Wright State looking for Hughes to step up


SATURDAY’S GAME

Who: Wright State (6-2) at Penn State (3-2)

When: 5 p.m.

Where: Bryce Jordan Center,

University Park, Pa.

TV/Radio: BTN Plus, 106.5-FM

Wright State coach Scott Nagy has been pleading for greater production from his reserves — at least more than they provided in a loss at Georgia State this week when the trio of Mark Hughes, Parker Ernsthausen and Ryan Custer combined for just one point.

Nagy could excuse Custer’s paltry contributions on the road, given that he’s a freshman. And Ernsthausen was issued a pass because his primary role is to be a defensive presence inside.

But the coach didn’t let Hughes off the hook. He said the 6-foot-4 sophomore is capable of being the Raiders’ second-leading scorer this season behind Mark Alstork, but the former Youngstown Ursuline star has just 25 points in eight games.

“He averaged 24 points in high school. He’s used to having that (scoring) mentality, and I want him thinking that way when he’s on the floor,” Nagy said. “We think he’s one of our top players, but he doesn’t always play that way. He defers to other people, and I want him to stop doing that.”

Hughes looks to be a natural shooter and is hitting 42.9 percent on 3-pointers, but he’s attempted only 14 this year.

“I want him to give more (playing time). He’s not playing enough minutes because, in my opinion, he’s not playing with a lot of confidence,” Nagy said.

Hughes is glad Nagy sees his upside and that he’s being asked to take more initiative on offense.

“It’s a dream for any player to have their coach tell them to keep shooting. It’s nice knowing if I take a shot, I’m not going to get yelled at,” he said.

But he realizes he won’t be viewed so favorably if he doesn’t change his passive ways.

“I’ve been hearing that since he first got here. I’m slowly improving, but it’s tough,” he said. “With the role I played last year, I didn’t really take a lot of shots. Now, I’ve got the whole coaching staff telling me I have to be assertive. It’s just a process, and I’m working on it.”

As for that shoot-first mentality in high school, he said: “I didn’t really have choice because I didn’t have a lot of players that could do it. I had to pretty much accept that role and score a whole bunch.

“Here, I’m surrounded with a bunch of good players, so it’s different. I feel like I don’t have to do it as much. At the same time, my team needs me to do it some so we can be that much better.”

The Raiders actually have been fairly proficient on offense with an average of 82.6 points. They’re also getting to the foul line and connecting at a high clip. They’re second nationally in free throws made (178) and third in attempts (233).

Alstork has been a catalyst. He’s second in the country in free throws made (66) and first in attempts (78).

“I understand numbers — I’m not saying others don’t, but I really focus on them — and the most efficient way to score is at the free throw line,” Nagy said. “When you want to talk about points per possession, the more you get to the free throw line, the higher your points per possession go up. It’s like shooting 75 percent from the floor.”

That parade to the free-throw line is a big change from last season when the Raiders were one of the worst teams in the nation at drawing fouls.

“Mostly that has to do with guys who are aggressive off the drive. We’re giving them freedom,” Nagy said. “Obviously, Mark Alstork is a big part of that. He’s shooting a lot of free throws and shooting a good percentage. The way they call the game, if you have an aggressive driver — and we have a couple of them — then you have a chance to get to the free throw line.”