Cole Gentry bucked the popular trend when he pledged his allegiance to Wright State University men’s basketball coach Scott Nagy. And he did it twice.
Rather than fleeing to another program to rid himself of an initial commitment, Gentry stayed with Nagy, even when that meant relocating from South Dakota State, Nagy’s previous longtime coaching position, to the Fairborn campus more than two years ago.
“I wasn’t recruited by a lot of guys out of high school,” said Gentry, who saw extensive playing time in his first game as a Raider, a 77-69 comeback win at Toledo on Saturday afternoon.
“(SDS was) one of the staffs that really trusted me and were there the whole time. I really trusted them. I liked (Nagy) enough to go to South Dakota State and I liked him enough to go to Wright State. I love it (at WSU) and it’s been good.”
It’s all good for the Raiders as the holidays approach, too. Besides a new face in the lineup, it was the Raiders’ first road win after four tries and their third straight win.
A 5-foot-10 sophomore guard, Gentry was a main sub and played starter minutes. He scored seven points, including a 3-pointer, and had four rebounds and a steal. He also seamlessly fit into a new rotation by running the offense from the point.
Gentry’s presence allowed Justin Mitchell to slide over to shooting guard. Mitchell responded with 18 points, 12 rebounds and a nod from Nagy.
“Justin doesn’t like me saying this, but Justin’s not a natural point guard,” Nagy said. “We’ve won 27 games with Justin at point and he’s done a great job, but (playing Gentry) also makes Justin a better player because it frees him up to do other things that he does so well like rebound and play defense.”
»RELATED: Photo gallery of WSU at Toledo
Grant Benzinger hit four 3-pointers and matched Mitchell with 18 points and a marathon 36 minutes of playing time. Freshman Loudon Love added 11 points and 12 rebounds and Mark Hughes 10 points in a great display of balanced offense.
“We don’t have a superstar on the team, which is kind of nice to be honest,” Nagy said. “We have a lot of options of who can score.”
Nate Navigato led Toledo with 16 points and Tre’Shawn Fretcher added 15 points, 10 rebounds and five steals.
Gentry left South Dakota State midway through his freshman season and sat out all of last season as a transfer. He also had to sit out WSU’s first 10 games this season and was eligible the second semester.
“It felt good to get out there,” he said. “It’s a lot of practicing these last two years without playing.”
• Love had one point and three turnovers in the first half, when WSU trailed 34-33 at the break. That earned the rugged freshman a halftime challenge from Nagy and he responded.
A 6-9 native of Geneva, Illinois, Love dominated inside in the second half and often prevented Toledo from getting second shots. He scored 10 of his 11 points in that span and also shut down Toledo’s 6-11 redshirt sophomore Luke Knapke, a developing center and Marion Local High School grad.
“Love really dominated on the interior,” Rockets coach Tod Kowalczyk said. “He’s so strong. That was a big part of the game.”
No surprise in the physicality Love provides. He was a two-sport standout at Geneva and could have played NCAA D-I scholarship football.
• Knapke was coming off his second career double for Toledo (5-5), with 18 points and a team-high 11 rebounds in a shootout loss to Marshall. Against the Raiders he was good for four points, seven rebounds, one block and a grudging admiration for Love.
Knapke said he’s gained 25 pounds courtesy of the Rockets’ rigorous offseason weight-training program since graduating from Marion Local. His final Flyers’ game as a senior was a regional final loss to Tri-Village at Fairmont’s Trent Arena. Tri-Village won a Division IV state title that season.
“I don’t like to remember that,” said Knapke.
• WSU junior Alan Vest (Chaminade Julienne) hasn’t played the last two games after going for a season-high four points against Ohio Valley. He didn’t dress but was on the bench because of “illness,” a WSU official said.
• That was the first of three straight road games for WSU. On Tuesday, Wright State is at Missouri State and Friday at Georgia Tech.
Wright State at Missouri State, 8 p.m., 106.5