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.
Friday, April 30, 2010
Kito looking forward to another highly successful season
With the announcement that he will return to Oakland for his senior season, center Keith Benson remained upbeat and looked forward to leading the Grizzlies in their defense of the Summit League title. “I want to have a winning, successful season and win some of the bigger games in the non-conference schedule and get back to the tournament,” Benson said. Benson was unable to work out for any teams due to an injured right thumb, which will require surgery, scheduled for next week. The injury forced the Summit League Player of the Year to withdraw from NBA Draft consideration, citing it was a risky proposition relying on stats and hearsay to get him drafted, and Friday announced his returned for a senior season. Benson and other NCAA underclassmen who have declared for the NBA Draft have until May 8, provided they have not hired an agent, to return to school. The injury turned up during a routine physical and Benson said he only noticed the pain when drawing contact. He suspected the injury occurred during the Grizzlies’ visit to Seattle in December. The surgery will strengthen the ligament in his thumb. The NCAA tournament-bound Grizzlies of a few months ago were largely spurred by the all-around play of the 6-foot-11 center, but led by seniors Derick Nelson and Johnathon Jones. Benson said he’s ready to take next year’s team on his back. “I’m going to step into a leadership role, and a lot of things rested on me last year, so I don’t think it’s going to be too much of a difference this year, even though we had those seniors there for the leadership part of it,” he said. Benson is scheduled to receive his bachelor’s degree in integrated studies Saturday and said he plans on studying architectural design, a subject he said he’s been thinking about for the past couple years, next year. Benson’s return likely makes the Golden Grizzlies the early favorite to repeat as Summit League champions.
Grizzlies get verbal commitment from Hartland guard
Oakland has received a verbal commitment from junior guard Matt Poches from Hartland. Poches is 6-foot-4, 190 pounds. Poches said Oakland has recruited him since his freshman season and its success in the Summit League, tough schedule and proximity to home all played factors in his decision. "I'm 100 percent (committed). Everything they've told me and everything I've seen there — I've spent a bunch of time up there and I love everything about it and I want to win. Oakland obviously wins," Poches said. "The fact they compete for the Summit League title almost every year, that's what got me thinking 'Yeah, I can do that when I go there'." Poches also had offers from Central Michigan, Western Michigan and the Citadel, but Wright State was his second choice. Poches could appreciate Oakland coach Greg Kampe's approach to coaching. "I'll fit in really good. They like their guards there. They pretty much give their guards a lot of freedom and Coach (Kampe) listens to what they have to say." Poches was an all-county and all-league selection and earned an all-state honorable mention. He led Livingston County in scoring and rebounding. Oakland officially signed recruits Ryan Bass (Dayton Dunbar) and Kyle Sikora (Fla. Christian) on Wednesday for the 2010-11 class. The Grizzlies got an early commitment from Corey Petros of Utica Eisenhower, who will be playing in a high school all-star game at OU Saturday at 6 p.m.
From staff reports ROCHESTER — Ryan Bass and Kyle Sikora have each signed National Letters of Intent to play for the Oakland University men’s basketball team in 2010-11. The Golden Grizzlies return eight letter-winners off last year’s record-setting squad. Bass, 5-foot-11, 170, led Dunbar High School to a state championship during his senior season by averaging 12.0 points per game and shooting 39 percent from 3-point range. He garnered all-state honorable mention and is a three-time all-area honoree. Bass received a grade of 83 from ESPN.com and is a scoring point guard that can affect the game with speed, quickness and off the charts athletic ability according to the website. “Ryan Bass is an ultra-athletic point guard, who can really defend,” Oakland coach Greg Kampe said. “He's a good passer and can also score the ball. He was the MVP of his district all-star game last Wednesday and he scored 36 points in it. We're looking at a kid who can come in here and become a point guard as well as a defensive stopper, someone who can distribute the ball and make shots. We have found that in Ryan.” Sikora, 7-feet, 220, led Florida Christian School with 16.8 points per game and 10.2 rebounds per game. He blocked 5.6 shots per game and shot 71 percent from the field. He guided his team to a school best 26-5 record and earned all-district first-team honors, along with being named to the Dade vs. Broward County All-Star Game. He received a grade of 72 from ESPN.com and uses his length to block a lot of shots and grab rebounds. “Kyle is a very skilled seven-footer,” Kampe said. “He can shoot the ball and make his free throws. He is new to the game of basketball and he has some development to go. I think in time, he can be just an unbelievable player in the Summit League.” Bass and Sikora will join Corey Petros (6-10, 235) of Eisenhower, who signed an NLI during the early signing period. Petros will be playing in the High School All-Star game at Oakland University Saturday at 6 p.m.
A lifelong dream could come true for Oakland junior Keith Benson in the coming weeks. Or, he could continue on as he has for the past couple years. It’s all a matter of what he learns in the near future, as the dominant Summit League Player of the Year has declared for the NBA Draft.
Benson (Birmingham Detroit Country Day) has not hired an agent, meaning he can withdraw from draft consideration all the way through the May 8 deadline for NCAA entrants to withdraw and retain his college eligibility.
“Testing the waters in the draft will give me a chance to see where I stand against all of the great talent out there. Participating in team workouts gives me that opportunity,” Benson said in a press release.
Talk has long centered around the 6-foot-11 center’s NBA potential all season, and Benson delivered on the rumors, playing outstanding in games against nationally known programs like Kansas, Michigan State and Pittsburgh in the NCAA tournament.
“He gets an opportunity to go out and work out for some teams,” Oakland coach Greg Kampe said. “It’s not speculation anymore. He’s not hearing this and that. He can get real-time comments from the NBA and assess where he stands.”
“It’s a process that’s really worth it for him to go through.”
Kampe said Benson’s participation last summer in the Amar’e Stoudemire Skills Camp with some of the nation’s best big men really got Benson on the national radar. Then there were the games Oakland played against Top 25 this past season.
“His game against Kansas this year opened a lot of eyes,” Kampe said.
Benson arrived at Oakland far from the player he is today. High school coach Kurt Keener has said Benson’s progress has been “tremendous” at Oakland. Kampe red-shirted Benson his freshman season and Benson started 20 games the following season, 2007-08. His sophomore season is when he truly began to break out.
“As time went on and he started to blossom and develop … I honestly think he’ll be a pro. As time went on, he started to get bigger and stronger and come out of his shell. In the last year and a half, I thought there was a definite possibility (of him playing in the NBA),” Kampe said.
Benson averaged 17.3 points and 10.5 rebounds per game last season, while leading the Summit League in rebounding, blocked shots (117) and double-doubles (18) and was the league’s third-leading scorer. He holds the school record for blocks in a season and in a career.
Kampe said there was a point in the middle of the past season where Benson garnered a mass of confidence after realizing how dominant he could be on the court.
Last season he was part of a formidable team core with senior guard Johnathon Jones and senior forward Derick Nelson, a group that led the Golden Grizzlies to their second-ever conference tournament championship and subsequent NCAA tournament berth. That team was picked to win the conference and led the standings from beginning to end and set the league record for victories in a season (17) and winning percentage (.944).
Benson is the first Oakland player to enter the draft early. He is scheduled to graduate in May with a degree in integrative studies.
The Golden Grizzlies return starting forward Will Hudson and center Ilija Milutinovic. They’ve also signed Utica Eisenhower senior center Corey Petros.
“We lost (Erik) Kangas after last year, and if (Benson) leaves, we’re going to lose three very good players,” Kampe said. “That’s why it says ‘Oakland’ on the jersey. We’re going to field a team next year and we expect to compete for a championship.”
Rawle Marhsall, a member of the previous Oakland NCAA tournament team, is the only Oakland player to have played in the NBA. Marhsall spent the 2005-06 season with the Dallas Mavericks and 2006-07 with Indiana. He was not drafted, signing as a free agent, and currently plays overseas.
There have been just two Summit League prospects taken in the first round of the NBA Draft, Valparaiso’s Bryce Drew in 1998 and Indiana Purdue Indianapolis’ George Hill, who currently plays for the San Antonio Spurs, in 2008.
Benson was named Lou Henson Mid-Major Player of the Year and was an All-America honorable mention.
Paul Kampe covers Oakland University basketball for The Oakland Press. E-mail him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @PaulKampe and read his blog at theoaklandpress.com.
As I mentioned earlier, Oakland guards Johnathon Jones and Melissa Jeltema competed in a 3-point contest at The Palace Saturday night. While they weren't able to bring a title back to Grizz Den, it was a fun way to close out their careers, which should both be continuing elsewhere next season. Both players said they had hired agents and are currently in the process of finding a place to play basketball next season.
Johnathon Jones and Melissa Jeltema to Participate in 3-Point Shootout
From staff reports ROCHESTER - Oakland seniors Johnathon Jones and Melissa Jeltema have been selected to participate in the 3-point competition as part of Michigan’s Slam Dunk Championship and 3-Point Shootout at 7 p.m. on Saturday at The Palace of Auburn Hills. The event will feature some of the state's best collegiate and high school athletes. Jones, an All-Summit League First-Team selection, shot .325 from behind the arc, while Jeltema, also an all-league first team honoree, recorded a .417 shooting percentage from the 3-point line. Tickets, which are $20 for VIP seats, $15 for reserved seats and $10 for general admission, can be purchased at The Palace Box Office, Palacenet.com and Ticketmaster locations. University of Detroit's Brigid Mulroy (Birmingham Marian), winner of a recent national 3-point contest, will also compete. Birmingham Brother Rice senior guard Kevonte Martin-Manley will take part in the men's 3-point contest and Academy of Oak Park senior forward Dimitri Abner will be in the slam dunk competition. The winners of each 3-point contest will face off prior to the slam dunk competition.
Oakland women's coach Beckie Francis will welcome one of the area's best players next season in Jenna Bachrouche (Given the recent success of Oakland freshmen, I should get used to spelling it now) and another in 2011-12 in Lauren Robak. Bachrouche, a senior at North Farmington, really burst through two years ago after all-state guard Cassie Beller graduated after leading the Raiders to the state semifinals. Bachrouche signed with Oakland in November. A four-year starter for the Raiders, Bachrouche said Oakland followed her closely throughout the recruiting process. Bachrouche was recently named an All-County selection by The Oakland Press after averaging 14.5 ppg., 9.5 rpg. and 2.5 apg. this season and finishing her career with more than 1,200 points. Last week, she was named to the All-Metro team by the Detroit Free Press. Robak, a junior, led Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes to its first girls basketball state championship and was Class D all state and also an All County selection after averaging 21.8 points, 7.6 rebounds and three steals per game this season. She was named to the Free Press' All North team, as well. She's expected to be one of the county's best again next winter, before she departs her father's program at Lakes. 2010 Oakland Press girls basketball high school Dream Team. Pictured clockwise from front: Gabrielle Yurik, Stoney Creek HS; Kelsey Masserant, Novi HS; Jenna Bachrouche, North Farmington HS; Madison Williams, Birmingham Detroit Country Day HS; Steve Robak, Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes HS girls basketball head coach; Lauren Robak, WOLL HS. Photo taken on Thursday, March 25, 2010, in Pontiac, Mich. (The Oakland Press/Jose Juarez)
Benson Named Lou Henson Mid-Major National Player of the Year
Keith Benson earned yet another award Friday. Here it is from an Oakland press release.
April 2, 2010
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Oakland center Keith Benson received the Lou Henson National Player of the Year Award, presented to the top mid-major player in Division I basketball, Friday afternoon. The award is in its first season after being established by CollegeInsider.com.
The 2010 Summit League Player of the Year, Benson averaged 17.3 points and 10.5 rebounds per game while leading Oakland to the league's regular season and tournament championships as the Golden Grizzlies posted records for league victories (17) and winning percentage (.944) along the way. Benson led The Summit League in rebounding, blocked shots (117) and double-doubles (18) while placing third in scoring. He presently ranks among the nation's top-15 in three categories: blocks (8th), double-doubles (11th) and rebounding (14th).
A five-time Summit League Player of the Week during the 2009-10 campaign, Benson's 367 rebounds were second all-time in league annals and one shy of equaling the season record. His 117 blocked shots were the third-highest season total in league history.
Benson is the first Summit League player to earn a national individual award for basketball performance. The League has had student-athletes named as the Academic All-American of the Year, Tony Bennett (Green Bay, 1992) and Brett Winkelman (North Dakota State, 2009).
Henson coached for 41 years and retired in 2005 with 779 victories, the sixth-highest total in Division I history. The all-time winningest coach at both Illinois and New Mexico State, Henson is one of only 11 coaches to take two different schools to the NCAA Final Four and led his teams to 19 NCAA appearances and fourth NIT appearances.