By Mike Klingshirn
DAYTON, Ohio – Decimated by injuries, with six of their best players unavailable for action, the Wright State Raiders inched closer to the cellar of the Horizon League standings with a 74-69 loss to the Youngstown State Penguins on Sunday afternoon.
The loss was Wright State’s eleventh in their last fourteen outings, and fifth-straight overall. It also marked the first time in 25-year Nutter Center history that the men’s basketball team had dropped five in a row on their home court.
“Any loss is frustrating,” said Wright State’s Grant Benzinger. “But these close ones that we had a chance to pull out and didn’t, make it extremely tough.”
Wright State’s starting lineup consisted of three freshman (Justin Mitchell, Grant Benzinger, Roderick Davis), a first year player (Michael Karena), and a fifth starter, who was making his first ever collegiate start (Daniel Collie).
The Raiders (11-15, 3-9 HL) got off to a fast start, thanks in part to eight points on a jumper and a pair of treys by Benzinger. WSU found themselves quickly on top 10-3, just two and a half minutes into the game.
The lead didn’t last long, as the Penguins (11-17, 2-11 HL) went on a 7-point run — one of several runs — to grab the lead 17-14 with 12:10 left in the half.
Both teams traded baskets over the next seven minutes, until when the Raiders were up 29-27, Youngstown State went on another 7-point run to go up 34-29, and eventually take a 36-34 lead into the halftime locker room.
Tied at 38 all, Youngstown State took advantage of some Wright State defensive mistakes to seize control of the second half. A Bobby Hain layup ignited a 10-0 Penguin run that spanned less than 90 seconds to put YSU up 48-38 with 16:35 left to play.
The Raiders cut the margin to within two points on a couple of occasions (56-54 and 63-61), but still trailed 68-63 going into the final media timeout with 3:38 showing on the clock.
Benzinger and Michael Karena hit back-to-back jumpers to pull within 68-67. Benzinger then made a great drive to the hoop, hit the layup, and was fouled to put his team on top 69-68 with 2:13 left. He failed, however, to convert the three-point play by missing the free throw.
YSU’s Shawn Amiker answered by hitting a pair of big time shots, sandwiched around a Michael Karena traveling violation. The Penguins’ Shaun Stewart capped the game-ending 6-point run with a pair of free throws, sending Youngstown State away with a 74-69 victory.
“Even though we were 4-for-7 (free throws), we missed all three with under three minutes (to play),” Donlon said. “If any of those go in, we go up two instead of one. Now, if they make a two, it’s a tie game instead of trailing.”
The Youngstown State victory was just the second in their last 13 contests, and moves the last-place Penguins to within one game in the Horizon League standings win column of Wright State.
Marcus Keene led YSU with 20 points and 8 boards. His teammate, Boby Hain added 14 points and grabbed 7 rebounds. Shawn Amiker also chipped in with 13 points.
Wright State’s Grant Benzinger followed up his 23 point performance against UIC with 22 points and 7 boards. Michael Karena added 14 points, shooting 7-of-10 from the field, and pulled down 6 rebounds.
There is a good chance that Chrishawn Hopkins will play on Wednesday against Oakland. If not, definitely by Saturday against Valparaiso. Joe Thomasson, Steven Davis, and JT Yoho are unlikely to be back this week (Oakland and Valpo).
The Raiders return to action at the Nutter Center on Wednesday night (Feb. 18) for a battle against the Oakland Grizzlies. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 pm.
Post Game Audio
Photos © and Courtesy of Tim G. Zechar
By Mike Klingshirn
DAYTON, Ohio – The Wright State Raiders, a team decimated by injuries to two of their key inside players, dropped a 66-56 decision to the Valparaiso Crusaders (17-3, 4-1 HL), in front of a near capacity crowd of 7,664 on the season’s only scheduled game on a Saturday at the Nutter Center.
The Raiders, already without the services of Steven Davis for the past three weeks, got word on Thursday that JT Yoho, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, who was having an all-conference year, would also be unavailable. He suffered a serious knee injury in the team’s previous game. Yoho’s injury — a major bone bruise of the entire knee — has the potential to sideline him for the remainder of the season.
“Long term, the injury won’t effect the future for his senior year,” head coach Billy Donlon said. “But it’s severe. It happened in the first five minutes of Cleveland State game. He was in agonizing pain and didn’t let anyone know because he wanted to play. If you look at how he played, it makes perfect sense.”
“Almost the entire knee is bruised,” Donlon added. “He doesn’t know (how it happened). It’s happened to me, where you’re playing and you go down the court twice, and you’ve lost your adrenaline. Then all of a sudden, you go, ‘God, that hurts’. And you don’t know where it happened.”
Wright State (10-9, 2-3 HL) had already entered the season with a small line-up. But the two recent injuries to 6’7” Davis and 6’6” Yoho, has transformed the Raiders into an even smaller team. It left them with just two big guys. One is a freshman (Roderick Davis) and the other is a first year player (Michael Karena).
As a result, the Raiders were forced to change their style of play in order to have any chance of beating a very physical Valpo team.
“If we don’t press, then they beat us by 30,” Donlon said. “We’re not going to beat them in the half court.”
The press forced the Crusaders into 18 turnovers, but the under-sized Raiders were out-rebounded 46-25, allowing Valpo to haul in 17 boards underneath their own basket.
“You’re asking a lot of a 6’3” guard to box out a 6’10” guy,” commented WSU’s Reggie Arceneaux.
Valpo opened the game by scoring the first two of six-straight points, on a Tevonn Walker layup off of a Wright State turnover. The Crusaders never trailed in the first half, stretching their lead to 24-13.
The Raiders closed the final seven minutes of the first half with a 14-5 run, to pull within 29-27 at the intermission.
An Arceneaux pull-up jumper in the lane, a Kendall Griffin layup, and Michael Karena free throw put the Raiders on top for the first time 32-30. After Valpo evened things at 32 all, a pair of Justin Mitchell baskets put Wright State back on top with their largest lead of the night 36-32.
Chrishawn Hopkins broke a 38-38 tie with a pair of free throws, making it 40-38 in favor of the Raiders. But a Victor Nickerson layup and 3-pointer put the Crusaders ahead to stay 43-40 with 7:43 left to play.
Joe Thomasson hit a trey to pull the Raiders to within 46-45 at the 6:20 mark, but Valpo answered by rattling off the next nine-straight points to go up 55-45 with 2:47 remaining and seal the Crusader victory.
“The game came down to the seven minute mark to the under-four minute media timeout,” Donlon said. “I thought that their guards out-toughed us. We had to play this game at about seven turnovers, because I thought that we’d get killed on the offensive glass.”
“When the size is what it is right now, you have to make up for it in other ways. We came out and we pressed. We put it in Thursday night, and the press really bothered Valpo. They shot what they shot from the floor (22-of-54) and had 18 turnovers. An 18-11 turnover margin in a normal game against Valpo will win you the game, but tonight that wasn’t going to be good enough.”
Reggie Arceneaux was the only Raider to score in double figures (10). Joe Thomasson grabbed a team-high seven rebounds.
Four Crusaders scored in double figures: Vashil Fernandez (14), Darien Walker (13), Alec Peters (11), and Tevonn Walker (11).
The Raiders will need to right the ship away from the Nutter Center, as they embark upon a three game road trip — Milwaukee (Jan. 20), Detroit (Jan. 26), and Oakland (Jan. 28) — before returning home against the league-leading Green Bay Phoenix on February 2. The Monday night tip-off is scheduled an hour later than normal, at 8:00 pm.
Post Game Audio
Photos © and Courtesy of Tim G. Zechar
By Mike Klingshirn
DAYTON, Ohio – After a humbling defeat to the Ohio State Buckeyes six nights ago, and a rough week of practice, the Wright State Raiders responded with a 70-57 triumph over the Detroit Titans to open Horizon League play on Friday evening at the Nutter Center.
JT Yoho led Wright State (9-6, 1-0 HL) with 18 points and 8 rebounds, despite hyper extending his knee late in the first half. Joe Thomasson also led the way with 10 points and 9 boards. Michael Karena added 14 points, and Chrishawn Hopkins contributed with 7 points and 6 assists.
Following a brief 4-2 Wright State advantage, Detroit went on an 11-point run, capped by a pair of Juwan Howard Jr. treys to put the Titans up 13-4, and force the Raiders to play catch-up for most of the first half.
“I told the team … if you want to win the game, get it in the paint,” said Billy Donlon.
His team responded by outscoring the Titans 38-18 in the paint, over the course of the game.
Wright State slowly chipped away until a Grant Benzinger 3-pointer put the Raiders on top 24-22 with three minutes left in the half. Justin Mitchell added a jumper to send the Green and Gold into the halftime locker room with a 26-24 lead.
Both teams struggled from the field in the first half. Detroit hit only 7-of-24 shot attempts. WSU, meanwhile, connected on 11-of-29, which included just 1-of-10 from beyond the arc.
“We saved our best defensive performance for the most important game of the year, because it’s a league game,” Donlon said. “I don’t care if you play fast, slow, or in between. If you don’t guard in our league, you can’t win. Our guys really bought into that, and that was good to see.”
A jumper by Detroit’s Jarrod Williams, three minutes into the second half, put the Titans in front 32-30. That’s when a JT Yoho layup ignited a 13-3 Raider run to give Wright State the lead for good at 43-35.
A Juwan Howard Jr. 3-pointer pulled Detroit to within 46-40 with 11:26 left to play, but the Raiders responded with nine straight points in less than 90 seconds to take a commanding 55-40 advantage.
The Titans scored the next eight points to get within 55-48 with 7:48 remaining, but could get no closer as Wright State pulled away for the 70-57 victory.
“We did a great job on the glass,” Donlon said. “That’s the way that they could have gotten back into the game. Missed shots and attack the glass.”
Juwan Howard Jr. led Detroit (6-9, 0-1 HL) with 15 points. Chris Jenkins added 14.
“He (Howard) is a good player,” said Joe Thomasson. “He ended up with fifteen, but we made him work for those fifteen, so we’ll live with it. We could have done better, but for the majority, I’m pleased. Justin Mitchell played a big part in defending him too.”
Following road games against Green Bay (Jan. 5) and Youngstown State (Jan. 8), the Raiders return home for matchups against Cleveland State (Weds. Jan. 14) and Valparaiso (Sat. Jan 17). Tip off for both contests is slated for 7:00 pm.
Post Game Audio
Photos © and Courtesy of Tim G. Zechar
By Mike Klingshirn
DAYTON, Ohio – The Wright State Raiders jumped out to an early 17-5 lead over the Miami RedHawks and held on for a 68-59 victory over their local rival, on Sunday evening at the Nutter Center, in front of 3,752 fans.
Freshman guard Grant Benzinger ignited the early Raiders’ rally, scoring 11 of his team’s first 17 points by hitting all four of his shot attempts, including 3-of-3 from beyond the arc. His hot shooting, combined with some outstanding team defense, set the tone of the game’s first twenty minutes and sent Wright State into the halftime locker room on top by the score of 30-16.
Wright State (7-4) held Miami (2-7) to just 6-of-22 from the field in the first half.
“That’s the best half of defense that we’ve had this season,” said head coach Billy Donlon. “I thought that we were pretty dominant in the first half.”
Michael Karena opened the second half scoring for the Raiders with a dunk and hook shot to put his team up 34-19. The RedHawks chipped away until back-to-back 3-pointers by Miami’s Will Sullivan quickly cut the Wright State lead to 39-33 with 11:34 to play.
Joe Thomasson seemed to come up big each time Miami cut the lead in the second half. Following a 30-second time out to slow the RedHawk momentum, Thomasson fed Karena with an alley-oop pass for a dunk. On his team’s next possession, he drove strong to the hoop for a basket. JT Yoho followed with a pair of free throws and the Raiders had regained control at 45-33 with 8:24 to play.
“Joe plays hard,” said Yoho. “That’s the number one thing that he does. It feels likes he’s always around the ball and making plays at crunch time.”
Miami refused to quit. They turned up the defensive pressure and forced several Raider miscues to pull to within 63-59 with 25 seconds left.
However, the Raiders sealed the victory with Mark Howell, Reggie Arceneaux, and Yoho combining to hit 5-of-6 free throw attempts down the stretch.
“I thought our new guys — Justin Mitchell, Grant Benzinger, and Joe Thomasson — were phenomenal,” said Donlon. “Their effort, attitude, and performance was really, really, good. That’s a good sign for a team moving forward. When you can win a basketball game and not have some of your older veteran guys play the way that their capable of playing, that’s a good sign.”
JT Yoho led the Raiders with 18 points and 11 rebounds.
“Overall, JT was good,” said Donlon. “I don’t think that he was great. He can be a lot better. That’s a sign of a good player, when a guy can get 18 and 11, and his coach doesn’t feel like he played his A-game.”
Thomasson (12), Benzinger (11), and Kerena (10) also scored in double figures for WSU, while Steven Davis contributed with seven points and seven rebounds.
Geovonie McKnight (16), Eric Washington (16), and Will Sullivan (15) were leading scorers for Miami.
Wright State won the battle of the boards 30-23.
The Raiders travel to Western Carolina (Thurs. Dec. 18 at 7:00 pm) before returning home to take on the George Mason Patriots, out of the Atlantic 10, on Tuesday December 23. Tip-off at the Nutter Center is slated for 7:00 pm.
Photos © and Courtesy of Tim G. Zechar
By Mike Klingshirn
DAYTON, Ohio – Holy D-II struggle, Batman! On paper, today’s matchup between the Wright State Raiders and the Division II Ohio Dominican Panthers appeared to be a gross mismatch. Although many in attendance expected to see a laugher, the Panthers had no intention of being WSU’s sacrificial lamb on the schedule. Ohio Dominican (0-3), winners of just five games last season, battled Wright State (2-0) to a tie game with just over six minutes to play, before a late 18-6 run secured a Raider victory.
Wright State struggled throughout the game’s first 34 minutes, trailing the Panthers 13-11 midway through the first half, and leading by only one point at halftime (32-31). A pair of Trent Weaver free throws put Ohio Dominican up 35-34 at the 18:33 mark of the second half, and the Panthers continued to hang around to the tune of a 58-58 score with 6:24 left in the contest.
Reggie Arceneaux hit a 3-pointer to ignite an 18-6 game-ending run to put the Raiders on top for good. A Mark Minch layup to cut the lead to 61-60 with 5:44 to go and Ohio Dominican appeared to still be right where they wanted to be. However, a pair of jumpers by Chrishawn Hopkins and Arceneaux stretched the WSU lead to 65-60.
Trent Weaver’s jumper with 3:41 remaining cut the Wright State lead to 65-62, but the Raiders were too much down the stretch, closing out the Panthers by scoring 11 of the game’s final 13 points for the 76-64 victory.
Hopkins led WSU with 25 points and 7 rebounds, Arceneaux and Joe Thomasson also scored in double figures with 18 and 15 points respectively. Mark Minch added 21 for the Panthers.
Wright State won the battle of the boards 28-27, although Ohio Dominican pulled down 10 rebounds on their offensive end of the court.
The Raiders embark on a six game road trip before returning home to battle another Division II opponent, the Urbana University Blue Knights, on Sunday December 7. Tip-off at the Nutter Center is scheduled for 7:00 pm.
Photos © and Courtesy of Tim G. Zechar
By Mike Klingshirn
DAYTON, Ohio – It may have been just the first contest of a 30-plus game season, but the Wright State Raiders topped the Belmont Bruins on Friday night, in what may turn out to be one of the most exciting games of the year. After trailing 70-66 with 2:41 left to play, the Raiders scored the game’s final seven points to pull out a 73-70 “instant classic” in front of the home fans.
Afterwards, Wright State’s Reggie Arceneaux described the last two minutes as intense and tough. “It was two great teams going at it in a great atmosphere,” he said. “We found a way to get it done.”
Belmont, a traditional mid-major power, entered the contest having come off of a season in which they went 26-10, including a win against North Carolina on the Tar Heels home floor. The Bruins also put on a nice performance in the postseason NIT, advancing to the quarterfinals before falling to Clemson.
The Bruins held the upper hand early by jumping out to leads of 6-0 and 15-7. The Raiders fought their way back to claim their first lead of the night 23-21 after a Reggie Arceneaux pass found Michael Karena under the basket for two points.
The Raiders stretched the lead to 30-25 with 4:20 left in the half. It was Wright State’s largest advantage all night. The lead changed hands three more times until the halftime scoreboard read 40-37 in favor of Belmont.
Both teams battled to a 55-55 tie midway through the second half. The score was knotted at 59 all until a pair of Evan Bradds free throws put the Bruins on top 70-66 with 2:41 to play.
A nice cross-over dribble drive by Chrishawn Hopkins made it 70-68 with 2:09 to go. After a stop on the defensive end of the court, Reggie Arceneaux was fouled on a drive to the hoop. He converted both free throws at the 1:10 mark to even things at 70-70.
On Belmont’s next possession, Grant Benzinger stole an errant Belmont pass in the middle of the lane, and Arceneaux was fouled from behind. Reggie made the first of two free throws to put WSU up 71-70 with 29.5 seconds to play.
With the Bruins looking to retake the lead and possibly the victory, Belmont’s Evan Bradds received the ball and began to back down Benzinger under the basket. Benzinger hit the floor, a whistle had blown, and Bradds was called for a charging foul with 10.3 seconds remaining.
“I was just playing tough,” Benzinger said. “It just so happened that he put his shoulder down and I took it.”
WSU pushed the ball down court on the ensuing play and Arceneaux found Steven Davis under the basket. Davis went up for the lay-in, but Belmont’s Bradds was whistled for an intentional foul with 3.9 showing on the clock. Alone at the line, Stevens missed both free throw attempts.
Because of the flagrant foul, the Raiders still had possession under their own basket. Benzinger hit Hopkins under the hoop on the inbounds pass for a layup, capping an exciting 73-70 Wright State win.
“I’ve been a part of a lot of games,” Wright State head coach Billy Donlon said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever been more proud of a team in a single game, than what just took place out on that floor. And I would have said that regardless of the final score. What those guys did to find a way to win was incredible.”
“You will never see a better effort on a basketball floor. And Belmont gave an incredible effort too. There were scrums everywhere, but it was the right way. The sportsmanship … there was never anything nasty. It was just two teams playing hard.”
Hopkins led the Raiders with 21 points and grabbed 5 rebounds. Arceneaux (15) and Karena (11) also scored in double figures. Joe Thomasson pulled down a team-high seven rebounds.
Kendall Griffin scored seven points in 13 minutes before leaving the game in the first half with a concussion.
“What Kendall Griffin did in the first half gave us the opportunity to win the game,” Donlon said. His drives, his physicality, his layups at the rim, and his defense gave us a chance to win. He was as good as anybody on the floor in the first half.”
Reece Chamberlain recorded a double-double for Belmont with 18 points and 12 boards. Evan Bradds, from nearby Greenview High School, scored 21 points on 8-of-9 shooting from the field. Bradds also had seven rebounds.
The Raiders host the Division II Ohio Dominican Panthers on Sunday November 16. The Panthers finished last season with a record of 5-21. Tip-off is slated for 5:00 pm.
Photos © and Courtesy of Tim G. Zechar
By Mike Klingshirn
DAYTON, Ohio – Wright State University head coach Billy Donlon got everything that a coach could want from an exhibition game, against the University of Findlay, on Wednesday night. Nearly every player who dressed played double-figure minutes. His team had a chance to handle adversity, and they eventually came away with a 68-59 victory over the Oilers at the Nutter Center.
Findlay scored the game’s first six points before the Raiders tied it at 8 all. The lead changed hands seven times until a Steven Davis jumper made it 20-20 midway through the first half. The Oilers controlled the next five minutes with a 16-4 run to go up 36-24, and eventually into the halftime locker room with a 40-32 lead.
Findlay stretched their advantage to 48-37 with 16:26 left to play. It was at that point when Wright State turned up their defensive intensity and scored the next 20-straight points, en route to a 27-3 run to go up 64-51 with 4:04 to play. Chrishawn Hopkins was phenomenal during a 90-second stretch, in which he scored six-straight points on two free throws and two layups, putting the Raiders up 52-48 at the 11:41 mark, after trailing 48-46.
Four Raiders scored in double figures: Steven Davis (14), Kendall Griffin (13), Chrishawn Hopkins (12), and Joe Thomasson (11). Davis and Griffin also led their team with six rebounds apiece.
The Raiders open their regular season at home on Friday November 14 against the Belmont Bruins. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 pm.
Photos © and Courtesy of Tim G. Zechar
By Mike Klingshirn
Dr. Michael Cusack recently sat down with RaiderRoundball.com to talk about his many experiences as Wright State Athletics Director from 1982 through 2008. He was only the second director for WSU since the start of intercollegiate athletics in 1967 and led a period of dramatic growth and transition for Raider athletics.
This is part two of a two-part interview. In this part, I asked Dr. Cusack to tell some stories and talk about many of the athletes, coaches, and personalities associated with Wright State athletics throughout the years. Here are his comments.
RRB: Don Mohr (Athletic Director, 1968-81)
Dr. C: I met Don when I got the job. He’s a big burly guy, barreling around, and everything like that. When I finally got the job, his office was in the old PE building. The first thing that happens is I get into his chair — and he was huge — and I lean backwards and go flying on my back. Nobody was in there, so I got up, picked everything up, and called somebody into the office. It was Susie Gayle, and I said, “What’s with this chair?” She said that Mohr was always flopping back, and she showed me a little thing on the wall, where his head kept hitting. It was all shredded up. He was funny, but he was really good.
I came here in 1982 and we won the national basketball championship the following year. We brought Don to Springfield (for the championship). There is a whole montage of pictures near the locker rooms with a picture of him and me. I was sort of able to bask in the glow, but he was the guy. He was interesting.
Don probably enjoyed retirement as much as anyone. He went up to Cape Cod and was on Martha’s Vineyard, which is like being on the Riviera. It’s a great place. He fished all of the time.
RRB: John Ross (Head Men’s Basketball Coach, 1969-75)
Dr. C: John was also the head baseball coach. I think that he may have been our first one. Don Mohr coached, but I’m not sure which was which. Then they hired Ron Nischwitz.
I didn’t get to work with John because he was already retired, but I got to see him a little bit. He had a camping trailer, and during the first or second year that I was here, he, Ralph (Underhill), Jim Dock, Bobby Grote, and I went down to a place near Rocky Fork where we spent the night and played golf.
John always remembered things and had all sorts of stories. He had been in Florida all of these years, but he’d come to a basketball game or so here, and we would introduce him. Towards spring, I’d always get a note from him, saying that you’re doing a good job and he’d have a suggestion or two. John was really good like that. He always maintained a connection with us.
RRB: Bob Grote (Basketball & Baseball, 1972-76)
Dr. C: When I got here, Grote was an assistant basketball and assistant baseball coach, so when the basketball season would end, he’d go back out to baseball. He was really a dynamic coach. Being a younger guy at the time, he was really aggressive and tough on those guys. Had Nischwitz retired earlier, before Bobby left, he would have been the head baseball coach. There came a time when he came to a crossroads and decided to go into business. He has done very well. He was excellent.
Bobby was a good athlete, but I never saw him play. However, I got to know his dad, and his dad ironically, was best buddies with Don Zimmer (MLB infielder, coach, and manger). They were all out of Cincinnati. Bobby’s dad played in the Dodgers farm system, and of course, the Brooklyn Dodgers were my team. So there was a connection and I got to know his dad really well.
RRB: Jim Kordik (Wrestling, 1975-79)
Dr. C: I only got to know Jim after he was here. He’s a very good lawyer in town.
RRB: Jodi Martin (Women’s Basketball, 1979-83)
Dr. C: She’s our all-time leading scorer on the women’s side. I got to see her in ’83, her last year and my first year here. She was different because she wasn’t as big as they are now. She got all of her points underneath and never missed a foul shot. Over the years, she’s always brought kids back because she is a teacher over in Xenia. I think that her husband is a policeman. She’s been great.
RRB: Bob Schaefer (Basketball, 1975-79)
Dr. C: I know Bob a little bit. I never got to see him play. If I were to do it again, I probably could have done a better job at getting those guys back. I think that I did a good job, but I probably could have done a lot better. He’s a good guy who has always been supportive.
RRB: Patti Coots (Swimming & Diving, 1978-82)
Dr. C: Patti was married to Jim Dock when I got here. She was a great diver and All-American three or four times.
RRB: Gary Monroe (Basketball, 1981-83)
Dr. C: He’s an interesting guy. Gary had the flattest shot that you’ve ever seen in your life. At the Division II level, it wasn’t a big problem. But when we played Louisville in Freedom Hall, he did well, but one of his shots was so flat that one of those great leapers they had got up and blocked it halfway between the shot and the basket. It was so flat that it wasn’t goaltending. Gary was one of those quiet assassins. He could play.
RRB: Mark “Bo” Bilinski (Baseball, 1972-74)
Dr. C: He had a childhood disease or something that affected his ability to run, but it certainly didn’t affect his ability to hit, from what I am told. He was Nischwitz’s right-hand man forever. He’s a detective in Dayton.
RRB: Carol Westbeld (Volleyball, 1979-82)
Dr. C: Carol was first team All-American for us. She could play for anybody. Carol could jump and hang in the air. She was outstanding.
RRB: Tim Begley (Wrestling, 1982-86)
Dr. C: A couple of years ago, my wife and I went to Brio at The Greene. It was happy hour, pretty empty, and we were just sitting there. I saw a strong-looking guy, not too much bigger than me, sitting at the end of the bar. Next thing that I know, the bartender asked if there’s anything that I’d like to drink … it’s on the guy at the other end of the bar. I looked down there and he says, “Tim Begley.” He’s gotten into the import-export business and is still involved with wrestling.
Then one night, about a year or two ago, we’re down at a place called Franco’s. A couple of nice-looking women come in and sit down with some kids, but there are no guys. The next thing I could hear were some Harleys come down the road, and I’m thinking, “Oh, man. I know how this is going to be.” Then some guys come in with helmets on. They took them off and there’s Timmy. He’s a good guy who has done very well.
RRB: Hylton Dayes (Soccer, 1982-85)
Dr. C: He’s four time first-team All-American. Hylton might be the best athlete that we’ve ever had here. He’s been a coach here and at George Mason. He’s coached our women. He coached our men. And now he has been at Cincinnati for a long time.
Hylton was tough on his teammates. He was demanding as a player, and probably as a coach. He might be the only coach that I can remember, who would come in if they weren’t playing well and be apologetic. I never felt that any of the coaches had to be. I’m assuming that they’re doing the best job that they can. If it’s not working, they don’t need to apologize to me.
Hylton was such a competitor and perfectionist. He was always a good guy and a great player. He had something that you hardly ever see, but great athletes have it … he had a second gear.
RRB: Stamat Bulugaris (Head Wrestling Coach, 1974-86)
Dr. C: Stamat started the wrestling program here. He wrestled at UD and officiated. He was an engineer, and probably still is for Delco … a brilliant guy.
His big thing was being in charge of testing the brakes that were going to be a couple generations down. I never saw this, but he told me that he’d be driving a cheap mid-sized car, but it could be worth $400,000 because it’s got all of these brakes in it. He’d be taking them down Pikes Peak and checking them out.
They had a very good wrestling program and he devoted all of the time that he could to it. When he left, we weren’t able to get a coach of that caliber. It got to the point where you had to have somebody there. Wrestling is not a sport that you can just dabble in.
RRB: Mark Vest (Basketball, 1983-86)
Dr. C: I saw a high school picture of Mark. He had a big fro. It was funny.
Mark was freshman-of-the-year at VMI, and he had just less 2,000 points at Wright State without the 3-point shot. This guy could shoot the ball from the ozone layer.
You look at him and he seems like the nicest, most mellow guy, but he was vicious. Ralph’s team used to run a play where they would pass at the baseline. I happened to be down that way one time, where they went through and Mark would stick his hand out as they went by and BOOM!
Mark was a great competitor. He’s as good of a guy as you’re going to meet, but once you go between the lines …
RRB: Fred Blair (Baseball, 1981-83)
Dr. C: Fred was probably the best hitter that we ever had. I think that he had Big League ability to hit, but he was one of those guys that they didn’t have a position. Personally, I think they should have taken a shot at him as a catcher, but it was one of those things where he was sort of a tweener.
RRB: Peg Wynkoop (Coach & Administrator, 1973-98)
Dr. C: In those days, you wore a lot of hats. She may have been volleyball coach before I got here. She even coached men’s volleyball for one year and some tennis. Peg was very successful but wanted to get out, and became a tremendous SWA (senior women’s administrator). She wrote the book. She was so good at the rules, regulations, and compliance. She was excellent. Look at the early pictures on the walls … she’s in them.
RRB: Kim Holmes-Fawcett (Volleyball, 1980-83)
Dr. C: When I went down to Northern Kentucky University (interim AD in 2013), there was a Liz Holmes. She was Kim’s aunt.
She was an All-American for us. I wasn’t there, but they tell me that she was a great basketball player too. Her daughter was a three or four time first-team All-American at Penn State. She comes from a very athletic family.
RRB: Cathy Kronauge-Jefferson (Softball, 1973-74)
Dr. C: Cathy was married to Fred Jefferson, our golf coach. If you made a list of the top ten women golfers in Ohio, she’d be in there. She might be closer to the top five.
RRB: Greg Gahris (Broadcaster, 1980-95)
Dr. C: It’s funny how things have come around. I’ve got Greg’s daughter in my classes. He was a Major League voice. If you did a 1 to 10 on how good he was … he would be a 10. Gahris had the smoker’s voice. I called him Moose.
There was a time when Kentucky Wesleyan always got to host the tournament. Then one year, we got it. The reason that we got it was because I knew what they were going to bid, so I just bid more. They could bid what they bid because they had 5,000 seats. We only had 2,800. So I bid $55,000. They usually bid $50,000. I figured that we’d get it, but I had to charge more for the tickets.
So before one of the playoff games, we’re doing a TV interview along the floor and Greg goes, “Well Mike, you can’t say anything more, but you guys really did a really great job of bidding.”
I said, “No, we bid $55,000, Moose.” He’s never at a loss of words, but he goes, “O, O, O, OK.”
RRB: Jennifer Horn-Claypool (Women’s Basketball, 1982-86)
Dr. C: She was interesting because early on in her career, I think that she had a difference in opinions with Pat Davis, who was the coach. I loved Pat, but she could be tough. So Jennifer kind of sat at the end of the bench. By the time that she finished, I think she had about 1,500 points. She is in the Indiana or Ohio sports Hall of Fame.
RRB: Frank Lickliter (Golf, 1988-91)
Dr. C: I didn’t get to know Frank very well, but he may have been the only guy that I know who cried at his induction (WSU Hall of Fame), even though he was already a pro golfer. Frank wasn’t always the number one golfer when we were here, but he was a great competitor and just kept getting better and better. So he ended up making a good living at it.
RRB: Don Bosway (Baseball, 1985-88)
Dr. C: Don was a left-handed pitcher for us. I think it was the year that we went Division I … we got to the semi-finals in Troy and he must have thrown 220 pitches in a game.
RRB: Brian Anderson (Baseball, 1991-93)
Dr. C: He was not only first-team All-American, but he was first-team academic All-American. He was just a first class guy. He also pitched for the Angels, Indians, Diamondbacks, and Royals.
RRB: Bill Edwards (Basketball, 1989-93)
Dr. C: I don’t know how we got him, but I think that Bob Grote did it. Bill had a tough background situation. As a freshman, he came out and was just really good. He had outstanding skills and could have played at any level. We happened to get him, sort of like how Butler got some of their guys. Guys like him are hard to keep any more with the way that they transfer all over the place. It wasn’t like Bill was just good. He was good in big games. He was just so talented.
RRB: Jon Sbrocco (Baseball, 1990-93)
Dr. C: He is the only guy in all of the years that I was here, who had no problem strolling into my office whenever he felt like it. He’d sit down and say, hey boss how are you doing. He was a helluva player and a funny guy. Sometimes he’d send me some sort of gross stuff and I’d go back to him and say, “You can’t be sending this stuff.”
In his first year, he was with Brian (Anderson) and played in the outfield. It was second base after that. He played in the minor leagues several years.
RRB: Vitaly Potapenko (Basketball, 1994-96)
Dr. C: It’s funny and I’ll never forget. Vitaly did something that really had me ticked off. So I called him in and I’m reaming him out. And of course, he’s sitting in one of my chairs, covering up the whole thing. Newman’s sitting in the couch over there.
So I said, “OK, go ahead. You can go now.” Vitaly gets up and goes out. I said to Newman, “Why were you all the way over there?”
He said, “Because if Vitaly jumped up and picked your desk up on you, I wanted to be out of there as fast as I could.”
He was so big that the floor shook when he went by. He was a really, really, nice young man.
RRB: Greg Andrulis (Head Men’s Soccer Coach, 1985-96)
Dr. C: When we hired Greg, there was an interview process that a guy developed, where he went around the country and interviewed the most successful coaches — the Dean Smiths, the Bobby Knights, and all of these guys — about certain traits. Greg is the only guy that we used it on. He was the guy who emerged and he was one of the best coaches that we ever had.
RRB: Pat Davis (Head Women’s Basketball and Softball Coach, 1976-90)
Dr. C: She was here when I got here. Pat did a very good job and was very solid. She was also a big-time athlete in her own right. I think she was the goalie for our national field hockey team, and wasn’t far behind Cathy Jefferson as far as how good she was in golf.
RRB: Ralph Underhill (Head Men’s Basketball Coach, 1978-96)
Dr. C: People thought that Ralph was this wild guy, doing all of this stuff. I’m telling you that I never heard this guy say a cuss word. I was out with him in places and never saw him seem lewd in any way. He’d come to our house if we had a function, and he might be the first one there and the last one to leave. At Fourth of July, he’d pull stuff out and play with the kids. I had absolutely no concerns about this guy. He had the DUI. It was one of those things that happened. We took care of it, admitted it, and got it out there.
As a coach, Ralph was a tireless recruiter. He loved going to places to recruit. When we got to Division I, it was really hard to transition from II to I. In Division II, it seemed like an easy life because we’d beat the crap out of people, the season would end, finish up some recruiting, and have the summer off.
Now, it would be like a professor who comes in next September and they say, “Look, you’re going to have to teach four courses a quarter. We’re going to pay you a little bit more, but you’re going to have to do this and do that.” But the professor might not want to do it. You’re going from taking a nice check into the summer and playing in golf outings. Well, they can’t do that anymore. The world changed when we went Division I. It was at a stage in his life, that even though he had some successful years toward the end, it was harder.
RRB: Mark Myton (Soccer, 1980-84)
Dr. C: Mark is a guy that was struggling with a couple of courses when I got here. He was in engineering and everybody was trying to tell him that he shouldn’t be. He said that he was going to stay in there. He’s been an engineer ever since, and is a true success story. My feeling at that time was … if you want to be an engineer, be an engineer.
RRB: Mark Woods (Basketball, 1989-93)
Dr. C: He’s a special guy because of the story with him finishing school. On those rare occasions when the ball would get stolen from him, he would get it back, like right now. I remember a play when a guy stole the ball from him. Mark’s going this way. The guy who stole the ball is going that way. Mark turns around, comes up, catches him, and hammers it off of the backboard. He was good. He was tough.
RRB: Dr. Carl Benner (Basketball Official Scorer, 1978-2003)
Dr. C: He was the chair of the athletics council when I was hired. He did all of the scoring and was the guy in the striped shirt. He was a wonderful guy and a professor here in the College of Education.
RRB: Rick Miller (Swimming & Diving, 1980-84)
Dr. C: Rick is Harold’s son. Harold is at all of games and has been a volunteer assistant since before I came here.
RRB: Ron Nischwitz (Head Baseball Coach, 1975-2004)
Dr. C: He’s a legend. Some coaches at the Division II level, especially in those days, wouldn’t recruit some guys because they thought that they can’t get those guys … but not Nisch. He’d go after anybody. That’s why they were so good. After he retired — and I forget how it happened — we saw some paperwork (recruiting forms) and pulled one out. It was from Derek Jeter (New York Yankees). Jeter filled it out when he was seventeen years old. It was likely a courtesy, being as good of a kid as he probably was.
RRB: Keion Brooks (Basketball, 1995-99)
Dr. C: When he played, if you looked out to the parking lots toward the baseball facilities, there would be a semi out there. That was his dad. His dad was a semi truck driver. He’d come to the games, maybe because he was in the area. He’d pull that truck in there and come to the games. Keion was a great talent.
RRB: Matt Liddy (Head Swimming & Diving Coach, 1989-2005)
Dr. C: Matt was an assistant to the swimming coach He took over the program, did a great job, and obviously won all the time. Then he was an assistant for awhile. I know he wanted to retire and get into administration, and I thought frankly, he wasn’t ready to retire. Matt seemed to agree and was happy that he stayed a year or two. He was remarried, had a younger son who was a pretty good athlete, and wanted to spend more time with them, so he was able to do that. Matt was good to work with.
RRB: Jim Brown (Basketball Coach, 1970-97)
Dr. C: Jim was here forever, and still teaches here. He had been in Vietnam and I’ve heard a lot of those stories. I am really impressed with the very good job that he does on radio … an excellent job. If you can get a mature guy to be your assistant coach forever, you got it made, which leads to the next guy …
RRB: Paul Newman (Associate Athletics Director, 1985-2006)
Dr. C: I had it made by having him. I used to kid him about us being married for 23 years. When I was at Mercyhurst — a little school where we did everything — he was the SID at Edinboro, where you felt like they had everything. After I was here a year or two, Jim Dock decided that he wanted to have his own shop somewhere, so he became the head of the Alumni Association. I called Paul and asked if this was something that he’d be interested in. He didn’t know, so I brought him and Connie down here and let them look around. Then I went up to Erie and talked to them. I had one other guy named Larry Geraciatti, who had coached at NYU. He was looking for a job too. We interviewed them both.
Geraciatti took his NYU baseball team to the final games in Omaha and got beat by Arizona State, who featured Reggie Jackson and Sal Bando.
My staff was scared stiff of Geraciatti. He was sort of a New York accent, gangstery kind of guy. They said you’ll never be able to control him, but Larry was a good guy. He went on to coach baseball at Georgetown.
I asked Paul to come. I didn’t think that he would because he was at Edinboro, but he did.
I remember asking Paul about three or four years after he was here, “When do you think you want to look for an AD job?” He looked at me and said, “I like it here.” In Paul’s case, he did so much in the community. He’s a pillar.
I’ll tell you one story that’s funny. After about the first or second year here, Paul was doing budget and he tells me that we were $50,000 over, which was a lot back then, and I had almost gone to Louisville. I’m going, “Oh my God.” So he’s saying that he’s got this system and he’s got this and that. And I’m saying, “But we’re $50,000 over.” He says, “I’ll pay it out of my own salary.” So I’m carrying on, and said that I should have gone to Louisville. I’m on his back and he keeps talking about how he’s got this all figured out. I said, “You’re figuring out all of this stuff. I’m losing sleep over the budget (which I’m not) and you don’t give a damn over the budget.” He turns to me and basically says, screw you. He opens my office door, storms out, and slams the door. Well, the Athletics Council is going to meet, and they’re all sitting there and see this. For about a week or two, we were communicating through post-it notes on the door. He and I talk about this all of the time.
RRB: The 1982-83 NCAA Division II National Champions Men’s Basketball Team
Dr. C: This team, of course, was special. They were fun to watch. There were some characters on the team from the buttoned-down Mike Grote, who was MVP of the national championship game, to Fred Moore, who got about 20 points in the Louisville game in Louisville. Louisville won the championship that year too and we gave them a good game. We had a great team. We could have played at the Division I level. That team … no question.
RRB: Joe Smith (Baseball, 2004-06)
Dr. C: Joe was an overhand pitcher with Nisch, and Greg Lovelady changed him. Not many people would have been able to do that … from Lovelady’s side or from Joe’s side. Joe was the ultimate competitor.
RRB: DaShaun Wood (Basketball, 2003-07)
Dr. C: In his freshman year, he didn’t come in as DaShaun Wood. He came in as DaShaun Lynch. His mother had passed, and during his freshman year, he had to go back and sign her death certificate.
Bob Grant and I were at Cleveland State for the softball tournament. We entered the tournament with forty losses and won that thing. We looked like Arizona State in the first game.
It’s freezing up there, so Bob and I are in the press box. We hear their SID saying that they’ve got this kid, DaShaun Lynch, who came, visited, and is going to be terrific for them. Grant and I look at each other and said, “What? DaShaun is supposed to come to our place next week.”
I called Biancardi and said, “What’s going on?” He said that he’d look into it. Paul gets back with me and says, “He’s coming.” We got him, but I don’t put two-and-two together. The following year, we played in Cleveland, and some AAU coach is carrying on and yelling at our bench. He must have promised DaShaun to Cleveland State.
RRB: Gordie Wise (Public Address Announcer, “Welcome to another exciting night of Raider round ball”, 1969-Present)
Dr. C: Gordie was a faculty rep when I came here, so we went to the NCAA conferences together. He has missed some games for family, kids, and functions like that, but he has certainly been the announcer for every season. He’s Mr. Wright State.
RRB: Rob Cooper (Head Baseball Coach, 2004-13)
Dr. C: When we were looking for coaches, we had some very good candidates. I forget how we did it, but he was an assistant at Oral Roberts, so I asked somebody to do some background work on him. If I’m not mistaking, he even said that he’d pay his own way to come out and do an interview. Of course, that’s not allowed. He’s a tough guy, who kept you on your toes. I’ve always said that the best coaches you’ll have are going to be the most demanding because they want to get to that next level.
RRB: Greg Lovelady (Head Baseball Coach, 2013-Present)
Dr. C: Greg was the catcher on the national championship teams at Miami (Florida). He did a job with Joe Smith, comparable to what Billy Donlon did with DaShaun Wood. He took a pretty good player and turned him into a great player.
Greg did a heckuva job this year. I saw him at Kroger, the day after they lost in the tournament (Horizon League). I was impressed with the way that he handled it. There were no complaints about the kids not playing well. He’s going to be good.
RRB: Paul Biancardi (Head Basketball Coach, 2003-05)
Dr. C: I wish we had gotten to know Paul, but we didn’t because there was a cloud over him. I think he would have done fine.
RRB: Brad Brownell (Head Basketball Coach, 2006-09)
Dr. C: We were looking for a coach after Paul Biancardi got caught up in that situation. We were going to talk to the coach who had just been fired at Kansas State. He had been successful, but that is when they brought Huggins in. We were going to fly out and talk to him. The guy that’s at Cleveland State (Gary Waters), who was at Rutgers at the time, was very interested in the job. Tom Izzo had called us with one of his guys — and he usually did that — because he had good guys.
One thing led to another and we found out that Brad wasn’t happy there. Will Rey (former WSU assistant basketball coach) had helped us with that. We consulted with him by phone.
Jon LeCrone (Horizon League Commissioner) was on the NCAA selection committee and Brad’s team (UNC-Wilmington) was going to be in the NCAA tournament. They were Jon’s assignment. I said to LeCrone, “If you see the guy, would you tell him that Wright State is a good one to look at?” He ended up in the room next door to Brownell and he opens up the door to get his papers, and Brad opens up the door at the same time.
So I called the AD and got permission to talk to him, and we talked to Brad. He came in to be interviewed at Ball State and here. I think that our Pavilion and all of that had a lot to do with it, so that’s how we got him.
RRB: Billy Donlon (Head Basketball Coach, 2010-Present)
Dr. C: I always felt that he was going to be the next coach, and of course, Bob Grant hired him for that. I saw him working DaShaun, and it was the only time that I saw anyone be able to wear DaShaun out. If you remember, DaShaun was a very good player, but if he had a weakness, he may not have been the greatest shooter in the world. By his senior year, he was a helluva shooter. When we played Butler (Horizon League tournament) we were down ten … he just erased it.
RRB: Lisa Lemmon (Dr. Cusack’s long-time secretary)
Dr. C: I had her about the whole time. Lisa was always the smartest person in the room. She was so far ahead with the computer that there was nothing she couldn’t do. It was phenomenal. Some people used to say she’s not working so hard. Every time, my answer was, “She always got the work done … always.” It wasn’t like there’s all of this work left and she’s out of here. We couldn’t give her enough work to challenge her completely.
Early with the Nutter Center, when there were all sorts of ticket problems because of the way that the thing was organized, she was the front line. A lot of people don’t realize that. She handled that stuff and could remember where peoples’ seats were. Not every single one, but most of them. She could have been anything she wanted.
Lisa was my secretary for 22 years. Talk about luck … I had Paul (Newman) and her the whole time. I was just lucky.
RRB: Dr. Cusack, thanks again for taking the time to talk with us.