WSU basketball learning to play fast, not furious

It’s been a speedy and, at times, sloppy summer for the Wright State men’s basketball team as the Raiders try to get used to first-year coach Scott Nagy’s up-tempo system.

“Right now there’s a lot of mistakes and some frustration, but we just love how they respond when we coach them,” Nagy said Monday morning after one of the team’s final summer workouts.

Even though some mistakes are expected, especially when speed mixes with the unfamiliarity of a new system, one particular stretch of careless possessions led Nagy to stop a full-court drill to have a talk with the group.

“When you play fast there’s a tendency to turn the ball over, that’s what I was telling them,” he said. “At some point we have to get used to playing quickly without turning the ball over. And if we can’t, then we have to slow it down.”

The faster pace is something the players have embraced.

“We like getting up and down the floor,” said senior forward Steven Davis, who is back to full strength after missing the second half of his sophomore season and all of last year with a foot injury.

“It’s really exciting,” added junior guard Grant Benzinger. “It’s not just the running, it’s the whole motion concept, moving without the ball, back-cutting, things we didn’t really do last year. Now we’re emphasizing it. We’re just not very good at it right now.”

WSU ranked eighth in scoring offense the last two seasons despite owning the fourth-best shooting percentage last year.

The Raiders are hoping if they push the pace they can increase their ranks in both categories by getting even higher-percentage shots, and more of them.

But first, Nagy said, he needs to see more control and more commitment.

“When you recruit kids, they all say they want to run and play fast,” he said. “But when you show them what it takes to play fast, they’re a little less willing to do it because it means you have to run every time and run hard. Well that’s hard to do because that makes you tired.

“You have to make a commitment to it every time,” he continued. “You can run and run and run and never see the basketball. Then after a while you get tired of it and you’re like ‘why would I run.’ Well you run because you might get your teammate open because you’re running, even if you never see the ball. So getting them to see that commitment level it takes is important.”

Some of the players benefiting most from the change of pace are the three incoming freshmen, along with senior transfer Mike LaTulip (Illinois).

“They almost have an advantage over the normal freshmen because this is new for everybody, not just new for them,” Nagy said.

“That’s a good thing about having a new coach, everyone starts back at square one and everyone has to earn their spot,” Benzinger said. “It’s really competitive right now.”