While the returning members of the Wright State basketball team will try to build on one of the most successful seasons in 31 years at the Division I level, the incoming freshmen will be riding impressive accomplishments of their own.
Two of the four recently led their high school teams to state championships, while another engineered a run to the final four in a state where all schools compete for one title.
WSU coach Scott Nagy and his assistants were in Columbus last weekend to watch Jeremiah Davenport, a 6-foot-5 guard, lead Moeller to the Ohio Division I title with an 83-65 thrashing of Solon.
“He was good, and he’s so tough,” Nagy said of Davenport, who led the Crusaders with 22 points on 10 of 14 shooting while grabbing a game-high eight rebounds. “What we like about him is he gives his team energy. He’s a high-energy guy, and he’s just a really good fit for us. All of them are, so there’s going to be great competition at every position.”
Grant Basile (pronounced buh-SIL-e), a unanimous first-team all-state pick in Wisconsin, is a 6-foot-9 post player who averaged 24.4 points and 13.7 rebounds while leading Pewaukee High to the elite eight with a game-winning tip in with a second to go.
Malachi Smith, a 6-3 shooting guard, led Belleville West to the Illinois 4A state championship, while Skyelar Potter, a 6-4 guard who averaged 23.0 ppg and 12.1 rpg, guided his Warren Central team to the final four in Kentucky's all-class state tournament.
“We’re only losing one guy (Grant Benzinger) that played for us, but we’re adding six guys that can all play,” Nagy said, referring also to Drake transfer Bill Wampler Jr. and redshirt freshman James Manns.
“We’ll be deeper, and it will provide competition,” Nagy said. “There’s probably a spot for eight to play, so you better get going.”
After going 25-10 to set a Division I school record for wins and winning the Horizon League tournament to advance to its first NCAA tournament in 11 years, Wright State is in position to be even better in 2018-19.
Nagy pointed to one thing that will be different next season, and another he hopes will be.
“We’ll probably play faster next year because we’ll be deeper,” he said. “In particular, I think Cole (Gentry) is better in the open floor. When we can play faster, he’s able to make more things happen. Now that means a big guy like Loudon is going to have to run the floor harder. Our pace of play this year was pretty slow for what I’m used to.
“The other thing was, we just weren’t a very good (3-point) shooting team,” Nagy added. “As a team, as a whole, I’m not sure we had a guy shoot 40 percent. I’d like our whole team combined to shoot 40 percent.”
Nagy said Wampler and Manns are both accurate from beyond the arc, and he expects forward Parker Ernsthausen to dedicate his summer to improving from the top of the key, where he often finds himself wide open with all the attention devoted to Loudon Love in the post.
And possibly Basile as well.
The Raiders made a stop to watch to Basile play the night before they faced Green Bay in January, and Nagy said he continues to be impressed by the youngster.
“We though initially in the summer when we he committed that he would be a good redshirt candidate,” Nagy said, pointing to Basile’s slight 215-pound frame as a primary reason. “But after the year he had and when we went and watched him, I don’t know if we can redshirt him. He’s that good.”
That decision, along with all of the others, will come this summer when the freshmen arrive on campus and the current players show how committed they are to getting better and keeping the new arrivals from taking their spots.
“It’s all to be determined,” Nagy said. “We’ll let the players sort that out. From June to about October, it gets sorted out. Our freshmen that played a lot this year, Loudon and Jaylon (Hall) and Everett (Winchester), they have to get better. They have to continue to get better or people will just overtake them.
“That’s a good thing,” he continued. “That’s what they need. They need people to push them. It’s going to be such good competition, really at every position.Whether it’s on a basketball team or in the business community, competition just forces people to get better. It’s great.”