Team preview: Wright State

For the most comprehensive previews available on all 335 Division I teams, order the "Bible" of college basketball, the 2012-13 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, at www.blueribbonyearbookonline.com or call 1-877-807-4857.


The exit ramp was busy at Wright State in the offseason. At least four players, two of whom had been starters, transferred, and another graduated early. Nevertheless, coach Billy Donlon said he still has nearly all the players he wanted to keep and thus 2012-13 won't be as much of a transition year as it appears on the surface.

The Raiders slumped to 13 wins last winter. The rotation could look significantly different this winter. Two freshmen left -- Jason Cuffee (0.4 ppg) played sparingly and Alex Pritchett not at all. Sophomore Vance Hall (4.5 ppg), who started 17 games and was one of the few dangerous 3-point shooters, decided he would get more playing time at Division II Bellarmine in Louisville. But the killer was Julius Mays, who also crossed the Ohio River into the Bluegrass State. Mays (14.1 ppg) didn't go down a level. Instead, he moved up -- to defending national champion Kentucky.

Mays came to Wright State from NC State and was as good as billed. Mays, in fact, was the Horizon League Newcomer of the Year. He shot 42.4 percent from 3-point range, got to the free-throw line 143 times and made 83.2 percent of his attempts. He led the Raiders in assists and steals. And now he has a chance to be SEC Newcomer of the Year in his final season of eligibility.

"I don't think it's fair to say I saw [his departure] coming," said Donlon, "but in the back of my mind it was a possibility. When we lost our conference tournament game, Julius and I began that discussion. He never one time complained through the course of the season about anything, how he was treated or coached or whether he improved. If you were to ask me at the end of the year, I leaned toward he was going to stay."

Wright State Raiders

But he didn't. Then during the summer, returning starting forward Armond Battle (6.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg) graduated and decided to leave Wright State. So where does that leave Wright State? Donlon isn't weeping over the departures. "If you dig deeper," Donlon said, "we only lost two players of significance. Of the top eight players at the end of the year, we have six of them back."

Three players who started at least 20 games are back. With Mays in Lexington, Reggie Arceneaux (8.5 ppg, 2.0 rpg) holds the status of leading returning scorer. The 5-9 Arceneaux was an instant hit as a freshman out of New Orleans. He played 28 minutes a game and was a decent threat from 3-point range (.347). But, he was still a freshman. He chalked up 68 assists but also a team-high 82 turnovers. The ratio in those two categories needs to make significant alterations if Arceneaux is to maximize his potential.

"His year was typical of a freshman scoring point guard because that's what he is," Donlon said. "Defenses are more complex; guys are bigger at every position. He does have the ability to make shots and impact the game down the stretch. He's got to improve at impacting the game other ways -- defensively and getting the other guys involved."

Cole Darling (6.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg) is a 6-8 junior who started most of last season. His 3-point accuracy deteriorated from 42 percent in 2010-11 to 27 percent last winter.

"It's pretty simple," Donlon said. "Cole didn't put in the time he needed to put in to be a consistent shooter. Also, the previous year he played with four terrific seniors. His shots were incredibly wide open. Then he went to the No. 2 man on the scouting report behind Mays. That's a big jump."

AJ Pacher is another big man -- a 6-10 junior -- who will launch the 3-ball, but, alas, he made only 28.6 percent of his attempts.

"If college basketball was football and I could only play AJ on offense, he'd be terrific," Donlon said. "But over 40 minutes he averages six fouls. My challenge as a coach is keeping him on the floor."

Translation: get more sound on defense and cut out the fouls.

Tavares Sledge (3.1 ppg, 2.8 rpg) on the other hand didn't attempt a trey all year. Sledge, a 6-9, 225-pound sophomore, is a back-to-the-basket guy who played only 12 minutes a game as a freshman. The hope is that he makes a notable bounce as a sophomore.

The Raiders have their share of big guards, but none so far has put up big numbers. Injury-plagued Matt Vest (2.1 ppg, 1.0 rpg) is a 6-5 junior who played 11 minutes a game and was most distinguished as a reliable free-throw shooter.

The 6-4, 210-pound Kendall Griffin (2.0 ppg, 1.3 rpg) averaged 12 minutes off the bench as a true freshman but came on strong at the end of the season.

"He turned the ball over too much," Donlon said. "Every coach feels taking care of the basketball is critical. As the year went on he just got better focused on it. He always had a Division I-ready body."

Donlon has six newcomers to augment his rotation. Two bring maturity. Miles Dixon was a summer addition from Blinn (Texas) Junior College. The 6-1 Dixon averaged 7.1 points per game, but before Blinn he played a season and a half at Houston Baptist.

"He is an explosive athlete with the ability to defend multiple perimeter positions," Donlon said.

Jerran Young, a 6-6 junior, comes from McLennan (Texas) Community College. He was originally headed to Nebraska but a coaching change put him back on the market and the Raiders got him. "He's probably one of the best athletes we've ever recruited," Donlon said.

From the prep ranks, Antonio "Bobo" Drummond, a 5-11 freshman, comes from Peoria, Ill. He'll shore up the point guard slot after averaging 13.8 points and 6.2 assists as a senior.

Joe Bramanti, a 6-2 freshman and the third guard in the class, averaged 22.3 points at Brewster Academy in Massachusetts.

"Joe will be able to play multiple positions," Donlon said, "and, I believe, defend at our level, walking in the door. Bobo is a guard who makes good decisions. He has a very good feel for how to play."

A pair of freshman forwards, 6-5 Jacoby Roddy of Peoria (Ill.) Manual and 6-6 JT Yoho of Solsberry, Ind., were November signees.

It could be a while before a rotation sorts itself out. Donlon has to get a feel for the strengths of his newcomers and determine who will emerge as go-to scorers.

"From top to bottom it's probably the most athletic we've been," he said. "That doesn't necessarily translate into wins, but you can do more things."






Let's hope Wright State fans enjoyed Julius Mays while they had him. The Raiders were just a way station between NC State and Kentucky, it turned out, and there's no way to spin it that losing the Horizon League Newcomer of the Year won't hurt.

Wright State faces a season with considerable question marks. The defense was porous last year. Opponents shot 45.4 percent from the field. That has to be fixed because the Raiders don't look like a juggernaut that can win shootouts.

Coach Billy Donlon has to find out who his go-to scorers will be. It would also be a good thing if guard Reggie Arceneaux can cut down on his turnovers as a sophomore. Unless Wright State gets some Julius Mays-sized input from a newcomer or two, it will be another winter as an also-ran in the Horizon League.

For the most comprehensive previews available on all 335 Division I teams, order the "Bible" of college basketball, the 2012-13 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, at www.blueribbonyearbookonline.com or call 1-877-807-4857.