Jaylon Hall would never want to repeat what he went through last season — not just his surgery and lengthy recovery from a torn labrum, but also the anguish of being deprived of doing something he loves.
But the Wright State wing believes his redshirt year was just what he needed as a player, even if he was gnashing his teeth all the way through it.
“Sitting out last year, I felt like I grew in every aspect I possibly could have — off the court, school work, getting stronger, learning more about the game, gaining more trust with the coaching staff and having better chemistry with teammates,” said Hall, a third-year sophomore who averages 8.0 points and a team-high 3.2 assists per game.
“There were just a lot of little things that carried over to this year.”
Coach Scott Nagy certainly has seen the benefits of having players sit out a year, although he’d prefer it not be because of an injury. Seven regulars — or about half the squad — either redshirted as freshmen, took a season off after transferring or, in the case of Hall and Grant Basile, missed a year because of medical issues.
A major reason behind the Raiders’ success this season is that most of their rotation has had an extra year to mature and develop.
Fourth-year junior Loudon Love leads the team in scoring (15.5 per game) and rebounding (10.1). Fifth-year senior Bill Wampler is second in scoring (14.7) and has a team-best 48 three-pointers.
Fifth-year senior Cole Gentry is another double-figure scorer (10.7), and third-year sophomore James Manns, fifth-year senior Jordan Ash and Basile, a redshirt freshman, have all carved out niches as key subs.
“Most times, guys are in that situation because they didn’t play their freshman year,” Nagy said. “The advantage is you’re trading what you’re going to do your freshman year for what you’re going to do as a (fifth-year) senior, which almost always means you’re going to play a lot of minutes and have a lot more production.”
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Nagy always has one or two players sitting out each year. This season, it’s freshman Andre Harris and sophomore transfer Tim Finke.
Redshirt candidates tend to be obvious. The 6-9 Love arrived on campus at 300 pounds after being injured playing football and missing his senior season in basketball.
Spending a year as a practice-only player — and honing his body in the weight room — turned him into an All-Horizon League pick as a redshirt freshman.
“Usually, it’s a bigger kid that’s been slower to develop. But you look at our guys now, and some of them physically could have used a redshirt year — like Trey (Calvin),” Nagy said of the 6-foot, 165-pound freshman. “But we felt like, after watching him, he was going to play some significant minutes for us, so it wasn’t worth it.”
The one downside to redshirting players is the grad-transfer rule, which allows them to change schools and play right away if they have their degree, and some mid-major schools have lost stars to higher-profile programs.
“People at our level get nervous about sitting somebody out,” Nagy said. “But we talk about that ahead of time with our guys, and we fully expect them to stay committed to us.”
But Nagy said top programs will pursue potential grad transfers behind the scenes, which could already be happening with Love.
“Everybody in the country knows he’s getting ready to graduate, and I’m sure people are reaching out to his AAU coach and doing everything they can,” he said.
But Love seems like a player totally invested in the program, and Nagy said, “I don’t spend any time worrying about that.”