‘Brotherhood over Basketball;’ Death, adversity helps unite Wright State basketball team

FAIRBORN — It’s been an emotional year for the Wright State men’s basketball team with some of the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.

The emotion poured out on the floor Tuesday night when the Raiders punched their ticket to the NCAA Tournament by defeating Northern Kentucky and claiming the conference’s automatic bid into the Big Dance.

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But for the players and coaches, Tuesday’s win wasn’t all smiles. During the course of the season Wright State Head Coach Scott Nagy’s father passed away and the fathers or grandfathers for five players also died during the season.

“Some sadness if I’m being honest. My dad not being here, Grant (Basile)’s grandpa, Tanner (Holden)’s grandpa, AJ (Braun)’s dad, my son’s grandpa, and James (Manns’) grandpa. People that were so instrumental in our lives that we didn’t get to share this with in a physical sense,” Wright State Head Coach Scott Nagy said.

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While grieving and dealing with loss could easily cause hardships for the team, death and losses brought the team closer together.

“Their mantra is ‘Brotherhood over Basketball’ and that’s something they talked about all season long and that’s pulled them together. You can go two ways. It can fracture you or it can bring you closer together. Obviously it’s brought this group closer together,” Raiders play-by-play broadcaster and WHIO Radio reporter Chris Collins said.

“I’m always going to remember what happened after the time expired and that shot was missed by the Norse and to see that reaction from the players, coaches. That emotion finally just came out.”

For star guard Holden he said losing his grandpa was especially tough as an adult, saying his grandpa was more of a second father to him that cared more about family than himself. That’s why after the game he was wearing one of his grandpa’s shirts.

“I wear this shirt around just because I know if he was here today he’d be here tonight and this shirt always brings his face with me as you can see on the front and it always brings him in the arena. I can’t thank him enough for everything he’s done for me,” Holden said.

He added he’ll remember the scenes he saw in the stands shortly after the Raiders defeated the Norse.

“Found my mom just balling her eyes out. That kind of hit home for me because my papaw was at every game. Not just for me but for our whole family,” Holden said.

For Nagy, times like the Raiders experienced this season often create outside narratives about how much adversity a team went through. Its easy to say that after you win but Nagy said he saw that first-hand with his team overcoming hardship time-after-time this season.

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“The way I feel God gives you what you want, sometimes he doesn’t give you what you want but he gives us what we need. I’m just grateful more than anything,” Nagy said.

“As hard as it is they have a better seat than in this arena. He’s looking down on me every day. He’s helping me, my family. They always keep their arms around us,” Holden said.

For the Raiders they still have a few more days of this emotional release before they head back to the floor next in the NCAA Tournament. The Raiders will find out where they are playing their first game in the tournament Sunday.

James Rider

James Rider

I was born in Virginia and have moved several times in my life as a member of an Air Force family. I've lived in Virginia, California, Germany, England, and Ohio. I graduated from Centerville High School and then went on to attend Ball State University where I graduated with a bachelor's degree.

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