Greene County News
FAIRBORN — Many college basketball coaches, when new to the job, will require some time to mold a team in their image. When Wright State’s Scott Nagy looks at his first group of players, however, he already sees a lot of himself in them.
“I love winning, but I hate losing more,” said Nagy, named head coach in April after 21 seasons at South Dakota State (410-240). “I don’t like how (losing) makes me feel. I don’t like to be around people whom it doesn’t bother immensely. I think this group has that. They’re ultra competitive—I mean really competitive, almost to the point where they sometimes go overboard. They want to win.”
That attitude will serve the Raiders well as they attempt to take the next step after finishing second or third in the Horizon League standings and second in the Horizon League tournament three times in the last four years.
Four players who took part in at least 30 games for last season’s 22-13 team return, but Nagy must also find a way to blend in seven players who did not suit up for the Raiders at all last winter. Those uncertainties led to the league’s coaches and media picking Wright State to finish fifth this time around.
“In my opinion, my realistic view is that we could win the league,” Nagy said. “I just can’t think another way and I don’t want our players thinking any other way.”
Senior Mark Alstork, the Raiders’ leading scorer last season (12.4 points per game), was a second-team all-league pick during the preseason. Nagy briefly toyed with the idea of moving the 6-foot-5 Alstork to point guard during the fall before shifting him back to the perimeter.
“We found that if we get Mark Alstork out in front of the basketball, we can throw it ahead to him,” Nagy said. “He is much more aggressive and has better opportunities to score when the defense isn’t completely back.”
Another offensive weapon on the perimeter is junior Grant Benzinger, who followed up his All-Newcomer Team freshman year by averaging 7.6 points and leading the team with 62 3-point goals as a sophomore.
Junior Justin Mitchell and sophomore Mark Hughes will share the point guard duties when the season opens. They combined for 68 assists and 33 turnovers last season.
The Raiders are keeping their fingers crossed for the return of senior power forward Steven Davis from foot surgery. Davis hasn’t played since December 27, 2014, when he was first injured after averaging 20 minutes, 7.1 points and 3.3 rebounds as a sophomore.
“Steven is super coachable and a very versatile player for us,” Nagy said. “He is 6-8 and such a good athlete. There are a lot of things we can do with him defensively and he has shot the ball very well in practice.”
The center position will feature an interesting combination of redshirt sophomore Parker Ernsthausen and freshman Loudon Love. Ernsthausen was 6-9 and 195 pounds when he signed with the Raiders two years ago, but has beefed up a bit to 235. Love was 6-9 and 300 pounds when he signed in June, but has slimmed down a bit. He did not play basketball as a high school senior after suffering an ACL tear in his final high school football game.
One newcomer who should see a lot of action is senior shooting guard Mike La Tulip, a transfer from Illinois who redshirted last season.
Guards Alan Vest and Trey Stacey played in 21 and 13 games respectively for the Raiders last season. Newcomers on the roster who will add depth include junior college transfer guard Tye Wilburn, sophomore Adam Giles and freshmen Everett Winchester and Ryan Custer.
Nagy said he expects the Raiders — second in the league in points allowed and field goal percentage allowed — to be solid on defense again. He expects to improve on the worst offensive rebounding in the league. He plans an offensive pace that will generate more free throw attempts.
And he doesn’t expect to finish fifth.
The Raiders open the season on the road 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 11 at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. The home opener is 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 15, against the Miami RedHawks. For tickets, contact the athletic department at 937-775-4934 or go to wsuraiders.com.