FAIRBORN — Wright State players and a crowd of hundreds gathered in the WSU student union erupted in excitement as it was announced the team earned a 14 seed and a matchup with third seeded Tennessee in Dallas on Thursday, March 15.
“It feels even more real having this banner in the background and knowing who we play. It’s everything I expected and more,” said center Parker Ernsthausen said following the selection. “As a kid you watch the selection show and see these teams go crazy. Not every team gets featured on television, so to see us on there celebrating was awesome.”
“That’s the goal coming into college, to play in the NCAA tournament. Now that we’re here, we’ll hopefully set a precedent for this program going forward.”
For Ernsthausen, who had to prove his role on the team early in his career, reaching this horizon was more of an aberration at one point.
“There were some times where I wasn’t sure if I was going to be playing Division I basketball. I wavered back and forth with coaching changes,” Ernsthausen said. “It’s a little extra gratifying to know I played a part on a team that went to the NCAA tournament.”
However this season ultimately concludes, it’s an experience Ernsthausen says he will never forget.
“These are memories I’ll share with these guys forever. In 10 or 15 years when we meet back up this is what we’ll talk about,” Ernsthausen said. “No one can take it away from us.”
Center Loudon Love was a welcome surprise this season by averaging the second most points and topping offensive and defensive rebound totals for WSU. This earned him Freshman of the Year honors for the Horizon League.
“It’s a foundation to build off of. To play on the biggest level you can in college in my first season is something special,” Love said.
Guard Mark Hughes was most impactful with his lock down defense this season and was named to the HL All-Defensive Team. He led the Raiders in steals and assists.
“It’s indescribable with all the love and support we’ve gotten. It’s stuff you dream about since you were a little kid,” Hughes said. “To be a part of it feels unbelievable.”
Hughes added that he is most excited about the tournament atmosphere and what the game can do for the WSU name on his jersey.
“It’s going to be a task for us, but just being in front of a huge crowd and building our brand is what I’m looking forward to,” Hughes said.
When asked about the style of play needed to face the Vols, the common theme stated by several of the Raiders was toughness and grit.
“We’re going to be physical. Coach (Scott) Nagy was preaching all practice their physicality and size,” Hughes said. “It’s going to be tough, but that’s our mentality and we’re ready to work.”
“We knew we’d be the underdog no matter what with our seed. Tennessee is a big and physical team,” Love said. “It comes down to how much we want to compete.”
Most of the WSU players couldn’t point to a specific tournament moment they favored, but one shining moment could change that.
“I don’t really have a favorite tournament moment. Hopefully I’ll make some of my own this year,” Hughes said.
Story courtesy of Wright State University for more information go to www.wsuraiders.com.