Tom Archdeacon: A family tree rooted in basketball

Tom Archdeacon, Dayton Daily News, Ohio
·7 min read

Mar. 2—As a kid, it was a daily walk he couldn't wait to make.

"Our elementary school was right next to our high school, so after school I'd walk over to the gym," said Wright State's 6-foot-9 redshirt sophomore Grant Basile. "The varsity team would be in there and I loved going to their practice."

His dad, Michael Basile, was the head basketball coach at Pewaukee High School and that gave Grant access to the gym floor, the rack of balls on the sideline and, most importantly, his heroes.

"When I watched the older guys, I looked at them as celebrities," he said. "It was pretty cool being around them."

And in order to stay around them, he said he quickly learned a cardinal rule: "You don't keep dribbling the basketball when the coach is talking to them."

Recalling those times, his dad laughed: "He was well-versed knowing the ins and outs of the high school gym."

And game nights were best.

"When I was younger I sat on the bench for some of the games and was the ball boy, the water boy," Grant said. "For away games, I was still a kid and had a bedtime. But if it was a big game, I got to ride the bus.

"It was all a great experience for me. That's when I fell in love with the game."

It had been the same for his dad when he was a kid. His father, Mike Basile, was a well-known high school and junior college coach in the Milwaukee area.

"From the time I could walk I was in the gym at my dad's practices" Michael said. "I was on the bus rides and during the game I'd sit close to the scorer's table and get the guys' warm-ups when they took them off."

Mike, who's now 76, chuckled at the memories: "He was a little gym rat. I took him to all the practices and games and he loved it. And years later when my players would come back, they'd all ask about him."

Around Milwaukee, when you hear the name Basile — except maybe for Grant's twin sister, Brooke, who was an all-conference volleyball player in high school — you think of basketball, Mike admitted.

At 6-foot-2 Mike could have walked on at Marquette, but instead accepted an offer to Yankton College in South Dakota, an NAIA school, which closed in 1984.

And Grant's dad — a 6-foot-5 "leaper who could jump out of the gym," Mike said — played at Ripon College, an NCAA Division III school where he scored 1,053 career points in the early 1990s.

Now Grant is making a mark at Wright State.

Coach Scott Nagy inserted him into the starting lineup 13 games ago and he has blossomed for the 18-5 Raiders. He was just named to the All Horizon League second team.

Coming into tonight's Horizon League Tournament quarterfinal game against Milwaukee at the Nutter Center, Basile is averaging 14.2 points per game (third best on the team) and 6.7 rebounds, also third among the Raiders and 11th best in the conference.

He's shooting 62 percent from the floor, tops in the Horizon League and No. 11 in the nation.

Were these normal times — rather than having COVID-19 precautions prevent fans from attending all Horizon League tournament games this season — much of Basile's family would have been at the Nutter Center tonight.

Grant's dad retired from coaching in 2018, just so he and his wife and their two daughters could follow Grant's college career.

And Grant's mom, Lisa Nass, and her husband Kevin — who Grant credited with spending plenty of time with him shooting baskets in the driveway — would catch games with Grant's young step-brother, too.

His grandpa is in Florida now, but said he originally planned the trip so he and his wife would be coming back through Indianapolis in time for the tournament's final two games, March 8 and 9, should the Raiders win their quarterfinal.

"But he calls Grant now and they talk a lot of basketball," Grant's dad said. "He watches all the games (on ESPN+) and they discuss free throw shooting, rebounding, whatever."

The thought made him laugh: "It's hard for Grant to get away from coaches giving him tips."

'One of the highlights of my life'

From generation to generation, one question has been repeated between Basile fathers and sons.

"I found myself saying the same comments my dad used on me," Grant's dad said. "He'd be like, 'Mike, do you want me to talk to you like a dad? Or talk to you like a coach?'"

He opted for the latter, just as Grant would do a generation later.

He admitted that didn't always make it easy between Grant and him, but he said coaching his son "was one of the highlights of my life."

Still he wishes he'd done one thing differently: "I wish I would have taken time to enjoy it a little more.

"Grant's senior year he had one of the best high school performances I've seen in all my coaching. He scored. He played defense. He was on a winning team. But being the head coach, I was always worried about game planning and scheming for the next game and so many other things.

"And I was extra hard on him. I held him to a tougher standard."

Grant's grandpa — who didn't coach Grant's dad — watched it unfold:

"I know it was difficult for him to coach Grant. He was very tough on him. But Grant's an exceptional kid and he understood we all were proud of him. He knew his dad was doing it to get the best out of him. "

Grant's dad agreed: "Like Grant, I had aspirations of him playing after high school at higher level and I thought I'd push him not only on the physical and basketball side, but the mental aspect too so he'd be ready."

Grant caught the interest of Wright State thanks to Raiders' assistant coach Sharif Chambliss, who played at Racine St. Catherine's High School and the University of Wisconsin and had been an assistant a UW Milwaukee. And his wife, Melissa, graduated from the same high school where Grant starred and his dad coached.

Once Nagy got involved, WSU offered a scholarship and Grant committed to the Raiders as a junior. His dad said that allowed him to concentrate solely on his senior season, which was superb until he suffered an ankle injury in the sectional tournament.

It hampered him when he got to Wright State and he eventually had surgery that December.

He returned to the court last season and won Horizon League All Freshman Team honors.

He began this season coming off the bench, but was made a starter following back to back losses at Oakland and Youngstown State early in January.

Since then the Raiders have gone 11-2.

"Grant wanted to play more and I think he deserved to play more," his dad said. "And when he got the chance, I think he backed it up with his play."

Twin towers

With Grant now starting alongside 6-foot-8 redshirt senior Loudon Love — the two-time Horizon League Player of the Year and WSU's all-time rebounding leader and the No. 3 career scorer — the Raiders have the most formidable one-two punch inside in the league.

The challenge opponents face was on a full display in WSU's pair of weekend victories over Robert Morris just over a month ago.

At Friday night's game, Basile had 29 points and 11 rebounds.

The next afternoon, Love topped that with 34 points and 11 rebounds.

"It took some getting used to for both of us, but we're working on playing off each other and giving each other space to operate in the post," Basile said.

And with him hitting 49 percent of his shots from three-point range that help open things up for Love inside.

No one has enjoyed watching all this unfold more than his dad.

"With all this COVID going on, it's been the highlight of our year to watch the success Grant has had," he said. "It's a progression I've watched all through his career. And it's not been small steps. Every year his improvement has come with some great leaps."

Yet, it did all start with small steps by a young boy making that short walk from his elementary school to watch the "celebrities" practice at the high school gym next door.