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.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Thames excited about transfer to SVSU
Oakland coach Greg Kampe recently confirmed the transfer of redshirt freshman Jay Thames to Saginaw Valley State University. The 6-foot-8 forward saw action in 17 games, but likely saw a logjam of big men with the addition of signees Corey Petros and Kyle Sikora. "The fit is much better," Thames told the Port Huron Times Herald. "They said they need a player like me. I'm going to be used as one of their main inside guys. I can play inside and outside. I will be one of the main people on the team helping them accomplish things." Thames is eligible to play in the coming season because he is moving from an NCAA Division I school to Division II, and will still have three years of eligibility remaining. Thames, a native of Port Huron, told the Times Herald that his area of study played into his decision-making process while seeking a new school. The paper said he was also considering Grand Valley State University and Mercyhurst and had reportedly been looking at Wayne State University. He previously told the paper he enjoyed Oakland's successful run to the NCAA tournament, but he didn't feel as much a part of the party because he wasn't playing very much. "The lack of playing time at Oakland motivates me a lot. I want to show people I can play. I haven't played in two years. Now I have the freedom to do something. I'm planning on getting better every year," he was quoted in the Times Herald.
Oakland men's coach Greg Kampe was quoted in a Washington Post article about the difficulty to schedule power teams as a good mid-major program. He said his mission is easier than most programs trying to schedule non-conference games against power conference because he's not afraid to schedule some of the nation's top teams. Last season, the Golden Grizzlies played three Top 25 teams in the regular season a year ago. Michigan State was No. 12 when the teams met in December, and they are a likely to be ranked each time they square off with the Golden Grizzlies. Oakland played at No. 1 Kansas and later at No. 5 Syracuse. The challenging slate was enough to get Oakland an RPI of 51 and a 14 seed once it advanced to the NCAA tournament, where the Grizzlies faced another Top 25 team, Pittsburgh.
It was also noted in the story that Oakland's schedule, which should be released this week, will indeed include a game against Tennessee, which is rumored to take place at the O'Rena. The WaPo story also reported games against MSU, Illinois, Purdue and West Virginia.
Also, Kampe said the Oakland-U of D series was back on ... for a minute. Then, after all-everything center Keith Benson announced his intent to withdraw from NBA Draft consideration, the Titans called it off. "That's the crap that happens," Kampe was quoted by the Post. The Golden Grizzlies last played Detroit during the 2003-04 season.
Keith Benson rehabbing after surgery to repair thumb
The right thumb that helped Oakland center Keith Benson become the Summit League player of the year is on its way back to full strength. The 6-foot-11 soon-to-be senior is three weeks into rehab after an early-May surgery to repair a torn outside ligament in Baltimore. Benson admitted the injury limited him at times during the team’s run to the league tournament championship and subsequent berth in the NCAA tournament. He said his thumb, which he had taped during several games last season, was stiff sometimes, but only affected him during game situations, when making contact. “It affected my shot a little bit. If I would get hit and go on to the next play, I would feel it. Sometimes, when I would block shots, it would hurt,” he said. The Grizzlies’ leading scorer and rebounder said he played through the pain for the remainder of the season after initially injuring his thumb on Oakland’s visit to Seattle last December. Rehab twice a week and at-home exercises are on the agenda for Benson, who has begun lower-body conditioning as part of team activities. “I’m excited to get back out on the court. Period,” Benson said. “To be able to shoot and do all my basketball-type stuff right now. And on top of that, to get ready for the season.” Oakland coach Greg Kampe said Benson is wearing the smallest in a series of splints on the thumb, and expects the dominating big man back to full participation in three weeks. Kampe also said he doesn’t think the surgery leaves Benson vulnerable to reinjuring his thumb.
“He had surgery from the best. We expect him to be 100 percent and only improve,” Kampe said. The surgery was performed by Dr. Thomas Graham, who has worked with Shaquille O’Neal and other stars. After being advised that the ligament will one day require surgery, he opted to have the procedure rather than risk further injury while working out for NBA clubs in advance of the draft. He was forced to withdraw his name from consideration after the thumb injury was discovered during a routine MRI. “It was pretty disappointing, because I was looking forward to it and I was working out pretty hard. But I wanted to get healthy, so I was happy to get that out of the way, so I could be 100 percent and not have to play hurt,” he said. Benson did have time to pick up a few things while training for the draft, he said, including working on his footwork and playing away from the basket. “When I was doing my training for the draft, I was doing post moves thinking they were working for me, but they’re more effective if you just step out farther and focus on the little things you do,” Benson said. Benson, who now bears a resemblance to NBA star Tim Duncan because of an offseason beard he’s grown, likes the Golden Grizzlies’ chances to repeat the Summit League championship. “They’re going to pick who they’re going to pick (in the preseason polls). We’re going to have a target on our backs anyway.” Oakland was the prohibitive preseason favorite to win the league, and didn’t disappoint. The Grizzlies went 17-1, winning the most games in conference history prior to winning the conference tournament and making the school’s first appearance in the NCAA tournament since 2005.
Paul Kampe covers Oakland University basketball for The Oakland Press. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @PaulKampe.
Greg Kampe confirmed Saturday Oakland will be taking part in the Chicago Invitational Challenge Thanksgiving weekend at Sears Centre Arena. The Golden Grizzlies will be taking on Purdue at Mackey Arena in one of four games as part of the tournament. "I like the fact it's close. It's in Chicago," he said. "It's four pretty big games and we get a nice payday from it and we know we have a chance to win a couple of 'em." Kampe said the Golden Grizzlies will also play at Wright State. The first two rounds will be played at campus sites, and the final rounds will be held Nov. 26-27 at the Sears Centre. First-round opponents and Chicago pairings will be announced at a later date. Southern Illinois, Wright State, Richmond, Austin Peay, Southern and Charleston Southern will also be participating in the fifth-annual tournament. Tournament passes are reportedly $92 and $62 for all eight games and can be purchased at www.searscentre.com and at the O'Rena box office. The tournament is operated by the same promoters in charge of the Las Vegas Invitational which Oakland played in two seasons ago. The Grizzlies participated in the Hall of Fame Showcase in late November last season, where they met No. 1 Kansas and Memphis. The full Oakland season schedule will be released as soon as Kampe and Co. dot the 'I's and cross the 'T's. "As soon as we get a couple contracts that we have to finish," Kampe said. "Verbally, we're done, but officially, there's some contracts that have to be completed. Once those three are completed, we'll release (the schedule). It's not more than two weeks away."
The same morning Oakland University announced it has signed a new point guard and a forward, it was learned they will lose guard Kristin Turner, who is transferring to University of Indianapolis, a Division II GLVC school. A native of Seymour, Ind., Turner will be eligible for the coming season and has three years of eligibility remaining. Turner averaged 9.2 minutes of playing time in 29 games at Oakland last season, helping the Golden Grizzlies to a 17-13 overall record and a 14-4 mark in Summit League play. In March, the second-seeded Golden Grizzlies were unceremoniously bounced from the conference tournament in the quarterfinals for the first time in six years. Friday, the black and gold also announced the signing of Malika Glover and Zakiya Minifree from East Lansing High School, which won the Class A girls title in March. Glover, a point guard, averaged 17.5 points, 4.1 assists and 3.1 steals per game and was named to the Class A all-state team, as well as the Dream Team. Minifee, a forward, notched 9.9 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.8 steals per game, and was named to the Class A all-area team.