Arceneaux leads revitalized Wright State

Reggie Arceneaux searches for a man who may not exist.

The Wright State sophomore point guard seeks the hero who guided his stranded family to a bus as they, like thousands of families in New Orleans, fled Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Arceneaux shuffled to the vehicle with cousins, uncles, siblings, his mother and his grandmother.

The bus carried them to Charlotte, N.C., where they ultimately settled with relatives. They'd retrieved little from their damaged dwellings prior to the journey.

As Arceneaux walked toward the bus, he turned to admire the individual who'd directed his family to surprising solace in that American tragedy.

"At times, I thought it was my time to go, it was our time to go. Just not knowing how you're going to escape, how you're going to get out," he told ESPN.com.

"It had to be God because we were in the middle of the street, and this guy we haven't seen in our life came up to us and told my grandmother to walk in a certain direction because 'there'd be a bus waiting for you.' That's what we did. About five seconds later, I turned around. I don't know where that man went. I've never seen him since."

Surviving Hurricane Katrina molded the sophomore who's become the soul of a Wright State program that needed one following last season's 13-19 campaign (7-11 Horizon League). Last week, the Raiders won their 13th game in 2012-13, matching last season's win total.

Arceneaux (96. 2 offensive rating, 10.8 ppg, 3.1 apg) scored a career-high 29 points and connected on the game-winning shot in that 62-61 victory over Loyola (Illinois) on Friday night.

The Raiders are 4-0 in the Horizon League. They'll face Valparaiso on Saturday and Detroit on Monday in road games that could establish the Raiders as the undisputed favorites in the conference.

Arceneaux's leadership, coaches and teammates agree, fueled this turnaround.

"I think he always tries to keep everybody else happy and tries to uplift everybody else's spirits," said junior A.J. Pacher, Arceneaux's roommate on road trips. "I think he's done a really good job of that."

Arceneaux said he remained confident through last season's challenges because true struggles for the 5-foot-9 talent have entailed life-altering events.

Once his family reached Charlotte after the hurricane, "a parade of" neighbors in the new community brought clothes and supplies. And, although it took some time, Arceneaux linked up with a high school program and continued his athletic career.

It wasn't easy to adjust. But missed shots and tough losses are much easier to overcome now.

"I always tell my teammates through a rough practice, through a rough time, this is still just basketball," he said. "It's not life-threatening things. I figure if I can make it through [Hurricane Katrina], basketball should be easy, life should be easy. … Little stuff should just be a piece of cake for me. Leading the team should be a piece of cake also."

The Raiders embrace that attitude.

They were picked to finish last in the Horizon League's preseason poll. But they ignored the doubters and pushed forward. They've exceeded expectations thus far via one of the nation's top defenses (14th in turnover rate, 61st in adjusted defensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy).

But their upcoming stretch (three consecutive road games) will determine their true status in the league. "We'll find out how we stack up," head coach Billy Donlon said.

Donlon found Arceneaux midway through his senior season at Olympic High School (Charlotte) on a tip from a coaching colleague. At the time, Arceneaux hadn't received any Division I offers. But Donlon was impressed by his vigor and potential.

"He has an incredible will to win. And he's defiant in a good way," Donlon said. "You can't tell that young man that somebody's better than him. You can't. He ain't believing you. And that carries over to your locker room."

Arceneaux will chastise teammates when necessary. But he'll accept correction, too.

And that's why he's drawn so much respect within the program.

Arceneaux's passion for basketball began when he was an infant, he said. He'd cry whenever his mother changed the channel from whatever NBA game he was watching at the time.

That early connection eventually led him to Dayton, Ohio, where he's helped the Raiders surpass preseason projections about the program.

The chaos of Hurricane Katrina. The peace of a fresh start. He understands both.

For Arceneaux, a significant portion of his story began with that mysterious man in New Orleans who led his family to that bus.

"If I ever do see him, I don't know what I'll do," he said.

There's another man, however, who's also participated in his -- this -- dream.

"I don't want to let [Donlon] down also," he said. "I don't want to let my teammates down, friends and family also. I just try to lead the team and think positively all the time."