All that was said at media day
Oakland Head Coach Greg Kampe (27th season)
We’re excited November is not far away. We’re back working at it. We had a lot of accolades in the offseason. There is a lot of fun coming in with the season that we had. One of the things that people don’t realize about our team and players is that the season ended in a bad way for us. So when people talk about repeating and motivation, we have a lot of motivation. We had a chance to win an NCAA tournament basketball game and we kind of folded down the stretch. We had a five-point lead when Derick (Nelson) got hurt and Pittsburgh scored 76 points over the last 27 minutes. We were really disappointed as we had positioned ourselves to do something. We had a great offseason and we are motivated by those last 27 minutes. We have a desire to get back and atone for that. I’m very pleased with the work ethic the players have shown so far. As a coaching staff we are pleased with their work ethic and are excited to be back at it. We open the season against West Virginia, a Final Four team last season, and we’re anxious to show what we can do.
Plans for the point guard position this season
When you lose a guy that played 37, 38 minutes a game, a four-year starter and the winningest player in school history in JJ (Johnathon Jones), a player that has become more a part of me than any other kid I have coached, it definitely is going to be an issue. We’re just going to be a different team this season, that is all. We’re going to learn through experimentation, we’ll learn through the games that we are going to be playing. We’re going to find out very quickly what are weaknesses are and we will adapt to it. I’m not worried about it because we have some really, really good players and we’ll figure out what the best way to play is and do it.
In what way will you be different from last year
I think we will play a little faster pace. We have a lot of really good players and I need to get them on the floor. One way to do that is to play faster. We really want to push the ball, probably more than we have ever done. We’re going to defend the whole 94 feet which is something we have not done since moving to NCAA Division I. I believe we can do it with the athletes that we have. We have a bunch of guys that have great motors. What I mean by that is they can play hard for longer periods of time. We’re going to take advantage of that. Offensively, this team can shoot the ball better. Last year we found ways to score points. This year, we have guys that can really shoot the ball which is going to lighten the load on Kito (Keith Benson). If you’re going to double team Kito, I think you’re really going to pay for it.
On the depth of this year’s team
Oh this team is deep. I have guys that could start on most teams in The Summit League that may see 5-7 minutes a game for us. That’s because maybe there a little inexperienced or behind someone. We really feel comfortable with everyone on our roster. I could put anyone out there and be satisfied with that they will accomplish.
How much do you like playing the schedule that you have
I don’t like getting beat. If it was up to me, we would find the 30 easiest teams in the country, beat them by 50 and play everyone 20 minutes and I would look like a genius. That is how I would like it but that is not the way to do it. The way to do it is to do it the way we do it. That doesn’t sound real good but the point is this is our style, the way we do things and we think that it makes us better. There are a lot of reasons such as the money we make, the exposure the university gets but the biggest thing for me is, we will find out what we are weak in. We’ll work on those things so by the time conference rolls around, we are better.
Having been through a schedule like this the year before, are you better prepared
Well, we did not do real well against the big boys last year and part of that was our style of play. We played a very methodical game. We were athletic and out athletic the team in our league. We just didn’t out athletic Kansas, Michigan State and those teams. We’ll do some things different this season such as play a little zone, which we didn't do last year until the end of the season. To beat those teams, compete with them, you have to trick them a little. Show them things that they don’t expect. You have to make the threes to compete. The year we lost 75-73 to Michigan State, we made a ton of threes. Last year we weren’t equipped to make a bunch of threes but this year we can. I think our chances are better, but the reality is, I don’t care. The games I care about are the ones in January and February. When March comes, then I will care about those games.
The contributions you expect the freshman class to make
I love our freshman class. I really really think our future is secure. We had a really good class last year and we really like them this season. We have a point guard that I think will be a star. We have a four man who I think will be an all-league player. We have a five, who with development, will be very good in our league. He is not ready now but with the things he can do and his size, 7-0, he is going to be a quality player. There will be a day, three years from now, where people will say, how did they get him? Having said that, I really would like to redshirt all three of them. With all the players we have, if we need to reach into the freshman class, that would not be a good thing. I would like to redshirt them, but whether or not I can, I probably won’t know until the middle of November.
Who do you consider to be a role model from the professional coaching ranks
You know, that is an interesting question. Before we built this place and before The Palace was built, all those Detroit teams came here to practice. I got to sit and watched all those great players and coaches. Chuck Daly was a great guy and we communicated very well together. I learned more from him than any other coach. The Piston’s GM, Jack McCluskey was a mentor as well. Those two guys taught me a lot about how to carry yourself in this profession, how to be successful. So if I had to point a finger at anyone, I would point it at those two guys.
With the departure of Jones and Nelson, who do you see as the lock down defender
That’s a good question. I’ve been waiting for that question. That is the issue. I’m very worried about that issue defensively. We would say we don’t want that guy to score and JJ (Johnathon Jones) would go out there and Drew Nietzel (Michigan State) would go 3-of-9. Last year, Pittsburgh had this great scorer and I think he had three points in the game. That’s because JJ could lock people down. Not only could he, he wanted to do it, he enjoyed it, it was a badge of courage for him. Because Derick (Nelson) was beat up and injured so much last year, we couldn’t get the lock down every night. When we really wanted someone to step up and lock a player down, Derick could do it and did. So who are our lock down defenders? I couldn’t tell you right now. If there is a question mark in my mind about this team, that is it.
The roles of Ilijia Milutinovic and Travis Bader this year
When I said earlier, we have a lot of good players, Bader is one of those guys. He might get only 5-7 minutes a game for us where on a lot of the teams in our league, he could average 12-14 points a game. Then again it may work out that he is getting 20 minutes a game. I don’t know. Defensively is the issue for him. I have no issues with him offensively. I could put him at three different spots and we wouldn’t miss a beat. We might even get better with him out there. But he is going to have to prove he can guard. I’m not saying he can’t, he’s just never played so I don’t know.
Illija (Milutinovic) is one of those guys that has been stuck behind Keith Benson. When we got him, I felt he would be very good in our league and I still believe he will be. The question is, I got a guy who is an NBA prospect, a projected lottery pick. Do you take that guy off the floor? No. We plan on playing Illija more this year. He’s earned it in practice, the right to get that chance. I just have to get him out there because it’s hard to get Kito (Keith Benson) off the floor. He needs time and minutes, but what he needs more than anything is the ability to make a mistake and not think that I will pull him immediately.
Why do you have five Big 10 teams on the schedule
Well, there are a couple of reasons. Reason number one is (Keith) Benson. He jumped on the scene last year when he did what he did against Cole Aldrich (Kansas). There were like 13 pro scouts there and they all stepped back and said WOW. We wanted to give him the opportunity to compete against the guys he is going to be measured against in the draft. You may ask, why would you do that? I’ll say, because we can make a lot of money doing that and we can improve our RPI.
Senior guard Larry Wright
How will your role differ this season
This year I have to learn to be more aggressive. I was passive last year and I need to be more assertive out on the floor.
I learned a lot from JJ (Johnathon Jones) and Derick (Nelson). At times last year my head was down with being new. JJ and Derick really taught me a lot about leadership, being confident, keeping your head up. It's my responsibility to take what they taught me and teach it to my new teammates. That will help us get better.
Junior guard Reggie Hamilton
How much and what did you learn from sitting out last year
The main thing I learned was how to win. It was a big factor being in practice with good guards like Johnathon Jones and Larry Wright. When you're around good players, you can only improve your own game.
What do you feel the team needs to improve upon the most and how do you address that
The area we need to improve in is being able to communicate. It's a small problem right now, but it can be a big problem if we don’t work on it. We just have to talk all the time, and if we do that, I think this will be the best defense that Oakland has seen in a long time.
How does it feel to be back on the court
It was a long great year to be a part of this team. While last year was fun, I’m glad to be back out on the floor and ready to get to work.
Senior center Keith Benson
What did you work on the most in the offseason
I put on some weight and gained strength. I’ve been working out in the pool to improve my footwork. My ball handling is improved which will allow me to come out on the perimeter when necessary. Been working on my leg strength and improving my defensive play in the post.
With your injury keeping you out of the NBA draft last year, do you have a chip on your shoulder
I don’t have an extra chip on my shoulder personally. This team is always hungry and I’m working hard to play the best I can and help my team out.
Adjusting to a leadership role this season
I try to lead by example and practice. I want to teach the young guys to work hard, let them know when they're doing things wrong and right, help them with the drills. It all starts in the locker room where we just try to come together as a team.
How does it feel to have played with Will Hudson over the last few years
Every year we are getting better and better at working from the high post and low post. We just work on helping each other off the double teams.
Senior forward Will Hudson
Adjusting to a leadership role this season
Like Kito (Keith Benson) said, we have to set the tempo for the younger guys. It’s our job to let them know about the traditions here at Oakland and to continue it. You just have to keep pushing to get better every day. That is what we strive for.
The elevation of your game over the past three years
Each year in the offseason you have to bring something new to the team. I just work as hard as I can, go all out every time I step on the floor. My goal is to do whatever is needed to help the team win basketball games.
What is the goal that is pushing you guys this season
Obviously, coming back and winning another championship means everything to this program. The whole offseason, our focus has been geared toward another championship run.
How does it feel to have played with Keith Benson over the last few years
We’ve gotten to know each other pretty well over the last few years. It’s gotten to the point where we instinctively know what is going on with each other on the floor. We’re always trying to push ourselves to be in a better position to score or play defense, whatever is needed.