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Drew Ellis covers Oakland University basketball for The Oakland Press. His news and notes keep you up to date with Golden Grizzlies men's basketball.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Lesser demand for this year's Grizzlies?

After fielding numerous inquiries in the annual Summit League media teleconference just one season ago, with one foot already on the golf course, Oakland men's coach Greg Kampe sounded poised and confident while he fielded questions from members around the league. Last year's questions came in response to the Golden Grizzlies' ascension to the front of the preseason polls and the return of seniors Derick Nelson and preseason player of the year Johnathon Jones. Not to mention eventual Summit Player of the Year Keith Benson.
So it was surprising to hear Kampe field only one question from the media Thursday on the league-wide teleconference in regard to whether Oakland deserves its unanimous preseason No. 1 ranking.
“I have no idea where we stand. So far, I have not seen any team in our league play,” Kampe said. “That’s one thing about this league, I hear about all these great recruits … it’s not like we’re centrally located and I could have seen these kids in high school and know how good they are or even try to recruit against them, so everybody’s got new players and I have no clue if they’re any good or not. I’ll see when they start playing games.”

It is a bit easier to predict the where Benson stands, as he attempts to lead the Grizzlies while improving his likely NBA draft status.
“I expect him to be the best player in the league. He better be that,” Kampe said. “I don’t see a lot of 6(-foot-)11 prospects floating around in our league. If he isn’t, I haven’t done a good job or he’s had a terrible year.”
What has changed? While the loss of Jones and Nelson are going to realized early on, the Grizzlies are still the prohibitive favorite around the league AND they return Benson, who was forced to withdraw from the draft after a lingering thumb injury turned up in a pre-draft exam.
Is it because people wondered if Oakland was for real? Has the conference been beaten into submission after the Golden Grizzlies went 17-1 on their way to the program's second Division I tournament berth?
Despite the losses of Jones and Nelson, the Grizzlies should have adequate replacements.
“There’s guys playing at that position who are very good players that we feel we’re not going to miss a beat with," Kampe said, mentioning sophomore Ledrick Eackles and junior Blake Cushingberry by name.
Kampe also reitterated he will put the ball in Larry Wright's hands at point guard, but also noted the talent of freshman Ryan Bass, a heralded recruit from Dayton Dunbar HS.
“He’s going to be a very good Summit League player. Is he ready right now? We’ll know by Dec. 2. We’ll see what we do at that position,” Kampe said.

While other program's coaches were asked about the a rumored conference change, a subject conference commissioner Tom Douple declined to comment on, the lines went quiet for Kampe and women's coach Beckie Francis. There were also no questions submitted from fans, a new feature the league added this season.
Is the lack of questioning a sign Oakland isn't the "media darling" of a season ago, maybe not the overwhelming favorite like last season? Were the inquisitive media simply absent on this day or has the possibility of multiple teams leaving the league in favor of a football conference become the main story? We still have to wait two more weeks for that opening tip in West Virginia and into December, the beginning of conference play, if there are more questions.

Other notes: IUPUI men's coach Ron Hunter called the Summit League "the most underrated league in the country." ... IPFW men's coach Dane Fife says he has his deepest team in his six seasons, as the Mastodons return seven letter-winners. ... A poignant fan question came in for Western Illinois coach Jim Molinari from a fan in Bad Axe, Mich., one of the few fan submissions.

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