“2022 Horizon League Champions” was not in the conversation for most people when talking about the Wright State Raiders following the 2021-2022 non-conference slate. And to be fair, their 2-7 start wasn’t without reason, nor was it without its bright spots. Coach Nagy lost his father and role model before the season began. Tanner Holden lost his grandfather, who was also his role model. AJ Braun lost a family member mid-season as well.
But despite the adversity that the team faced with tragedies in their family life, a COVID-wracked conference road trip, and the aforementioned 2-7 non-conference record, the Raiders fought to 4th place in the conference and took down the titans in their path. In addition to taking down Oakland at home, the consensus pick before the conference slate began to take the crown, #1 seeded Cleveland State in Indy, and finally, beating Northern Kentucky for the first time in the postseason. Combine that with the first NCAA win against Bryant in the First Four, and it’s definitely been a successful year for Wright State.
Grant Basile, Tanner Holden, and Trey Calvin were the keys to the Raiders’ success. Each player averaged 15 PPG and formed a formidable punch to their opponents. With Tim Finke locking down opponents and the fifth position flexing based on the attack needed, the Raiders’ used explosive offensive pushes to reclaim games and drive them out of reach.
Following the season, Basile and Holden moved on to Power 5 schools in Virginia Tech and Ohio State respectively, a huge blow to the program. Coach Nagy did not let this loss sit however, and he shored up his roster with two transfer additions off the bat. Combine that with the incoming freshmen and the Raiders boast a deeper squad than they’ve had in a while. So, with that said, let’s dive into the projected starters.
Trey Calvin – As one of the shining stars of the tournament that led Wright State past Northern Kentucky, Trey Calvin returns to the Raiders. As one of the three that led the team in scoring, Calvin will have a lot of the spotlight (as well as the defensive pressure) on him for this season. He’s shown to be incredibly versatile, scoring from anywhere on the floor and being able to dish it out to his teammates while under pressure. He’s also always been able to make space for himself, but now he runs the possibility of consistent double pressure and his awareness of the court will be evermore important. Calvin will be an absolute terror to opposing defenses with his skill set and a joy to watch for Raider fans.
Tim Finke – Continuing with the returners, Tim Finke will be bringing a versatile offense and a lockdown defense again for the Raiders. Finke was essential in locking down Peter Kiss, the nation’s leading scorer, when Wright State took on Bryant in UD Arena for their First Four matchup. He may be spending more time in the 4 slot as the role is currently in flux; should Nagy decide to go small ball then Finke is the cleanest to slot there, and he has enough flexibility that he can move between the positions. If one of the other forwards develop, especially on the defensive side of the ball, then this squad could return to a defensive powerhouse. All it’s going to take is that one domino…
AJ Braun – Grant Basile’s move to Virginia Tech means that someone else needs to take up the center of the paint, and Braun has shown that he has that ability to hold that area down. He saw middling time throughout the season, swapping in and out when size was necessary to overwhelm opponents, and had a particularly fantastic game against NC State where he put up 13 points and 7 rebounds. Braun’s playstyle lends himself to be more of an offensive piece to the puzzle, which means Nagy is going to have to focus hard on defensive scheming and tactics. Last year, he was unable to help significantly in the rebounding and blocking categories while on the floor, which was a pattern throughout last year’s squad. With an appropriate balance, Braun could potentially explode through the Horizon like Loudon Love did.
Amari Davis – The first newcomer on this list is not really new to the Horizon League at all, nor is he new to Dayton in general. Amari Davis made a name for himself approximately two feet from Wright State at Trotwood-Madison HS and was recruited by former head coach Linc Darner at Green Bay. After spending two years with Green Bay where he built his resume as the Horizon’s Freshman of the Year in the 2019-2020 season, Davis spent some time in Mizzou then came back home for his senior (but not final) year. Davis’ mobility and improved shooting should be an immense help to a Raider’s squad that lost 60% of its shooting with the transfers of Grant Basile and Tanner Holden, and he has already shown that he can dominate Horizon League opponents. However, his year at Mizzou saw less time than he was receiving at Green Bay, and he’ll need to make immediate efforts to transfer seamlessly to Nagy’s preferred defensive style.
Keaton Norris – Rounding out the squad is the point guard that alternated play calling with Calvin and Holden, Keaton Norris tallied the most minutes by a freshman not named Tanner Holden since the start of the Nagy era at Wright State and earned each one. His efforts were the most muted on this squad last year, but certainly were impactful as he was often the catalyst to freeing up Basile or Holden from pressure for easy points. His shot selection and 45% field goal percentage display his basketball IQ and Nagy has praised Norris for his awareness on the court. Coach Nagy has always been fond of undersized point guards, with the most recent example being Cole Gentry, but if Nagy plans on going to Keaton as a starter, that means that Nagy primarily plans to play small ball and opt for four guards. The reserves will be where Nagy has to turn to get his size.
Blake Sisley – It is very hard to determine where this squad is going to end up with the multiple forwards looking to make names for themselves on this roster, and the addition of Blake Sisley means that Nagy could go anywhere with his schemes. Sisley is a sophomore power forward that comes from a struggling program in Evansville, where he spent the remaining MVC conference games showing off his blossoming abilities and averaging above double digits. Sisley’s slot on this reserve list is dubious, he may be the starting piece that Nagy is looking for to keep the bigger structure he had last season and could be the starter in the 4 slot, leaving Calvin, Davis, and Finke to take up their traditional roles in the guard spots. If Sisley keeps up his play from his final moments at Evansville, he’ll see plenty of time on the floor. Shout out to my fellow Blake!
CJ Wilbourn – Wilbourn is entering his senior year and should also see more time as a bench center this year. A more undersized member of the center position, Wilbourn will have more of a chance to show his skills this season as compared to last, where he averaged 7.7 minutes of play.
Andrew Welage – Welage has shown that he has the ability to snipe from the corner, putting 11 points on Oakland in the midst of their second half collapse. Should Welage continue to develop his shot, he’s the perfect weapon against the zone defense that victimized Wright State last year.
Brandon Noel – No one has been able to see this junior forward so far, but if his hype from when he was recruited is to be believed, the Horizon should fear what Scott “Big Factory” Nagy has in store. Noel spent a year off due to injury before play began and was redshirted for an additional year. He’ll be making his first appearance in 2022, and according to an interview done by Dayton Daily, he’s excited to share what he’s learned in practice and on the bench. The timing couldn’t be better for Noel as well, Nagy seems to have question marks where he would usually be slotted.
Alex Huibregtse – Also on the injury list, Huibregtse will be returning for this year’s competition slate. Huibregtse should bring some presence behind the arc, a presence he flashed in his one game with the Raiders before his season-ending back injury, and could be a valuable member off the bench. Just like with Noel, we’ll need to see what Huibregtse can bring through play time. However, unlike Noel, there’s no specific vacuum that needs to be filled in the guard position, so he’ll need to shine bright to earn minutes.
Drey Carter – There are four freshmen in this class: Drey Carter, Logan Woods, Alex Garcia, and Anthony Johnson. While we may not see too many minutes for each of these new Raiders, the one that has the highest probability to see the court is Drey Carter. Carter comes from Westerville South, where he led the high school to a sterling 25-1 record, the one loss coming in the regional semifinal. His size and style lend well to rebounding and scoring off the dribble, and it’s only a question of how well Carter can adjust to the college game that keeps him on the bench for long.
Andy Neff – This walk-on is no longer one, as Nagy rewarded Neff’s years of service with a well-deserved scholarship for his 5th and final year. The video is amazing, Neff has been a hardworking, beloved part of the Raider’s squad and his teammates were ecstatic to see it awarded to him.
Most sports writers, including myself, place the Raiders in third this year. The loss of Basile and Holden are significant since they amounted for the majority of the scoring last year. The onus will be on the current iteration of Nagy’s Raiders to make a statement about what they can do, and their first two matches against Davidson at home on November 9th and at Louisville on November 12th will be their best chance. After all, Wright State’s play-in game was given to them due to their non-conference record.
Overall, the Raiders still have the spark necessary to make a return trip to the Big Dance. They will need to address deficiencies from last year, specifically in rebounding and team defense, more so than before as the offense doesn’t appear to be as explosive, but a well-rounded Raider squad can easily take the Horizon’s crown.
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