Freshman Louden Love may be the only Wright State player who can give the team a lift by doing next to nothing.
The 6-foot-9, 275-pound center poses a conundrum for most opponents when he plants himself inside. If they help out defensively to keep him from getting easy baskets, they know other players are roaming free for uncontested 3-pointers.
“He’s got the body of a senior already, being so big. And I’m getting open shots just because of how he posts up,” senior wing Grant Benzinger said. “Teams have to be cognizant of how good he is, and the better he does, the more open I’ll be. It’s nice to have him.”
Love is averaging 9.8 points and shooting a team-best 52.7 percent from the field. He also has a chance to lead the Horizon League in rebounds this season. He’s pulling down 8.3 per game, while co-leaders Kameron Chatman of Detroit and Bryce Nze of Milwaukee are averaging 8.4.
“He’s hard to block out. You can’t move him. And you see when he sets a ball screen, it’s like running into a brick wall,” coach Scott Nagy said. “He just creates so much space. He’s strong and athletic. He’s a quick guy.”
Nagy, though, would like to see Love take more initiative on offense. Four Raiders average more points than him, led by Benzinger’s 14.0 mark.
“I really want him to desire a bigger role. I think he’s trying to take a backseat to the older guys. I want him to be more hungry for the ball and call for it,” Nagy said.
Love is still somewhat raw because he’s played only nine games in the last three years. He missed his senior season at Geneva (Ill.) High School after suffering a torn ACL in his left knee in football, and he redshirted last year to get leaner and fitter after showing up at 320 pounds.
That may explain his Shaquille O’Neal-like travails at the free-throw line. Love has made only 10 of 33 attempts (30.3 percent), and it’s gotten bad enough that Wright State fans erupt into exaggerated cheers when he does make one.
“Personally, it’s just in my head a lot,” Love said. “The thing is, I’ve been telling coach (Nagy), ‘There’s nowhere to go but up.’
“We’re going to work on it a lot, and I have to adjust some things because it can’t get much worse.”
Love is putting in extra time with an assistant coach, and Nagy has stayed away because he doesn’t want the player’s head cluttered with too many pointers.
But after watching him score a career-high 16 points but struggle with a 2-for-6 effort on foul shots against Ohio Valley on Tuesday, Nagy decided it’s time to intervene.
“His form is not great. It’s too long. He needs to shorten it up, and he needs to move toward the basket. His body is always pulling away from the basket,” Nagy said.
“At this point, it’s become more mental than anything. I told him, ‘You could shoot left-handed and close your eyes and shoot the percentage you’re shooting.’ He knows that. It’s just become a mental thing, and it’s hard to relax once you go down that road.”
Those boisterous cheers aren’t helping. Benzinger even felt compelled to stand up for his teammate because he knows they only create more pressure.
“I wish the fans would trust in him and have more faith him. He puts in the time, and, one day, it’ll show,” Benzinger said.
Kent State at Wright State, 3 p.m., ESPN3, 106.5