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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.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Say Auf Wiedersehen to Melissa Jeltema

(My feature story in the Sunday Oakland Press)
Of The Oakland Press
Former Oakland captain Melissa Jeltema recently graduated from the school, and she’s already got her first job out of college. The career starter is overseas, but she isn’t taking over an outsourced position. Jeltema joined a handful of Oakland players to play professionally in the recent past, signing to play with Chemnitz Chemcats, a women’s professional team in Germany.
“I’m really excited. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a while. I’m happy it’s going to happen,” Jeltema said.
Since her May commencement, Jeltema’s been completing work for her degree already in hand, wellness, health promotion and injury prevention, and participating in community-related activities in her field.
She trained like crazy on the eve of an exposure camp in her future home country, which took place late last month. She went into the competition in the best shape of her life and emerged as MVP of the tournament, and more importantly — with a contract. Now she has to hurry and move her belongings from the Oakland campus back home to Grand Rapids before jetting off to Europe for the beginning of training camp early next month.
When Jeltema last walked off the court in an Oakland uniform, it was inside Sioux Falls Arena. No. 2-seeded Oakland was left to wonder “How did they just beat us?” following a loss to No. 7 Western Illinois in the Summit League Tournament in Sioux Falls, S.D.
For Jeltema’s fellow seniors, it was likely their final game. But Jeltema, a first-team All Summit League selection, had been working toward a professional career long before the team embarked on its trip to the conference tournament.
Figuring out where she would continue her career has been her preoccupation since the Grizzlies’ early departure from the tournament. That, her course work and organizing a biking fundraiser for ALS research.
“I never really thought it was going to be my last game,” Jeltema said. “Right after the season ended, I was working toward this idea and talking to different people and working out. Working toward that goal. (Not playing again) was never really a thought in my mind.”
The Chemcats were one of three teams overseas to offer Jeltema a contract, a season after she led the Golden Grizzlies with 15.6 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. She was a steadying influence on a Grizzlies team forced to run with a young lineup because of an injury to potential all-league center Brittany Carnago in the preseason. The Grizzlies rallied to a 14-4 record in the Summit League, finishing second overall, but were unceremoniously knocked out of the league tournament.
Jeltema had long been scheming with Oakland womens coach Beckie Francis on a career path after college ball.
“She and I met once a month all year,” Francis said. “We were really strategic about who she wanted to play for and what country she wanted to play in.”
Following the season, Francis was able to send highlights of Jeltema’s stellar play, particularly in games where the Grizzlies played close to their Big Ten opponents in the non-conference schedule, to an agent in Germany. In turn, the messenger delivered those clips to the Chemcats’ coach, who saw plenty of Jeltema before she stepped off the plane.
Now, with a one-year deal in place, Jeltema is hoping for more. Adjusting to the customs could be tricky, as Jeltema, pressed for time, neglected to enroll in German courses in her four years at Oakland. But even though she is unfamiliar with the native language, Jeltema will have some company in Germany. She says the coach speaks and conducts practices in English.
And even though she’s halfway around the world, Jeltema will have a couple fellow Americans on the team to welcome her. One big component will be missing from her cheering section, though. Her parents won’t be able to make the same kind of commutes and flights they used to, trekking from the west side of the state to see their daughter play at home and on the road.
“It’s going to be different because my parents were at every single game this season. It’ll take some getting used to,” Jeltema admitted.
Francis expects the 5-foot-9 forward to continue her excellence in rebounding, despite usually being shorter than the bigs in the paint.
"She’s always been undersized. She just gets it done. She’s just tough,” the coach said.
“She’s always played above her size.”
Jeltema joins a Chemcats team which has been doing quite well. They were 15-2 a year ago, earning them a step up to the first division of Damen Basketball Bundesliga.
Although she’s ascending into a team that seems to be on top of its game, the work never ends for Jeltema.

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

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Grizzlies womens schedule released

Once again, the Oakland women have Big Ten opponents marking the meaty part of its non-conference schedule, as the Golden Grizzles host both Penn State and Illinois, the former serving as the home opener Nov. 18.
“I love that our home opener is against Penn State and then we get to try and redeem ourselves against Illinois," Oakland coach Beckie Francis said.
“It's just exciting. Our players love playing this type of competition in the non-conference season."
The Grizzlies open the season at Detroit Nov. 12 before heading to Illinois-Chicago. The actual Fighting Illini come to Rochester Dec. 8.
Oakland battled until late against both Penn State and Purdue, falling late to the Nittany Lions and even dominating the Boilermakers at the halftime break. The close loss to Penn State was later looked at as a turning point in the young season, one which Francis said showed the team it would hang in with exceptional teams.
Oakland again hosts two exhibition games against Western Ontario (Oct. 29) and Ferris State (Nov. 5).
Other notables on the non-conference schedule include: Cornell (Nov. 28), Clemson (Dec. 18) and Providence (Dec. 22).
Oakland surged through the conference portion of its schedule in 2009-10, ending with a 14-4 record, good enough for second place in the conference. That was after a terrible beginning to the season, where they were still juggling lineups in the wake of a season-ending knee injury to center Brittany Carnago. The 6-foot-3 center is back and should be paired with Bethany Watterworth, who was an all-league second-teamer after averaging 13.6 points and 5.8 rebounds per game in her freshman season out of Lake Orion.
Francis looks forward to starting the twin towers together, but urged caution, "We'll see how things go.”
The Grizzlies begin conference play Dec. 2, hosting Southern Utah and close the Summit season Feb. 28 at UMKC. The Summit League Tournament in Sioux Falls, S.D., is March 5-8.
The schedule in full:
Nov. 12
@ Detroit
Nov. 15
@ Ill.-Chicago
Nov. 18
Penn State
Nov. 20
Bowling Green
Nov. 28
Dec. 2
Southern Utah
Dec. 4
Dec. 8
Dec. 10
@ Toledo
Dec. 14
Rochester College
Dec. 16
Dec. 18
@ Clemson
Dec. 22
@ Providence
Dec. 29
@ Centenary
Dec. 31
@ Oral Roberts
Jan. 8
Western Illinois
Jan. 10
Jan. 15
Jan. 22
@ North Dakota State
Jan. 24
@ South Dakota State
Jan. 29
Jan. 31
Oral Roberts
Feb. 5
Feb. 7
@ Western Illinois
Feb. 12
Feb. 19
South Dakota State
Feb. 21
North Dakota State
Feb. 26
@ Southern Utah
Feb. 28
March 5-8
Summit League Tournament* Sioux Falls, S.D.
*Qualification needed, but more than likely

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Jeltema going pro in Germany

The Grand Rapids Press is reporting that hometown girl Melissa Jeltema (Grand Rapids Christian), a first-team All Summit League pick a season ago, has accepted an offer from Chemnitz Chemcats, a womens professional team in Germany. The report says she will leave in early August to go overseas for a season which begins in September.
The Chemcats are reportedly one of three teams overseas to offer Jeltema a contract, a season after she led the Golden Grizzlies with 15.6 points and 7.7 rebounds per game.
Jeltema's appearance in a basketball camp overseas piqued interest in the former Oakland captain.
“The camp was a lot of fun and I met a lot of people and saw a little bit of Germany,” Jeltema said. “I didn’t know what to expect coming in, but I was a little bit surprised when I was picked as MVP," she told the paper.
Jeltema was a steadying force for a Grizzlies team thrown into chaos on the eve of her senior season, when center Brittany Carnago went down with a season-ending knee injury, which was one reason the Grizzlies went with a young lineup for much of the season. Jeltema was a double-double machine, leading the team in both rebounding and scoring on their way to a second-place finish in the regular-season Summit League standings.
Her Oakland career ended on a sour note, as the Grizzlies were unceremoniously shooed out of the conference tournament by an upstart No. 7-seeded Western Illinois team.
(Look for an extended feature story about Jeltema in Sunday's edition of The Oakland Press)

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Summit League portion of the schedule is in

The same day Oakland released it's sharp-looking mens basketball prospectus, the Summit League did the same. Inside the league's brochure is a look at the entire 2010-11 league schedule.
Centenary and Oral Roberts are once again paired on the same trip, but unlike last season, the Golden Grizzlies open the conference slate at home against Southern Utah and UMKC. In fact, it's not until late December before they make their first conference road trip, the aforementioned Centenary/Oral Roberts swing.
In the home stretch of the season, the Grizzlies have a three-game road trip to Western Illinois, IUPUI and IPFW in early February. They also travel to their farthest destination for the final league game of the season, Southern Utah.
The Golden Grizzlies finished 17-1 in Summit League play last season, losing only a road game at IUPUI before taking the Summit League Tournament championship in Sioux Falls, S.D. The Grizzlies also reset the conference's all-time win total last season. Oakland was a program-best 8-1 on the road in conference play a season ago and has won 27 of its last 28 league games overall.
Oakland opened last season on a healthy conference winning streak and do so again this year, having won 11 consecutive Summit contests including the conference tournament. The Grizzlies had a 16-game conference winning streak before falling to the Jaguars in 2009-10.
It doesn't look like Oakland is going to be away from home for trips quite as long as last season.
Here is a look at Oakland's league schedule (times were not available):
Dec. 2
Southern Utah
Dec. 4
Dec. 28
@ Centenary
Dec. 30
@ Oral Roberts
Jan. 6
Jan. 8
Western Illinois
Jan. 15
Jan. 20
@ South Dakota State
Jan. 22
@ North Dakota State
Jan. 27
Oral Roberts
Jan. 29
Feb. 3
@Western Illinois
Feb. 5
Feb. 10
Feb. 17
North Dakota State
Feb. 19
South Dakota State
Feb. 24
Feb. 26
Southern Utah
March 3-5
Summit League Tournament, Sioux Falls, S.D.*
* Qualification needed, but more than likely

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Schedules trickling in

Although the full season schedules for both the Oakland men and women, particular opponents have been confirmed for both teams.
Oakland mens coach Greg Kampe has confirmed contests against West Virginia, Purdue, Michigan, Michigan State and Illinois. More recently, Oakland announced a three-game, three-year series with Tennessee, one which has the Volunteers visiting in 2011-12. So, Oakland will be heading south to visit the Vols this season.
Oakland will also be in the Chicago Invitational Challenge in late November, where they reportedly will play Purdue and Wright State.
The bulk of the men's non-conference schedule, given the opponents have already been officially announced or acknowledged, is known. At least the more interesting matchups are known. Surely there will be non-conference tilts against the Rochester Colleges and Almas, and the Grizzlies will have home-and-home matchups with conference foes, so all that's really left are the dates.
Two-time defending conference champion South Dakota State has released it's full schedule, which has the Oakland women visiting Brookings, S.D. Jan. 24, while the Jackrabbits visit Rochester for a what must be a mens/womens doubleheader Feb. 19.
The 'Jacks' mens schedule, also released in its entirety, has a game listed for that day. The men are slated to visit South Dakota State Jan. 20.
Now, it's on Oakland and the remainder of Summit League schools to announce dates to go with all their games.

Oakland women No. 24 in academic Top 25

Oakland University announced today the women's basketball team has been recognized by the Womens Basketball Coaches Association as a Top 25 academic team. This is the fifth consecutive year the Golden Grizzlies have received this recognition.
Teams must meet a 3.0 minimum GPA for the entire season to qualify. Oakland's team GPA was 3.318, ranking them No. 24 among Division I teams.
The Grizzlies were one of three Summit League teams named to the list. South Dakota State was No. 2 with a 3.622 GPA and North Dakota State was No. 12, earning a GPA of 3.427.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Kampe not a fan of new NCAA tournament configuration

Oakland coach Greg Kampe doesn't like the way the NCAA restructured the first round of the NCAA tournament, a place he has led the Golden Grizzlies to twice, as part of an expansion to a 68-team field.
In the new eight-team "First Four" format, where the tournament's lowest seeds and remaining at-large bids face one another. The tournament previously featured one first-round "play-in" game, where two teams faced off for a 16 seed in a particular region.
"There’s nothing about that I like,” he said. “It should have stayed at 65. If they were going to move it, they should have gone to 96," Kampe said.
"You’re going to push some teams down to play in first-round game every year, it’s not what a student-athlete should have to (play). A team that wins their league and gets an automatic bid should not have to play in one of those games."

Dueling piano event to benefit OU men

The Oakland men, fresh off its best season in school history, will be the beneficiary of an Aug. 12 fundraiser at JD's Key Club in downtown Pontiac. All proceeds from ticket sales and a silent auction, and a portion of other proceeds that evening will go directly to support the team.
"This will be a great event for OU basketball fans," coach Greg Kampe said. "If you have never experienced the musical and comic talent of the dueling pianos, you are in for a great time. We are grateful to John Del Campo, the owner of the Key Club, who has generously opened his doors to make the event possible."
Team members are also slated to sing as part of the night's schedule.
"I'm not sure they will be ready to perform at the same level our fans have come to expect on the court, but I promise you they will be entertaining," added Kampe.
OU game jerseys from the 2010 NCAA tournament team along with other unique items will be available in the silent auction.
Doors open at 7:30 p.m. with entertainment scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. General admission tickets are available to those of 18 years old and over for $20 each with priority seating reserved for those who purchase a table of four, six or eight. Student tickets (with current college ID) are available for $5 at the door or in advance by visiting the Department of Athletics in person Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For additional questions, call (248) 370-4005 or email