By Jeff Louderback
As the Final Four tips off Saturday evening, excitement is already brewing for next year’s edition of Wright State men’s basketball. Thoughts of 2019-2020 started to percolate the day after Scott Nagy’s team lost a hard-fought 75-69 clash at Clemson in the first round of the NIT.
For the third consecutive season in his three-year tenure as head coach at Wright State, Nagy guided his team to 20 or more wins, earning Horizon League Coach of the Year honors for the second consecutive season. Yet the 21-14 record that included a Horizon League regular season championship did not fully reach expectations as the Raiders fell to rival Northern Kentucky in the conference tournament finals.
Still, anticipation for the next campaign is stirring because:
- The Raiders return their three top scorers and anchors in senior point guard and playmaker Cole Gentry (11.7 points per game), senior forward Bill Wampler (14.9) and junior center Loudon Love (15.1 points, 8.2 rebounds).
- Horizon League All-Freshman Team guard Malachi Smith (5.4 points, 2.9 rebounds) and fellow sophomore-to-be guard Skyelar Potter (5.8 points, 3.8 rebounds) are dynamic players who made significant contributions this season, especially after the Raiders lost Jaylon Hall to a season-ending shoulder injury in December.
- A 6-foot-5 guard, Hall averaged 9.1 points as a freshman on the 2017-2018 team that lost to Tennessee in the first round of the NCAA tournament. He was expected to play a pivotal role for the 2018-2019 Raiders. His season was cut short when he underwent shoulder surgery after appearing in just one game. He will have three years of eligibility remaining.
- Grant Basile, a 6-foot-9 freshman forward and a coach’s son who was first-team All-State in Wisconsin as a high school senior, is also expected to be healthy next season after a foot injury limited him to just four games.
The Raiders are expected to have more talented depth than in previous seasons with those returning players alone, but what could catapult Wright State to one of its best seasons as a Division I program is the recruiting class.
The Ohio-Kentucky all-star basketball series will be held at Thomas More University’s Connor Convocation Center on April 13 . Wright State fans can watch Ohio Prep Sportswriters Association first team All-Ohio selection Tanner Holden. The 6-foot-6 forward from Wheelersburg High School averaged 27 points per game while shooting 64 percent from the field and 43 percent from behind the 3-point line. He also pulled down 11 rebounds per game and dished out two assists per game. He will play on a team at the all-star event that features University of Cincinnati signee and Ohio’s Mr. Basketball Samari Curtis (Xenia), Wisconsin-Green Bay bound Amari Davis (Trotwood-Madison), future West Virginia University player Miles McBride (Moeller) and Virginia Tech signee Andre Gordon (Sidney).
“Tanner is another versatile wing player, that could even play the four for us depending on the lineup,” Nagy said about Holden, who is also highly regarded on the gridiron. “We like the fact that he is a multi-sport athlete because we know it gives him toughness.”
Another incoming freshman who is mentioned in the same sentences as Curtis, Davis, Gordon and McBride is Lyndhurst Brush guard Andre Harris. The 6-foot-3 guard
was a first team All-Ohio selection after averaging 17 points, eight rebounds and six assists per game.
“Andre is a tough-minded wing player and a tremendous athlete who shoots it well and can guard anybody,” Nagy said, emphasizing that his Raiders teams pride themselves on defensive fundamentals and intensity.
Nagy returned to his South Dakota roots and signed Noah Freidel, a 6-foot-4 guard from Tea Area High School who was named South Dakota Class A Player of the Year. Freidel averaged 22.8 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.2 steals while shooting 54 percent from the field and helping lead the Titans to their second state title in three years.
“Noah is a smart, versatile scorer,” Coach Nagy said. “He gives us versatility at the two and three spots.”
Trey Calvin, a 6-foot guard from St. Viator High School in Illinois, gained
First Team Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press All Area honors and
Illinois Basketball Coaches Association (IBCA) Class 3A Second-Team All-State recognition after averaging 17 points, six rebounds and three assists, and shooting 43 percent from beyond the arc, though he missed six weeks due to a hand injury.
“Trey is a tremendous ballhandler and shooter,” Nagy said. “We think he can play the one and two very well at the college level. He is a tremendous defender as well, which will give him a chance to play for us very early.”
The Raiders have one scholarship left to award.