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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.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Grizzlies' opponents decided

In lieu of the video I promised last night (it's been shot, but issues have arisen in loading to the blog), I offer this tidbit: Oakland, riding an eight-game winning streak, will take on Missouri Kansas City in the Summit League Tournament quarterfinals Saturday at 7 p.m.
The Grizzlies (23-8, 17-1) beat the Kangaroos twice during the regular season. This is the first time Oakland has entered the tourney as the No. 1 seed. It last won the tournament and advanced to the NCAA tournament in 2005, the season before current (redshirt) senior Derick Nelson joined the program.
The Golden Grizzlies set a school with 10 road wins, eight of which came in conference play, which should bode well for them, as they look to continue a record breaking season in Sioux Falls, S.D., next weekend.
After Saturday's Summit League wins record-clinching game was complete, it was learned that Nelson reaggravated a previously strained groin.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

OU men striving for most conference wins and Summit Tournament championship


Of The Oakland Press

ROCHESTER – If you thought there wasn’t anything left to play for after sewing up the No. 1 seed to a conference tournament by virtue of your first conference title in a decade, think again. The Oakland men host Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne at the O’Rena at 6 p.m. Saturday with another chance for fame. With a win Saturday, the Golden Grizzlies would become the first team to win 17 games in an 18-game Summit League regular season. They would also send seniors Derick Nelson and Johnathon Jones out on a positive note in their final home game and keep the momentum, which has helped them win 16 of their last 17 games, in tact on their way to the conference tournament next weekend.

The cheerful goodbyes and record aside, a loss would have a harmful effect on the Golden Grizzlies’ RPI, which is currently 67. A home loss would negatively impact that score, which helps determine seeding should the Grizzlies advance to the NCAA tournament with a conference tournament championship.

“We can't afford that,” Oakland coach Greg Kampe said. “We've got to win the game. We have a lot to play for and we have to keep it going. I expect we're going to play well.”

Oakland (22-8, 16-1) will enter the tournament as the top seed for the first time, which buys the Grizzlies a day of rest, something they didn’t have the good fortune of in a heartbreaking, last-second loss to North Dakota State in the championship game last season.

"I don't think it matters where you are or what (seed) you go in as. We've gone in as a two seed and a three seed and we also go in thinking we can win it. I'm sure all those other teams will, too,” Kampe said. “The good (thing) is … if we can win the first game, we get a day off. Last year, that really hurt us. We played three nights in a row and North Dakota State had a day off. They outscored us in the last five minutes by 15 points. That hurt us. When you look back at what went wrong, that was one of the things to look at.”

The Grizzlies beat the Mastodons (14-13, 9-8) earlier this season in the first conference game for both squads. Since then, IPFW has played one of its best conference seasons in recent memory and have won six of their last nine games.

The Mastodons are coached by Clarkston alum Dane Fife, winner of the 1998 Michigan Mr. Basketball award. Fife, the youngest coach at this level, has tied or broken the school’s mark for wins in its Division I era each of his five seasons with the program.

While the first three spots in the Summit League field are set for the season-ending tournament, the final eight spots are up in the air. IPFW is still battling for the fourth seed.

“We can get 17 wins and we want to keep our home-court winning streak alive and it’s me and Johnathon’s last game. Those are the reasons to get up for this game, period. You want to go into the conference tournament playing well, you don’t want to go in with a loss, there are a lot of reasons to get up for (IPFW),” Nelson said.

The tournament begins March 6 at Sioux Falls Arena in Sioux Falls, S.D.

A conference tournament title is the main reason Nelson returned to the Grizzlies after a broken foot forced him to redshirt last season.

“The championship is on my mind pretty much every day for a while. Anytime I’m on the court, that’s what I’m thinking about and anytime I have anything to do with basketball, that’s what I’m thinking about,” he said. “Until we get it, that’s all I’m going to think about.”

An Oakland win would tie the Grizzlies’ Division I mark for victories in a season, which they set in postseason play last year.

Saturday’s game can be heard on WDFN-AM (1130).

Paul Kampe covers Oakland University basketball for The Oakland Press. E-mail him at and follow him on Twitter @PaulKampe.

GRIZZ TALK: OU men going for regular-season record

This week, I sat down with senior leaders Derick Nelson and Johnathon Jones, as they prepare to finish out their final season in the black and gold.

GRIZZ TALK: OU men going for regular-season record - The Oakland Press Sports > College: The best place for news in and around Oakland County

Monday, February 22, 2010

Oakland's Johnathon Jones and Greg Kampe on WXYZ Sports Update

Oakland coach Greg Kampe and senior point guard Johnathon Jones were on Channel 7's Sunday night sports wrap up show. Click here or visit and click "All Access" above the video player, which will open a new window where you can see the clip.

Summit League recognizes Johnathon Jones' championship efforts

Oakland University men's senior point guard Johnathon Jones was rewarded for his efforts in the past few games, where he took the team on his back in the closing stages and led the Golden Grizzlies to their first Summit League regular-season title in 10 years. Jones, the Summit preseason player of the year, earned his first player of the week honor this season, which he shares with Indiana-Purdue Indianapolis' Robert Glenn.
Jones began the week with a season-high 25 points versus South Dakota State, dishing out six assists and converted on a career-high 5-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc. The 5-foot-11 guard posted his third straight 20-point game with 24 against North Dakota State, tallying seven assists, to lead the Golden Grizzlies to their second outright regular-season championship.
For the week, Jones averaged 24.5 points, 6.5 assists and 2.0 steals per game. He also posted 13 assists to just two turnovers and has started in 130 consecutive games for the Grizzlies, a school record.
Glenn averaged 28.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2.5 steals in 29 minutes per game during the week. Glenn and the Jaguars are the only Summit team to beat Oakland and are in position to be the No. 2 seed in the upcoming Summit League Tournament. The Grizzlies have wrapped up the No. 1 seed for the tournament, which runs March 6-10 in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Grizzlies get another for 2010-11

Oakland has received a commitment from Dayton Dunbar (OH) senior point guard Ryan Bass for the 2010-11 season.
The 5-foot-9 Bass has been splitting time at the point this season and is averaging 12 points and 3 assists per game, according to his coach, Peter Pullen.
"He's a point guard that can score. He doesn't need to score to have a big game. He had a big game the other night and he only scored seven points, but they came at the time and moment (needed), and that's what a good point guard does,” Pullen said.
Pullen said Bass, a transfer from Chaminade Julliene in Dayton, Ohio, where he played his first three seasons of high school basketball, made his decision after a recent visit to Cleveland State. Aside from the Vikings, Pullen said Bass was shown interest by other suitors such as: Duquesne, Texas A&M, Toledo and Bowling Green.
"Oakland was just on him from the start. They were very interested in him,” Pullen said.
"They did a great job of supporting him and just staying with him. He's just comfortable with the coaching staff and he enjoyed his visit when he went up.”
Pullen said Dunbar has been ranked No. 1 in the state of Ohio all season and is currently 15-1.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Grizz Talk Feb. 17

The latest "Grizz Talk" is up. I chatted with sophomore Drew Maynard about his increasing playing time and his maturation on the court and Kito made it known he wants to get even with the women's team. (Click here if the embedded video isn't working properly.)

Oakland forward Derick Nelson to return Thursday

Many already know, but senior forward Derick Nelson pulled his groin in Saturday’s win at UMKC. No one has come out and blamed me for jinxing him with Sunday’s feature story, which was written and placed on Sunday’s page before the injury, and I feel better knowing Nelson will play tomorrow.
Oakland coach Greg Kampe said after practice Wednesday that Nelson will play in this weekend’s games.
“We’re day to day with him. He practiced hard today. It’s going to be sore. If this was November, we’d probably give him a week or two off, but we can’t. He’s not Peyton Manning, we’re not going to rest him for the playoffs. We want to keep winning and he wants to play,” Kampe said.
“If he gets out there and he can’t go, he’s going to come out. He feels confident he’s going to be able to go.”
Nelson has started each game this season and he’s the team’s third-leading scorer, averaging 11.7 points per game.
Oakland can clinch at least a share of the Summit League regular-season title with a win tomorrow night against South Dakota State at the O'Rena.
The Grizzlies have their final three games at home, where they are 6-0 in the league and have won 17 consecutive league contests.

Oakland University senior Derick Nelson hopes gamble pays off

My feature on Derick Nelson from Sunday's edition.

Of The Oakland Press

The road trip the Oakland men’s team is currently on involves stops in Las Vegas.

Before Thursday’s game at Southern Utah and again before it departed for Kansas City for Saturday’s game, the team was stopping in Sin City.

As you might expect, the team won’t be gambling in casinos, hotels and other gaming spots during its stay. But senior forward Derick Nelson, however, is accustomed to playing the odds — he was doing it well before this season ever began.

Nelson’s foray into statistical analysis began sometime after he broke his foot just days before the beginning of last season and his subsequently failed comeback attempts, and the time at which he decided to take a medical redshirt and return for one more season — hopefully at full strength — forgoing his chance to play professionally for the time being. And the reason was simple:

“I don’t have any rings,” he said.

“That’s how people remember you. You can be a great player and have all the stats to show, but no one will remember you (without a championship),” Nelson said. “That’s what I play basketball for. I want to win and get a ring. I want to go to the tournament. That’s something you don’t forget 20-30 years from now. You can look at that ring and say ‘I played in the NCAA tournament.’ That’s why I came back.”

Weighing against the comeback was the fact that playing professionally would have helped Nelson financially, raising his 3-year-old daughter, Somiyah. His daughter can’t always make it to the games, but she’s with him on the hardwood — Nelson has her birthday inscribed on the front of his size 15 Nikes: 1-31-07.

“It was a little difficult to decide because I have a daughter,” Nelson said. “I always want to be able to support her, but I also didn’t want to leave and not have my chance with this team I knew was going to be good and get one more chance at getting a ring.”

If Nelson’s decision to return to Oakland could be compared to gaming, he would likely be playing with a large stack of house money.

Surely, the return of point guard Johnathon Jones and center Keith Benson, two of the league’s best at their respective positions, had to influence Nelson’s decision making. Then came the preseason polls, many of which picked Oakland as the best the Summit League had to offer.

And after a tough non-conference schedule where the Golden Grizzlies took their lumps, they opened league play with nine straight wins, and in the process, tied a nearly two-decade-old conference winning streak.

Yes, the odds certainly still look to be in Nelson’s favor.

As well as things have gone, Nelson and Co. know nothing has been won and nobody is being sized for their championship rings just yet.

Whether the Grizzlies escape with a victory or they’ve just run away with a game, Nelson is one of the first to say that’s what he expects out of his team and he’s quick to relate the victory to the team’s quest for a title.

The time on the bench last season, which was every game but two, ended up being a great learning experience for Nelson, but “It just seemed like it was taking forever,” he said.

He was able to see things through a coach’s eyes that he may not have picked up if he were pacing the court on a healthy foot. He said the time also helped him grow as a leader, and he’s been elected a team captain this year.

Nelson, who stands 6-foot-5, is the team’s second-leading scorer at 12.1 points per game and one of the Grizzlies’ leading rebounders, but his biggest contributions this season have come on the defensive end.

As the team dynamic has changed, so has Nelson, who has transformed into the league’s best defender, according to coach Greg Kampe.

“We’ve won because he’s taken it upon himself to go out and guard the best player on the other teams game after game,” Kampe said.

Nelson, an All League First Team pick in his last full season in 2007-2008, has shown maturity in his transformation.

“He’s handled it very well. He’s smart enough to know. It’s been a transition for him and we’ve communicated quite a bit. It’s never been an issue. He agrees with this and he knows we can win,” Kampe said. “He’s been all-league and led the team in scoring. He’s done all those things. He wants to win a championship. That’s what he wants to do.”

Nelson’s ability to be a shut-down defender, an impact scorer and rebounder make him a very versatile player. That fact is not lost on Jones, a fellow senior.

“It would be hard without him, because he brings a toughness to our team. He does a lot of the dirty work. He gets rebounds, finishes and guards their best player,” Jones said. “Without him, I don’t know who would step up and do what he does.”

With their preseason posturing, the Grizzlies have been saddled with the league’s largest bull’s-eye on a nightly basis.

It seems like almost every league game is a close one, and last weekend’s homecoming win over Oral Roberts was probably the closest, most narrow margin of victory they’ve had, but they seem to find ways to win.

Entering Saturday, Oakland has four conference wins in games decided by three or fewer points. Playing each game as the prey seems to suit Nelson.

“I like being the favorite, every night you have the challenge of staying in that No. 1 spot,” he said. “That’s something I love to do. I like getting everybody’s best shot.”

Fully healed, Nelson has been benefited from favorable odds and chances are he’ll ‘cash out’ a fulfilled man.

Paul Kampe covers Oakland University basketball for The Oakland Press. E-mail him at

(Oakland senior forward Derick Nelson came back to the Grizzlies for a full senior season, despite offers to play professionally following a foot injury, which kept him sidelined for all but two games last season. The Oakland Press/VAUGHN GURGANIAN)