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Donlon eager to take advantage of summer sessions

Wright State men’s basketball coach Billy Donlon spent Monday and Tuesday at a coaching clinic at Towson University in Baltimore. A coach of the one better non-BCS programs there talked about not doing any offensive drills in fall preseason practices.

That’s the kind of thinking Donlon loves because although he knows his team has to get better offensively in 2013-14, his teams will always win with defense.

“I’m certainly not the only guy in the country that has this mantra,” Donlon said.

Two months after the of the longest season he’s ever experienced, Donlon talked Wednesday about the summer practices ahead and what his team needs to work on between now and the first game in November.

Last year was the first year Division I coaches could work with their players in the summer, and what the Raiders did last summer played a big part in what they accomplished last season. They finished 23-13, placed third in the Horizon League regular-season standings, finished second in the conference tournament and advanced to the semifinals of the College Basketball Invitational.

“No question, the summer helps,” Donlon said. “Being able to be in the gym, working with guys on things they need to work on. We have to shoot the ball better. We have to get bigger and stronger. That’s always critical every offseason — improving in the weight room. Some guys have done a good job. They need to be better athletes, improve their agility, their change of direction, all those things.”

The Raiders finished last in the Horizon League in scoring offense (62.0), but first in scoring defense (58.5). They weren’t a bad shooting team, placing fourth in field-goal percentage (43.9) and sixth in 3-point percentage (33.9). If they can improve those percentages a notch or two, it could help them make the leap from good team to great team.

“When we shot better than 35 percent from 3, our record was phenomenal,” Donlon said. “Shooting 35 or 36 percent is good, but not great. I think we have a couple guys who are knockdown guys. We have a couple of guys who are probably streaky. They have to become more consistent.”

Donlon thinks other coaches use Wright State’s scoring average to lure recruits away from Wright State.

“Our style of play is a not a slow one,” he said. “The problem is it takes the other team a very long time to score. You don’t get a shot in 25 seconds against our defense. We don’t play slow. Reggie (Arceneaux) and those guys get out and run. Our style of play is very misleading. We improved our scoring a little bit by the end.”

Wright State has already started summer practices. It gets eight weeks together on the court. It will not practice eight weeks in a row. Instead, it will alternate practice time with time away from the court.

Most of the focus is on individual work. That’s good because the Raiders are short-handed.

Three freshman left the program. Cole Darling won’t practice until August, Donlon said, as he recovers from a shoulder injury. Matt Vest and AJ Pacher are also still recovering from injuries and aren’t practicing yet.

For the guys who are practicing, Donlon will be paying special attention to how hard they’re practicing.

“There’s no question last offseason guys were hungry,” Donlon said. “We had been humbled by the year we had. Now it’s, ‘How are we going to handle success.’ I think they’ve been pretty good so far.”

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