Guest Columnist: The State of Wright State Basketball

Where do I begin. Scott Nagy’s second team will be impacted with multiple Nagy recruits for the first time. Let’s start by covering who is not back this year. Horizon League first teamer Mark Alstork is playing his graduate transfer year at Illinois. Nuff said, no discussions of what might have been, good luck Mark and time to move on. Also gone is previous grad transfer Mike LaTulip, a Illinois walk on who provided valuable service and shooting to Wright State last year. Steven Davis was a fifth year one year wonder, a non qualifier who missed about 1 3/4th years due to injury and ended up close to a Masters Degree and a spot in the NCAA dunk contest. What could have been if the NCAA had granted a 6th year for injury eligibility, and let’s not talk about what would have happened if the request had come from a Power 5 Conference Team. The NCAA is an impartial arbiter, correct? Last and most troubling, Freshman Ryan Custer was the only true first year player to get playing time last year, and he provided admirable support, working hard on defense and showing unexpected offense at times. Ryan suffered a spinal cord injury in April at a Miami U., Ohio party, and is undergoing rigorous medical rehabilitation. We hope and pray that he will regain as much of his physical ability as possible, this is much more important than his Wright State playing career.

Ok, on to the 17-18 team. Grant Benzinger and Justin Mitchell will be team leaders as seniors. Six foot three inch Grant started as the long gunner who has continued to build his game, he also draws defensive assignments against (much) taller opponents, and scraps and claws. Justin is a 6-4 guard who took over the point last year due to a lack of a true point guard, led the team in rebounding, and is another fighter who has been a big part of Wright State success over the last three years. 6-4 Jr. Mark Hughes has apparently shown tremendous potential in practice and has yet to translate it games, now is the time Mark. Allen Vest, 6-3 Jr. guard is also graded incomplete, he was one of the leading high school scorers in tough Dayton area basketball, son of WSU hall of famer Mark Vest and younger brother of recent Raider starter Matt Vest. Tye Wilburn is a 5-11 walk on guard who played last season and brought high energy when he was in the game. This year the team will add two true point guards, a issue that bothered Coach Nagy all last season. True Freshman 6-1 Tyler Mitchell was a standout in the greater Cincinnati area, led his team to success as a Jr., and watched the team falter in his injury absence as a Sr. Cole Gentry played the first couple months as a Red Shirt Freshman at Coach Nagy’s former South Dakota State, then transferred at the break to Wright State. Gentry will be eligible around 15 December when finals are over and will have 2 1/2 years at Wright State. He was one of the top players in Chicago land as a high school senior.

Again Wright State will be depth challenged at the “Bigs”, the loss of 6-7 Ryan Custer hurts. Non scholarship 6-11 Parker Ernsthausen is a Red Shirt Jr., and has continued to improve over his career, providing valuable defense and surprising offense at times, hopefully he continues to build his game this year. Loudon Love was considered the number two center in Illinois, and expected to play college football Coach Nagy took the Wright State job and convinced him to change his commitment to Wright State from South Dakota State. He is listed at 6-9 300, but watching him in person and on TV I believe he may have dropped 30-40 pounds while working out his red shirt year rehabbing a football knee injury last year. Hopefully Wright State may have the dominant post player they had during the late 90s, early 2000s (NBA first rounder Vitaly Potopenko, Israel Sheinfeld). Wright State’s additional front line support will be provided by several redshirt or incoming freshmen, 6-6 Everett Winchester sat out last season with Louden Love, 6-7 James Manns spent an additional year in prep school in the Columbus area, and 6-5 freshman Jaylon Hall was a district player of the year finalist in the Louisville area, always a hot basketball talent region. All had good high school careers but are inexperienced, and Manns and Hall could be redshirt candidates depending on where they slot in to the Wright State rotation. Billy Wampler, a 6-6 G/F transfer from Drake (freshman starter) will sit out this year then have three years of eligibility remaining.

I believe Wright State is getting closer to where Coach Nagy wants to be, more athletic, but not yet bigger and deeper (think Oakland), even though we did beat them by 21 last year at home. Predictions? Beats the heck out of me. As was a tradition over the Billy Donlon years and with Scott Nagy in his first two years as he tries to remake the roster to his liking, we are looking at 5-6 new players competing for playing time. “The experts” typically pick Wright State near the bottom of the HL (thank you Youngstown State, but wait, new coach, whole new roster, is there another Northern Kentucky emerging). Wright State then plays above expectations and competes for but cannot win the Horizon League. Maybe not this year, but Coach Nagy has a plan, is working to assemble the players, wants to make Wright State a perennial Horizon League Championship contender, and be competitive in games with Power 5 conferences, who knows, maybe the unnamed cross town school (whisper Dayton) will be forced to rekindle the rivalry that they lead 5 games to 3.

That’s My Story and I’m sticking to it. Everything in this post is from minimal information I have gleaned coming out of Wright State and Dayton newspaper sources, message board info and youtube clips, Nothing is coming out of summer workouts, no indication of any late Juco, grad transfer, or other roster additions, it is like injury info, a lower body injury, no timetable, no nothin. Where did all the information go?

Raider Doug

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Analyzing 59 Classic Films

The new book is out now.  Get it now at a recently reduced price!

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1546777636

Cover Final

 

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Breaking News: Alstork Commits to Illinois

Wright State graduate transfer Mark Alstork will play the 2017-18 season with the Illinois Fighting Illini. The 6’5″ guard averaged 19.0 points per game last season en route to being named to the All-Horizon League First Team.  He scored over 1,000 points as a Wright State Raider, despite just playing there the last two seasons. He played as a true freshman at Ball State before transferring to WSU.  Alstork will finish his college career with the unique distinction of playing for a different head coach during each season that he played.  He picked the Illini over South Carolina, LSU, and Pittsburgh, and also considered Louisville and Georgetown earlier in the process.

Expect Alstork, a versatile guard who can create his own shot and is adept at driving to the basket, to flourish under new Illinois coach Brad Underwood’s offensive-minded system. Despite losing guards Malcolm Hill and Tracy Abrams to graduation, the Illini will have a strong chance to qualify for the NCAA Tournament next season with an at-large bid. Alstork was one of the best players in the Horizon League the past two seasons.  Given his strong ball-handling skills, ability to shoot the ball from anywhere on the court, and his competitive spirit, Alstork’s talents should translate into him becoming one of the top guards in the Big Ten next season.

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Detroit Mercy Adds Transfer Prince; More Signings Expected Next Week

Titans head coach Bacari Alexander announced that the team has added Long Beach State graduate transfer Roschon Prince, per a Friday afternoon release on Twitter. The bulky, 6’6” forward will be eligible to play immediately and will be with the Titans for one season. Prince was the 2012-2013 Gatorade Player of the Year in California after Roschon  Princestarring at Long Beach Poly High School, where he averaged over 20 points and 7 rebounds per games as a senior. Prince then played for one season at USC for newly-hired head coach Andy Enfield, where he averaged 4.2 points and 2.7 rebounds per game in limited action. Prince then sat out the 2014-15 season after transferring to his hometown school to play for head coach Dan Monson.  Last season, Prince averaged 9.4 points and nearly 7 rebounds per game for a 49ers team that finished 15-19 overall. Prince is more of a power forward at this level, but he can play small forward in a lineup with more size. He should see a significant number of minutes next season.

In a subsequent Twitter posting yesterday, Alexander wrote in-part “Excited to roll out more recruiting developments in the coming week!”  Detroit Mercy hopes a strong recruiting class can help them bounce back from an 8-23 record last season. But the immediate impact of the incoming freshman will likely not be huge, as the Titans will return a veteran team, led by one of the Horizon League’s best backcourts in Josh McFolley and Corey Allen. Transfer swingman Kameron Chatman is also expected to be a major contributor. The big question mark remains whether Second Team All-Horizon League player Jaleel Hogan will return to Detroit Mercy. He announced a few weeks ago in a social media post that he was leaving the school, even though he has one year of eligibility left. The Titans have not yet publicly released any information on his status for next season.

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Youngstown State is a Feel-Good Story of this College Basketball Season

To appreciate where the Youngstown State men’s basketball team is going (the Horizon League Tournament semi-finals and possibly their first NCAA Tournament), you first need to understand where this program came from.  This has been a program with little success. Since joining the Horizon League in the 2001-02 season, the Penguins have had only two seasons with overall winning records. A tie for fourth place was their highest finish in the regular season standings. The Penguins overall record in Horizon League regular season play is 75-195. They have struggled even more in the Horizon League Tournament by going 4-15.  To translate these numbers, the Penguins have been decent at best on the hardwood. But more often, they have been below average. This is in contrast to having had some very good players over the years. In the Horizon League era, Quin Humphrey was a two-time All-League First Team Selection, while Kendrick Perry made the first team three seasons in a row. Keston Roberts, Damian Eargle, John Barber, and Image result for Youngstown State PenguinsBobby Hain were other notable players to wear a Penguins uniform in recent years. But YSU has not been able to have any sustained success.  They have not been able to break through that thick ceiling of mediocrity.  But the beautiful thing about college basketball is that no matter how poorly teams do in the regular season, they can still make it to the Promised Land of the NCAA Tournament if they qualify for and win their conference tournament.  So conceivably, a team could go 0-30 and then win a few games in a row and wind up in the Big Dance.  That is what makes college basketball so special.  No matter how tough of a season you had, it is never truly over until it’s over because the conference tournament is like a new season.

Youngstown State entered the 2017 Horizon League Tournament as the ninth-seed with an 11-20 record.  They had lost 7 of their last 8 games, and their defense was one of the worst in the nation in allowing over 82 points per game.  In Friday night’s opening round game, they played a Cleveland State team that they lost to just a few days earlier in the regular season finale. No one would have been surprised if the Penguins dropped another opening round game and headed home from Joe Louis Arena. But they used a balanced scoring effort, as all five starters scored in double-figures en route to an 84-69 win over the Vikings. The Penguins shot over 50% from the field, while holding the Vikings to just 38% shooting from the field. Then came the game against Oakland, and all signs pointed to a Golden Grizzlies win.  Oakland came into the game having won nine straight, and they beat the Penguins both times in the regular season by 14 and 29 points, respectively. And, oh yeah, this neutral site game was being played about 30 miles south of Oakland’s campus. But the longer the Penguins kept the game close, the better chance they had to win in the end. Junior superstar guard and All-League First Team selection Cameron Morse did a lot of what he does best, score the basketball. But ironically, when his team needed him to score the most and with the season on the line…he passed the ball. Morse had the wherewithal to see the floor and realize his team’s best chance to win was not by shooting a contested 25 foot jumper. It was by rocketing the ball to senior center Jorden Kaufman, who caught the ball and gracefully laid it in for the win.

How can you not root for a team that has had so many losing seasons in recent years? How can you not root for a team that plays in the shadows of a much more successful football program? How can you not root for a team that has had a fair amount of transfers leave the program in recent years (including this season’s leading scorer in the nation)?  The 2016-17 season will be another losing season for Penguins basketball.  But it already feels a lot better because they just made their first Horizon League Tournament semi-final game in 15 tournament appearances.  Since becoming an NCAA Division 1 team in the 1981-82 season, Youngstown State has made it to just one postseason tournament, the 2013 CIT (Collegeinsider.com Tournament). Winning two games in a conference tournament may not seem like a big deal, but it is for the Penguins.  It is the first time they have ever done that in the Horizon League, and the first time they won two games in any conference tourney since the 1998 Mid-Continent Conference tourney. Youngstown State is already a special college basketball story for not only beating top-seeded Oakland, but it was how they beat them that was so memorable. Head Coach Jerry Slocum has won over 700 games as a college basketball head coach. He would likely trade a couple hundred of those if his team could just get the next two. But this Youngstown State team has been a great story in this college basketball season, regardless of if they finally make the NCAA Tournament or not.

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Morse Connects With Kaufman to Lead Youngstown State to Epic Upset Over Oakland

With 3.3 seconds left and down one point, prolific scoring guard Cameron Morse drew all five Oakland defenders outside of the perimeter. He then rifled a pass into the paint area where a wide-open Jorden Kaufman caught the pass and laid the ball in as time expired, giving the ninth-seeded Youngstown State Penguins the improbable 81-80 win.  The game

Cameron Morse

Junior guard Cameron Morse was fantastic in YSU’s win. Photo courtesy of ysusports.com

was close throughout, with neither team leading by more than six in the second half.  After Morse banked home a jumper with 1:47 left in the game, YSU led 79-75.  But then Oakland stormed back by making two shots that got very favorable bounces, first a three from Sherron Dorsey-Walker, and then a Jalen Hayes hook shot from the paint on the next possession. After a couple of lengthy time stoppages for official reviews, regarding the ball going out of bounds and the subsequent substitutions, the Penguins finally had a chance to win, down just 80-79. Oakland had two fouls to give and they used them both, which left such a small amount of time for the Penguins to work with.  But it was just enough for them to win the game and not leave any time for Oakland to even inbound the ball again. Morse led all players with 34 points and had a team-high 5 assists. His last dime was undoubtedly the biggest one in YSU history. Kaufman added 22 points and a team-high 10 rebounds. Despite only attempting 9 free throws, the Penguins made up for it by going 7-16 from three point range, and shot 44.2% from the field overall, which included 6 more made field goals than Oakland.  Hayes led the Golden Grizzlies with 27 points and 13 rebounds, while his frontcourt partner Isaiah Brock added 14 rebounds and 4 blocked shots. Martez Walker added 22 points and Dorsey-Walker added 16 points and 8 assists.

 

The bad news for Oakland (24-8) is that they will not be returning to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011.  The good news is that they did clinch a berth in the NIT because of them being the top-seeded team in the Horizon League.  The Golden Grizzlies have never played in the NIT before.  As for Youngstown State (13-20), they will look to continue their amazing run on Monday night when they play the winner of #4 Northern Kentucky and #5 Wright State. Two more wins will earn the Penguins a spot in their first ever NCAA Tournament.  This game will live on, not only as one of the biggest upsets in Horizon League tourney history, but also with one of the most memorable finishes.

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2016-17 HLeagueHoops Season Awards

Player of the Year: Alec Peters (Sr.) Valparaiso.

Defensive Player of the Year: Tai Odiase (Jr.) UIC

Freshman of the Year: Corey Allen, Detroit Mercy

*Most Improved Player: Justin Mitchell (Jr.) Wright State

**Transfer of the Year:  Bobby Word (Jr.) Cleveland State

Shooter of the Year:  Grant Benzinger (Jr.) Wright State

Low-Post Player of the Year: Carson Williams (Fr.) Northern Kentucky

Coach of the Year:  John Brannen, Northern Kentucky

*Only players who played in the Horizon League in the previous season are eligible for Most Improved Player.

**Only first-year Horizon League players who transferred from a JUCO or 4 year college or university are eligible for Transfer of the Year and All-Transfer Team.

 

All H-League Gold Team

Mark Alstork (Jr.) Wright State

Jalen Hayes (Jr.) Oakland

Alec Peters (Sr.) Valparaiso

Drew McDonald (So.) Northern Kentucky

Tai Odiase (Jr.) UIC

 

All H-League Silver Team

Cameron Morse (So.) Youngstown State

Shane Hammink (Sr.) Valparaiso

Lavone Holland II (Jr.) Northern Kentucky

Martez Walker (Jr.) Oakland

Jaleel Hogan (Jr.) Detroit Mercy

 

All H-League Bronze Team

Charles Cooper (Sr.) Green Bay

Rob Edwards (So.) Cleveland State

Corey Allen (Fr.) Detroit Mercy

Sherron Dorsey-Walker (Sr.) Oakland

Steven Davis (Sr.) Wright State

 

All H-League Defensive Team

Isaiah Brock (Fr.) Oakland

Josh McFolley (So.) Detroit Mercy

Tevonn Walker (Jr.) Valparaiso

Kenneth Lowe (Sr.) Green Bay

Tai Odiase (Jr.) UIC

 

All H-League Freshman Team

Corey Allen, Detroit Mercy

Isaiah Brock, Oakland

Tarkus Ferguson, UIC

Marcus Ottey, UIC

Carson Williams, Northern Kentucky

 

All H-League Transfer Team

Bobby Word (Jr.) Cleveland State

Stevie Clark (Jr.) Oakland

Clint Robinson (Jr.) UIC

Mike La Tulip (Sr.) Wright State

Jeremiah Bell (So.) Milwaukee

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