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Scott Nagy: The Big Man Whisperer

Wright State looks to close in on another Horizon League crown with two games against Northern Kentucky this weekend

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 22 Wright State at IUPUI Photo by Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

There are coaches who are known for certain things in college basketball.

Jim Boeheim is known for his 2-3 zone defense, Pete Carril is known for his Princeton-style offense, and Tony Bennett is known for his low-scoring games. Scott Nagy is beginning to develop the same reputation with developing big men.

Nagy spent an astonishing 21 seasons at South Dakota State before landing at Wright State in 2016. He took the Jackrabbits to three NCAA tournaments in his tenure and helped to develop two bona fide stars. One was top shooter Nate Wolters, and the other was one of the best mid-major big men in recent history, Mike Daum.

Daum only played one season under Nagy, but made his presence known. He was named the Summit League’s Freshman of the Year, leading the Jackrabbits to an NCAA Tournament appearance and nearly beating a fifth-seeded Maryland team.

He finished his time in Brookings as an All-American and three-time Summit League Player of the Year. Scott Nagy has recently compared him to one of his newer players at Wright State, Grant Basile.

“When we recruited Grant, we saw a lot of Mike in Grant,” Nagy said earlier this month. “Mike was 6-9, had great hands. He struggled his first year, and we redshirted him. Grant’s was a different struggle with an ankle injury (resulting in a medical-redshirt year). But we see a lot of the same things: very talented offensively, and Grant is probably a little better defensively.”

Although Nagy praised Basile’s defensive talents, he is one of the best offensive players in the country as sophomore. Basile ranks in the top 30 in offensive rating and true shooting percentage, good for first in the Horizon League in both categories. He also boasts the third-best two point shooting percentage in the league.

Basile has scored 20+ four times this year. When he is not on his A-game, Loudon Love usually is. They complement each other like peas in a pod.

In the last eight Wright State basketball games, either Basile or Love has finished as the top scorer. Love struggled to find an offensive flow early but scored a combined 50 points in last weekend’s series against Milwaukee and a career-high 34 points against Robert Morris to end the month of January.

“It’s nice to see the ball go in when I struggled with that throughout the season, but everything else staying constant, I’d like to turn those turnovers around,” said Love after Friday’s win against Milwaukee.

That’s the type of player he is, a constant improver. He has upped his points per game every season, and with a good weekend against Northern Kentucky, he could average a double-double for the first time in his career (only .1 rebound away from averaging one). He is also the school’s all-time leader in rebounds.

The gentle giant was named the 2019 Horizon League Player of the Year, along with garnering all-league honors in both his first two seasons. He is one of the rare “go-to-guys” listed on KenPom, as he ranks 22nd in the nation in offensive rating.

When either one of the two big men is focused on too much, it leaves the other shooters open. That’s why Wright State ranks 36th in the nation in three-point shooting percentage. A new man goes off every night, whether it is Grand Canyon transfer Tim Finke, potential first-team All-Horizon League member Tanner Holden, Jaylon Hall, or Trey Calvin.

All of them are sophomores along with Grant Basile, creating a scary team for years to come in the Horizon League.

The Raiders will look to win at least a share of this season’s Horizon League title with a weekend series against Northern Kentucky. They’re secured a top two seed in the Horizon League tournament, but splitting the regular-season series with Cleveland State has lead to a number of confusing potential tie-breaker scenarios should both teams end the year with the same conference record. To get to those tiebreakers and secure a number one seed, the Raiders need to finish the season with two wins in Highland Heights. Scott Nagy doesn’t need to look far to find the two players to lead him there.