athletics

Wright State basketball: Team-first Gentry ‘just wants to win’

Wright State has a 12-3 record and its best 15-game start in 33 years as a Division-I program. Part of that is due to its ample depth and a multitude of capable scorers — the Raiders put five players in double figures in Monday’s win over Milwaukee.

But Cole Gentry thinks the success is rooted in something deeper than that.

“We have a lot of guys who play well together. We get along. We enjoy being around each other. That’s probably the biggest thing,” he said. “People don’t realize it, but team chemistry is so important. We’ve got a really good group. I really love playing with these guys.”

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His fellow Raiders feel the same way about him. The 5-foot-10 senior has all the traits of an ideal point guard — skilled enough to handle the position, but also able to put his personal interests aside for the good of the team.

As his roommate, senior Bill Wampler, put it, “He just wants to win.”

While many players are quick to pore over box scores after games, Wampler has never seen someone less interested in what the numbers say.

“I think that man would play basketball until he was 110 if he could. All he talks about is he wants to play college basketball forever and loves the game so much,” he said.

“No matter what happens, he’s upbeat and wants to be in the gym. He’s inspired me to work. Usually with teams I’ve been on, I’m the hardest worker. But it’s hard to keep up with him sometimes.”

Freshman Tanner Holden believes Gentry’s passion has impacted others.

“Before the games and at halftimes, he’s always positive and being a great leader, telling us what we’ve done well and what we need to do better,” Holden said.

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“At practice, him and Bill always have massive energy. They come out every day in practice on level 10 — talking, screaming, making practice fun and making games even more fun.”

Gentry may not place much emphasis on scoring, but that doesn’t mean he can’t.

He’s averaged 14.6 points in his last five games, including a season-high 21 against Green Bay last week. He averaged 10.0 before that.

“He’s started to shoot the ball and play with a lot of confidence. That’s what I’ve been waiting for,” coach Scott Nagy said. “I’ve just wanted him to play with confidence because we have that confidence in him.”

Part of the surge has come from an increase in free throws. He was a mere 4 of 5 in the first 10 games but has gone 20 of 20 in the last five.

His 96-percent clip is tied for eighth nationally. And that’s no fluke. He shot 90.2 last season, making 46 in a row.

“He just didn’t have the ball in his hands as much early in the season, and we weren’t ball-screening for him enough,” Nagy said. “We’re trying to get back to that, particularly on the break. That’s when he’s really good, when Loudon (Love) and our ‘bigs’ can trail into ball screens. When their defense isn’t completely set, that’s when Cole can make some plays for us.”

Gentry is shooting 49.6 percent from the field and a team-best 40.3 on 3’s. And he protects the ball as if it’s a Fabergé egg. He has 15 turnovers, one per game.

But after leading the team in assists last season at 3.2 per game, his average has dipped to 1.9.

Sophomore wing Jaylon Hall is the surprise leader this year at 3.5.

“Even if I’m not getting them, Jaylon is doing a great job of passing,” Gentry said. “I don’t really focus on that. As long as we’re winning, it doesn’t mean much to me, whether I have a lot or a little.”

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