When Wright State was picked to finish first in the Horizon League preseason poll , it wasn’t exactly a surprise. Five prominent college-basketball magazines and websites — Athlon, Lindy’s, Blue Ribbon, Midmajormadness.com and Three-man-weave.com — had already put the Raiders at the top of the heap in their projections.
Ordinarily, third-year coach Scott Nagy would be leery of that kind of recognition and feel his players might need reminders not to buy into the hype, but he’s not worried about this group.
“I think our guys understand what it takes to be good. I don’t think they’re overconfident,” Nagy said.
When he talked to the players about the league poll, he liked their response.
“There was a soberness about it, understanding we’re going to get everybody’s best shot,” he said. “We’d better be ready. We don’t have the kind of team that can just roll in and beat people because we’re super talented. We’re going to have to out-work people.”
The Raiders, though, wouldn’t have been picked as preseason favorites if they didn’t have the pieces to duplicate what they did last year when they finished 25-10 and reached the NCAA tourney for the first time since 2007 .
Louden Love is a preseason first-team all-league pick, while Mark Hughes made the second team. Cole Gentry gave the Raiders their first true point guard under Nagy when he became eligible after 10 games last year, and the 6-foot-11 Parker Ernsthausen will anchor the interior defense again.
The Raiders also have depth in athletic wing Jaylon Hall, who averaged 9.1 points as a freshman last season, and Bill Wampler, who made 60 three-pointers and averaged 9.6 points in 2016-17 before transferring from Drake.
“Bill is going to play a lot of minutes for us at the 3 and 4. I would say Parker is starting to score better, which is a big plus for us. Last year, a lot of people didn’t guard him. They’ll HAVE to guard him this year,” Nagy said.
“Cole has gotten a lot better offensively. He just works his tail off. And Jaylon has grown. He’s almost 6-7. We can play him at a lot of different positions.”
The 6-9, 270-pound Love, the leading returning scorer at 12.9 per game, will be get plenty of touches, but the sophomore center believes the Raiders have a slew of capable scorers.
“Bill shoots the heck out of the ball. His preseason stats — he might be better shooting from 3-point than I am from under the basket,” Love said with a chuckle.
“Bill, Mark, Cole — they all have a chance to fight for the second team or first team (all-league). The way we look to play, which is more of a team game than maybe some other schools, it’s open for anybody.”
Love is also optimistic about this season because, he said: “The bond we have as a team is special. It’s unique. Our chemistry is even higher than it was last year.”
One college basketball analyst who knows the Raiders well expects them to be even more of a force this year.
“I remember walking into the gym the very first time I saw Louden Love. I watched him run and catch it, and I’m thinking to myself, ‘What I would give to get to coach that kid for the next four years,’” said Mark Adams, a Springboro resident, former college coach and ESPN broadcaster for the last 20 years. “He can create space with his footwork and broad shoulders, and he catches everything you throw to him. He’s got a great motor, wants to get better and has tremendous upside.
“When I watched Cole Gentry for the first time, I felt like I was watching some altar boy,” he added of the baby-faced South Dakota State transfer. “And then I watched his decision-making. One reason Scott Nagy has always been successful is that he has a cerebral point guard who always understands how to play. That’s what Wright State has in Cole. And that’s why they’re going to be even better this year.”