Former Raider great Grote pleased with program’s growth, believes future is bright

1982-83 Wright State University basketball, NCAA Division II National Champions, (sitting): T.C. Johnson, Steve Purcell, Anthony Bias, Tom Holzapfel, Gary Monroe, Andy Warner, Fred Moore, Phil Benninger, (standing): Rob Smock (manager), Bob Grote (asst. coach), Rob Sanders, Eric Ernst, Theron Barbour, Mark McCormick, Mike Grote, Eric Ellis, Ralph Underhill (head coach), Jim Brown (asst. coach), David Shon (trainer)

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1982-83 Wright State University basketball, NCAA Division II National Champions, (sitting): T.C. Johnson, Steve Purcell, Anthony Bias, Tom Holzapfel, Gary Monroe, Andy Warner, Fred Moore, Phil Benninger, (standing): Rob Smock (manager), Bob Grote (asst. coach), Rob Sanders, Eric Ernst, Theron Barbour, Mark McCormick, Mike Grote, Eric Ellis, Ralph Underhill (head coach), Jim Brown (asst. coach), David Shon (trainer)

FAIRBORN — Bob Grote walked through the crowd at Wright State’s NCAA Selection Show party Sunday in relative anonymity. He spent time talking with friends, but few in the audience would have known that true Raider royalty was among them.

Grote was a Division-II All-American as a senior in 1976 — five years after the inaugural season at the school — and was one of the true foundation-builders for the program.

He averaged 17.1 points in his final two years and led the team to its first 20-win season. They’d have to wait another four years for the arrival of famed coach Ralph Underhill to post another one.

The 67-year-old Cincinnati Elder grad attends games regularly, even making it to Indianapolis for the Horizon League tourney last week, and he takes pride in what the Raiders accomplished this year because he knows better than most how far the program has come.

Standing in the middle of the Student Union lounge, he was reminded of those pre-Nutter Center days, saying: “Right upstairs was our gym. And right behind us was the locker room and training rooms.

“When you come into something early, you want to do it in a way that you can be part of change, to make things better. When you see this (celebration), you know all that work was worth something.”

The Raiders abandoned tiny McLin Gym for their 10,000-seat home in 1990.

The Setzer Pavillion, which houses a practice court and plush locker rooms, came along in 2005.

Grote was a two-time co-MVP, sharing the award with Lyle Falknor in 1974-75 and Rick Martin in 1975-76. And he’s one of only 15 players in the 1,000-point, 500-rebound club, along with current stars Tanner Holden and Grant Basile.

He helped pave the way for the D-II national title in 1983, the jump to D-I in ‘87 and the four NCAA appearances since then.

Two of those trips have come in the last four years, and he’s thrilled with how coach Scott Nagy seems to be taking the Raiders to new heights.

“Coach Nagy has really brought the program together from a family standpoint. And execution-wise, they do the things they need to do to be victorious,” the Wright State Hall of Famer said.

“They have that family unit and family feel, and when you combine that with winning on the floor, life is good.”

Grote’s priority after learning the Raiders would face Bryant in a play-in game at UD Arena was to scrounge up a ticket (his Raider connections have their limits).

He knows how important a win — even against another 16 seed — would be.

“It puts you on the map,” he said. “It gives you the confidence you can compete at that level, and you’re ready to take the next step.

“Those kinds of things come in increments. Until you do it, you can’t get to the next level.”

Nagy, of course, would agree. And they’re also aligned in their thinking that the Raiders look to be on the ascent in the college basketball world.

They’ll return their top seven scorers and rebounders next season and signed two impact recruits in 6-foot-8 guard Drey Carter of Westerville South and 6-4 guard Logan Woods of Fairfield.

“They have an opportunity to be really good next year — especially with the two kids coming in. I’ve seen them both play. I think they’re going to be really good college players. Both are really athletic and long and do things the right way,” he said.

Grote likes how Nagy puts as much an emphasis on character as ability.

“There are two things that coaches do: They either get kids that fit their system or they just go get the best talent they can and try to make them part of the system,” he said. “These kids — just like the guys who are here — are family oriented, good people, and they play really hard. They care.

“Both have been to multiple games here already. They’re already part of the program. They’ll both fit in really well.”

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