Naples Invitational: Wrapping up the Raiders’ performance player by player

Photo courtesy of Wright State Athletics/Joseph Craven

The Wright State Raiders recently took a trip down to Florida to play in the Naples Invitational, an event that featured a good number of mid majors looking to claim a tournament title and some fame from onlookers. The building was the Community School of Naples, a college prep academy whose gym did not look or play the part of a college basketball gym for the purposes of the event. As the tournament went on, errors with the shot clock and running clock were continuous and play had to be stopped a number of times. The tournament was a chance to meet a lot of new programs for the Raiders, as each opponent they faced was the program’s first.

This tournament was perhaps the best chance to see how the Raiders would fair against equal competition before Horizon League play began. Each team in the tournament had a fair shake of beating each other with no real standouts, and rankings indicated equal footing as well. Wright State went into each of their matchups favored by Vegas as well, based solely on the fact that Wright State operated a league-best defense last year and hadn’t had a chance to showcase it, returning 4 of 5 starters from that lineup.

The Raiders started play against George Washington, an Atlantic 10 team that had been getting run around in its non-conference schedule and had lost its last four games. After spending the first four minutes of the half scoreless, the Raiders caught back up to GW and fought for the lead until an 11-0 run proved completely insurmountable by the offense. George Washington would not let the Raiders back into the contest, even though a long scoreless run by the Colonials in the second half was an opportunity awarded to Wright State that they matched with their own lull. The Colonials marched on to the winner’s bracket with a score of 74-63.

Next up in the loser’s bracket of the tournament was James Madison, a Colonial Athletic team that was poised to cause some noise this season after earning a share of the regular season title last year seemingly out of nowhere. Wright State owned the first half of the contest, methodically taking the lead off of good rebounding and passing. However, the ten point lead that the Raiders had built over that half disappeared in ninety seconds of play, as my exasperated tweet at the start of the half indicates. From then on, Wright State struggled to contain anything defensively and James Madison owned the show, taking the lead for good with seven minutes to go and narrowly winning the contest 78-76.

The final contest to avoid last place in Naples took place against Long Beach State University, a team out of California’s Big West league. While Wright State had done a decent job off of the bench, with performances from Braun and Welage being the highlight of the game, the game was back and forth. Long Beach State was having a problem with penalties to all of their players, but Wright State also could not get any defense going to stop the charges through the paint. After being out-rebounded in the contest by 11, the highest I’ve seen from a Nagy squad in quite some time, Long Beach went up late in the second half to finish the contest 85-76, throwing Wright State the participation trophy for going 0-3 in the Invitational.

Wright State, picked second in the preseason Horizon League poll, remains fully winless in Division 1 play. Horizon League play is the Raider’s next chance to rectify this problem.

With the background to the games complete, I want to go over individual players and their performance in Naples and talk about what I feel could be improved for the upcoming league competitions. To kick things off, let’s start with the starters for all three contests.

Grant Basile’s Stats through the Naples Invitational

Performance – Grant Basile is a bit of enigma to me right now. On the one hand, he’s still a phenomenal player who is the most solid in rebounding and from the paint. He’s making free throws and is the threat you always have to keep an eye on or he will absolutely catch you lacking. On the other hand, I’m confused by his decision making. In the game against George Washington, Basile went 1-8 from the field and 0-4 from three. I understand that Grant can make three point shots, but why is he trying to do so? From what I could tell, his three’s were all open looks, so why didn’t he drive the lane instead of taking the chance?

Suggestions – What the stats I made won’t tell you is that the points per game for Basile are buoyed by a stellar and consistent time at the free throw line, making 20 of 25 shots. So what I’m going to say go hand-in-hand: Stay in the paint and make shots or get fouled. Basile’s three point shots are currently not landing, and if he’s the one making them from deep no one is collecting the ball if he misses. It’s a lose-lose to have your big man who collects your rebounds shoot from outside, even if he is able to do so. I’d change my tune on this if freshman acquisition AJ Braun takes up Basile’s current space underneath the rim and Basile became a driving forward that can choose his shots, but right now AJ Braun is still a bench member.

Tanner Holden’s stats through the Naples Invitational

Performance – If anyone deserves an MVP medal right now, it would be Tanner Holden. Holden consistently put up more than twenty points against all three opponents, all while playing the same defensive style that can frustrate opponents into giving up the ball. In addition, he has led the team in assists and steals in two of the three games. Holden is easily the candidate for Player of the Year on the Raiders right now.

Suggestions – Sloppy passing play was a common theme in a couple of the games and Holden was behind a couple of the passes that went back the other direction. Anything else would be nitpicking.

Trey Calvin’s stats through the Naples Invitational

Performance – Trey Calvin is in a slump and he knows it. Throughout Naples he was shaking his head on plays and mistakes that he made that didn’t go his way. Against James Madison, the selections he made on passing often led to JMU getting past him with the ball and in for an easy two. While his three pointer shots were open, none of them were falling into the rim so opposing teams dared him to score by essentially leaving him unguarded, opting to tighten their grip on Holden and Basile. His decent scoring game against Long Beach was overshadowed by a defensive effort that was less than stellar. When in tune with his game, he’s electrifying and nearly impossible to guard as he drives the rim. That was missing in Naples.

Suggestions – I don’t want to harp on Trey Calvin; he recognizes his current state and he will be the only one to drag himself out of it. Telling Calvin to play against his style would be against his best interests. The only thing that is going to help him is if he can find his groove again, the same one he had in that second half against national powerhouse Purdue. In particular, I hope to see his three point game improve to what it was before the matches against PFW and Cleveland State, Wright State is going to need his presence behind the arc.

Tim Finke’s stats through the Naples Invitational

Performance – Speaking of performance behind the arc, the once-grand sniper behind the line is in something of a funk as well. With the exception of his performance against DIII Lake Erie at home, Tim Finke is a grand total of 21% from behind the arc. While he has been making up for it with shots further inside and a rebounding game to back up Basile, it doesn’t help the fact that Wright State is in desperate need of someone behind the arc as an actual threat. Teams have already clued in to Wright State’s weakness in this regard and I won’t be surprised to see Horizon teams clamp down on the offense if it can’t find a way to clue in to shots from three.

Suggestions – Just like with Calvin, Finke needs to take this time to get back in touch with his previously godlike shooting behind the arc. He will be what the offense needs to keep up if opposing defenses decide to cut off all routes to the rim. What is also concerning for the team as a whole is the lack of presence on the defensive side underneath the rim, which should be one of the spots Finke shines.

Keaton Norris’ stats through the Naples Invitational

Performance – Keaton Norris, a freshman acquisition out of Hilliard Ohio, is Nagy’s replacement for Cole Gentry as the floor general of the Raiders. In this regard, I feel that Norris is a wonderful fit: an undersized guard that is able to nimbly move across the floor and get the ball around to open zones. Where I think Norris fails in this regard is his shooting at the moment. Cole Gentry was never really seen as the fifth option for the Raiders while he was here, he was seen more as the threat no one saw coming as he would dump double digit points on defenses that left him open. Right now, Norris lacks that power as he has trouble getting his shots to fall.

Suggestions – I make it a point to never be too hard on freshman since the transition to D1 can always be daunting. I personally think Keaton Norris has a very high ceiling for the Raiders and I can’t wait to see him in the future, I’m just not sure he’s what’s needed now. Norris benefited from two of the bench squad being knocked out with injuries and saw starter time in Naples. If he can improve his shooting from behind the arc, he could find a spot on a squad that is desperately lacking a marksman, but my personal opinion is that he needs a year as bench support first.

Up next is the bench support for the Raiders. As a brief disclaimer, this article will be missing two of the bench members: Riley Voss and Alex Huibregtse. Both of these members were knocked out of the Naples competitions with injuries. Additionally, CJ Wilbourn did not receive significant minutes to be analyzed for this contest, and neither did Andy Neff or James Manns. That leaves two people: AJ Braun and Andrew Welage.

AJ Braun’s stats through the Naples Invitational

Performance – I fully believe that it was Nagy’s intent to never let us see Braun’s potential because it would’ve put the league on alert. Coach Nagy has once again snagged another lumberjack of a player to play center and make everyone who thinks they’re getting into the paint face his wrath. Unfortunately for him, and fortunately for us, two of the bench got injured and Braun got to see some minutes in Naples. During that time, he made his presence known and felt, providing a defensive presence that seemed to be mostly missing from the squad while he was out on the field. In addition to this, he consistently saw opportunities under the rim that his teammates were more than happy to allow him a chance at.

Suggestions – I almost don’t want to put anything here because I’m even more certain that may be the last time we see Braun for a while. The announcers for the Raiders said as much over the broadcast; Braun was seeing minutes because there was really no other choice. I’ll have to brush up on my redshirt rules, but if Nagy has his way, I’m sure he wants to see this freshman take a year off so he can terrorize the Horizon next year. All I can say is if that is the last we see of Braun, I’m going to miss him, but if he’s here this year, I hope Nagy seriously considers putting him in the starting rotation.

Andrew Welage’s stats through the Naples Invitational

Performance – After a quiet time in the games against George Washington and James Madison, Andrew Welage came off the bench and sunk three after three against Long Beach, leading all players in three point shooting in that game. Unfortunately, the high point for Welage came during the final game against Long Beach instead of the earlier two, so while I would’ve liked to see some of that three point magic appear in those games there was only so much that could be done.

Suggestions – I’d like to see Welage fight for a spot to make regular appearances after only showing up for an average of 7 minutes last year. He had the game of his career against Long Beach and he could be a valuable threat off the bench if he can shoot as consistently as he had in that game.

Wright State takes on Purdue Fort Wayne on Thursday and Cleveland State on Saturday as part of yet another road trip. The Raiders will finally get a chance to play a Division 1 game at home on December 15th against the Akron Zips, which comes after a lengthy eleven day break from play. I look forward to seeing what the Raiders will do against their first Horizon competition.

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