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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.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Derick Nelson feature coming Sunday

My second feature story on the man, myth and legend Derick Nelson will appear in Sunday's Oakland Press and online several hours prior. Here's a sample:


Of The Oakland Press
Several injuries threatened Derick Nelson’s final games in a lengthy career at Oakland University. One of the first was a foot injury in 2008-09, which kept him out of all but a few games. After he took a medical redshirt for that season for another shot at glory with the supremely talented Oakland squad of last season, Nelson suffered a groin injury during a lengthy roadtrip late in the season. Then, in the Summit League Tournament, Nelson suffered a broken nose early on. With those parts already suffering, he hurt his back on the eve of the tournament championship game. Pregame stretching got him back in order and Nelson had the game of his life, scoring 36 points en route to a tournament MVP award. With the conference tournament championship, the Golden Grizzlies made their second NCAA tournament. Late in the first half of the opening-round game against Pittsburgh, Nelson took an elbow to the forehead. He laid there for several minutes while blood gushed onto the court. Last week, Nelson, now finally 100 percent, lifted his left hand and put his signature on a professional contract to play basketball in Finland.
“I’m extremely happy to be playing professional ball, but I was able to get a ring, too,” Nelson said. “And that was the whole reason for me coming back. For it to pay off this way is a really good feeling.”

For the entire story, click here.

Women's schedule very similar to previous version

Oakland University officially released it's women's schedule on Friday with just a couple differences from the earlier version released with the 2010-11 prospectus. The dates with IPFW have been reversed, with Oakland visiting Fort Wayne, Ind., Jan. 15 and hosting the Mastodons Feb. 12. The game with Rochester College has been pushed back nearly two weeks to Dec. 27.

(What follows is the release from OU)

OU releases 2010-11 women’s basketball schedule
From staff reports
The Oakland University women's basketball team on Friday released the schedule for the 2010-11 season. Home games against Big Ten powers Penn State (Nov. 18) and Illinois (Dec. 8) highlight a tough schedule that also includes road trips to Clemson (Dec. 18) and Providence (Dec. 22), along with Summit League competition.
“We are extremely excited to have Penn State and Illinois come to our arena,” said Francis, who will begin her 11th season as the head coach at OU. “It is especially nice for our fans that we face a Big Ten school like Penn State in our home opener. In addition, we have two quality Ivy league opponents, Cornell and Dartmouth, coming to Oakland.”
OU hosts Cornell Nov. 28 and Dartmouth on Dec. 16. The Golden Grizzlies will also host home games against local rival Rochester College (Dec. 14) and Illinois-Chicago (Dec. 18) in addition to the full complement of home games against Summit League opponents.
“Our road schedule is just as tough, beginning with Detroit on the opening weekend,” Francis said. “We also play MAC champion Bowling Green away before traveling to Clemson and Providence.”
Francis was pleased to announce that OU has reached a scheduling agreement that will bring both the Tigers and the Friars to the Athletics Center O'Rena next season.
“Clemson and Providence have both agreed to play a home-and-home series with us,” Francis said. “It starts with us traveling to their places this season, while both will return to Oakland for the 2011-12 season.”
The regular season starts on Nov. 12 at Detroit. The Golden Grizzlies face BGSU Nov. 20. The team will also play Toledo (Dec.10), a team that earned an invitation to the Women's National Invitational Tournament last season.
OU kicks off Summit League play at the O'Rena Dec. 2 against Southern Utah, followed by UMKC on Dec. 4.
The Golden Grizzlies earned a No. 2 seed at The Summit League tournament last season after finishing 14-4 in conference action. Oakland has earned a top-two seed in each of the last four seasons at the league championship. OU has also earned a postseason bid in two of the last four years (WNIT in 2007, ’09).
Despite losing leading scorer Melissa Jeltema, the Golden Grizzlies return starters Bethany Watterworth (13.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 2.4 apg) and Sharise Calhoun (8.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg). The team will also add the services of redshirt junior Brittany Carnago, the school's single-season blocks leader (89), who missed last season with an injury.
The team will start the year by hosting a pair of exhibition games at the O'Rena against Western Ontario (Oct. 29) and Ferris State (Nov. 5).

10/29/10 vs. Western Ontario # Rochester, Mich. 3:00 p.m. ET
11/05/10 vs. Ferris State # Rochester, Mich. 3:00 p.m. ET
11/12/10 at Detroit Detroit, Mich. 7:00 p.m. ET
11/15/10 at Uic Chicago, Ill. 8:00 p.m. ET
11/18/10 vs. Penn State Rochester, Mich. 6:30 p.m. ET
11/20/10 at Bowling Green Bowling Green, Ohio 2:00 p.m. ET
11/28/10 vs. Cornell Rochester, Mich. 1:00 p.m. ET
12/02/10 vs. Southern Utah * Rochester, Mich. 4:30 p.m. ET
12/04/10 vs. UMKC * Rochester, Mich. 3:00 p.m. ET
12/08/10 vs. Illinois Rochester, Mich. 6:30 p.m. ET
12/10/10 at Toledo Toledo, Ohio 7:00 p.m. ET
12/16/10 vs. Dartmouth Rochester, Mich. 6:30 p.m. ET
12/18/10 at Clemson Clemson, S.C. 2:00 p.m. ET
12/22/10 at Providence Providence, R.I. 12:00 p.m. ET
12/27/10 vs. Rochester College Rochester, Mich. 2:00 p.m. ET
12/29/10 at Centenary College * Shreveport, La. TBA
12/31/10 at Oral Roberts * Tulsa, Okla. 8:05 p.m. ET
01/08/11 vs. Western Illinois * Rochester, Mich. 3:00 p.m. ET
01/10/11 vs. IUPUI * Rochester, Mich. 6:30 p.m. ET
01/15/11 at IPFW * Fort Wayne, Ind. TBA
01/22/11 at North Dakota State * Fargo, N.D. 6:00 p.m. ET
01/24/11 at South Dakota St. * Brookings, S.D. 8:00 p.m. ET
01/29/11 vs. Centenary College * Rochester, Mich. 3:00 p.m. ET
01/31/11 vs. Oral Roberts * Rochester, Mich. 6:30 p.m. ET
02/05/11 at IUPUI * Indianapolis, Ind. TBA
02/07/11 at Western Illinois * Macomb, Ill. TBA
02/12/11 vs. IPFW * Rochester, Mich. 3:00 p.m. ET
02/19/11 vs. South Dakota St. * Rochester, Mich. 3:00 p.m. ET
02/21/11 vs. North Dakota State * Rochester, Mich. 6:30 p.m. ET
02/26/11 at Southern Utah * Cedar City, Utah 7:00 p.m. ET
02/28/11 at UMKC * Kansas City, Mo. 8:00 p.m. ET

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Men's bball schedule pretty much nailed down

There was a flurry of action Thursday, as the Big Ten released its men's basketball schedules. Since Oakland plays four games against the neighboring conference, we now know a few concrete dates:
Nov 21. @ Purdue, 7 p.m. (Chicago Invitational Tournament),
Dec. 8 @ Illinois, 8 p.m.,
Dec. 11 vs. Michigan State, TBA, The Palace of Auburn Hills
Dec. 18 @ Michigan, Noon,

Tennessee also released its schedule Thursday, which said the Vols will host Oakland Dec. 14 at 7 p.m. on ESPNU. West Virginia announced its schedule Wednesday, and the Mountaineers host Oakland Nov. 13 at a time to be announced.
Oakland's non-conference schedule was released last month as part of the 2010-11 men's basketball prospectus.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Derick Nelson to play in Finland

Former Oakland University forward Derick Nelson said he expects to sign with Finnish team Kouvot either Friday or Saturday.
Nelson will be the second player from coach Greg Kampe's 2009-10 Summit League champion squad to play professionally. Point guard Johnathon Jones announced his decision to sign with a Slovakian club last week. Returning center Keith Benson declared for the NBA draft, but later pulled out after a routine physical uncovered a lingering thumb injury which required surgery. Benson is expected to be drafted following this coming season.
Nelson sat out most of the 2008-09 season with a lingering foot injury and gambled on another senior season, taking a medical redshirt in the hopes of returning for a Summit League championship. He fielded professional offers following the redshirt season, but turned them down with the hopes of team success.
After suffering a broken nose in the Summit tournament, Nelson put off surgery until the offseason. The scheduled procedure forced him to miss a workout with the Detroit Pistons.
One of his final performances in an Oakland uniform was Nelson's best. He poured in a career-high 36 points and willed the Golden Grizzlies to the Summit League Tournament victory over IUPUI in March.
Hours before the championship game, Nelson could hardly walk after tweaking his back. Pregame stretching with a team doctor ironed him back out.
Nelson was a two-time all-league pick and was named to the Mid-Major Defensive All-America Team in 2010.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

LLP's transfer could help Oakland snag another recruit

The transfer of Laval Lucas-Perry from the University of Michigan to Oakland University could result in the Golden Grizzlies landing another object of attention: his younger brother, Patrick Lucas-Perry.
The younger LP, a senior-to-be at Flint Powers, had a strong summer and is reportedly being courted by Oakland, among other potential suitors. Laval Lucas-Perry, who will have one year of eligibility remaining after he sits out the 2010-11 season, relishes the idea of playing with his younger sibling at the collegiate level.
“I’d be all for it if I could play with my little brother at Oakland, (but) I want him to choose the university that’s best for him," Laval Lucas-Perry said.
Patrick Lucas-Perry reportedly also has offers from Michigan and South Florida.
Oakland coach Greg Kampe likes the athleticism LLP brings to the lineup, where the coach is stockpiling excellent athletes.
"We like him. He can defend. I like my guards to be able to defend. He defends very well and he’s another athlete," Kampe said. "You put him out their with Reggie (Hamilton), Ledrick (Eackles) and Ryan Bass and we’ve got athletes. We’re really trying to recruit athletes at that position and Laval is an athlete. We’re excited about that."
Laval Lucas-Perry spent time getting to know the Oakland community last week at a fundraiser at JDs Key Club in Pontiac, where the team sang and Kampe even touched the mic.
“It was really fun," Laval Lucas-Perry said. "It was a little different than at Michigan … it was good to get to know the team and the community. And coach Kampe did a good job singing."
LLP played in the Great Lakes Athletic Club pro-am league this summer against Oakland players including Blake Cushingberry and Drew Maynard. This wasn't his first exposure to his OU teammates, Laval Lucas-Perry played AAU basketball with the pair, as well as Larry Wright.
The two-time transfer is not looking at his season on the sidelines as a death sentence.
“I’ve done it before and there’s a lot I can bring to this team. I’ll be able to familiarize myself with the offense and get to know the players and coaching staff better," Laval Lucas-Perry said.
His presence around the team should make him a welcome addition.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Laval Lucas-Perry reportedly transferring to Oakland

Former University of Michigan and Flint Powers standout Laval Lucas-Perry is reportedly headed to Oakland University to complete his one year of remaining college eligibility. He would be forced to sit out the upcoming season due to NCAA transfer rules.
The program was unable to confirm the report, but Lucas-Perry told the Detroit Free Press Oakland was a "good fit for him with their success (and) tourney chances" and said he had learned from his time with Michigan, the program from which he was recently released, saying he's "lucky" to still play the game.
Lucas-Perry was spotted with the team at a recent program fundraiser and played in a summer pro-am league at Great Lakes Athletic Club with multiple Oakland players, including Drew Maynard and Blake Cushingberry.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The team belts out role call

They all pretty much stuck to the script, but it was still entertaining to see Oakland mens team on stage at JDs Key Club Thursday night. Coach Greg Kampe even took the mic at the end to add an exclamation mark.

Whose jersey will rake in the dough?

Aside from seeing the Oakland team belt out a tune tonight at JD's Key Club in Pontiac, I'm quite interested to find out whose jersey will fetch the most coin in a silent auction. I won't be bidding, but here's who will bring the most cash and why (keep in mind I'm not a sports collectible hobbyist, although I do have a decent basketball card collection):
1. Keith Benson - Guy's a future NBA first-rounder. A diamond pulled from the rough by Kampe's crew. Guessing about $500. With signature: $600
2. Johnathon Jones - Two-time All-Summit League selection led the nation in assists two seasons ago and holds the league's all-time record. School's all-time winningest player led the Grizzlies to much success last season: $275
3. Derick Nelson - Turned down pro offers after injury-marred season, returned to Oakland in a lesser role than in previous years and it paid off. Now his jersey brings in money for OU: $250
4. Larry Wright - A well-known talent before he got to Oakland, Wright pumped in 11 ppg. and made the Summit League All-Newcomer team. $195
5. Drew Maynard/Blake Cushingberry - Couldn't really decide between the two who should round out the top five. Both have good local followings. They're friends, so maybe they'll buy each other's jerseys. $150 each.

For the record, I believe they will be auctioning off NCAA tournament jerseys.

OU lands another guard for 2011-12, AA Huron's Dante Williams

Oakland got its second verbal commitment for 2011-12, as Ann Arbor Huron guard Dante Williams has chosen the Golden Grizzlies over Duquesne.
The Grizzlies got the word from Hartland guard Matt Poches late last season.
Williams, a capable defender at nearly every position on the floor, according to his coach, Waleed Samaha, led the River Rats to the Class A state finals last season.
Samaha said the Grizzlies showed strong interest in Williams, whose stock began to rise later in his career.
“At 6-6, he can play on the wing, he just gives you so many options defensively. He can guard four of the five positions. He's really athletic. He gets off his feet really well. He's quick and smart. He's a versatile athlete. He's steadily improving, he's just cracking the iceburg, so to speak, in terms of his ability. He has tremendous upside," Samaha said.
Williams had interest from schools in the Big East, Mid-American Conference, Atlantic 10 and PAC 10, but he narrowed his choices to the final two early in the recruiting process.
“He took the option to play at home. His family can get to the games. That was important to him and his family," Samaha said. Coach Greg Kampe's aggressive nature toward scheduling Oakland's non-conference season against some of the nation's top-tier programs paid dividends last season, as the Golden Grizzlies routed the Summit League on their way to the NCAA tournament. It's also proving positive on the recruiting trail.
“They play a very aggressive style and they schedule aggressively," Samaha said. "They'll compete against anyone, anywhere, anytime. That's one of the things that drew Dante's interest more than anything. They compete against some of the best teams in the country and they have a chance to go to the NCAA tournament every year."
The big guard will have to add some weight to his 170-pound frame. Samaha says Williams should be around 190 pounds when he enters Oakland, where he expects his guard to be ready to play immediately.
For now, Williams and Huron have high expectations to meet on the high school hardwood this winter, a reputation they earned last season.
“We've been knocking on the door for years. We've won our share of districts and played in regionals. We've been knocked out by some very good teams," Samaha said.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Jones always acted like a pro

I knew this opportunity where Johnathon Jones poked his head out of the Oakland team bus following the Golden Grizzlies' exit from the NCAA tournament wouldn't be the last time we saw JJ.

(Below is my story about Jones' signing in Europe.)

Of The Oakland Press
After all the work it took Johnathon Jones to get himself into a position to play professional basketball, there was one minor detail: getting a passport.
All the extra practice, working with coaches on his long-range jumper and making arrangements were surely more vital to his long-term success, but the former Oakland point guard satisfied all international travel requirements and now resides in Slovakia, where he’s preparing for the upcoming season with MBK Rieker Komarno.
Jones, the all-time winningest Oakland player and Summit League assist record-holder, has a one-year deal with the club, which begins play in late-September.
“I was looking at a couple other countries, but I felt this was the best opportunity for me to show what I could do in Europe,” Jones said.
Jones recognized his desire to play at the next level around his sophomore season. Oakland assistant coach Saddi Washington, who saw Jones through the process, saw it much earlier.
“You just kind of know there are some kids who will have a chance to continue playing professionally,” Washington said. “It’s been an ongoing training session with him, as well as the other kids who come through our program.”
Oakland coach Greg Kampe, who has seen nearly 30 players off to professional careers, was sure about Jones from the start. He wrote Jones’ name into the starting lineup of every game he played.
“When you’re a point guard that has won as much as he has, and you’re an assist leader like that, you’re a commodity. He had a lot of options,” Kampe said.
Washington was a worthy mentor for Jones, having played overseas for some three years following his days at Western Michigan. He helps players prepare for even the most mundane activities that might make a player feel out of place.
“The reality of it is you’re walking into an extremely different situation, and the only thing that’s constant there that you’re familiar with is basketball. And even that is a little different because it’s a European style,” Washington said.
It’s up to Jones to determine what happens after this season. Washington said with the right kind of season, Jones could potentially find himself in a more elite league or even on a summer league roster.
Jones had three workouts with the Indiana Pacers before the NBA draft and said the league is still his dream.
“I'm just working on learning the game more and working on my outside shot. That’s the main thing,” he said.
Jones isn’t going to be the only one with a sweet shooting touch. He said he’s noticed that most players in his new league have the range of his former teammate Erik Kangas.
“My coach told (me) I should average a double-double. Sounds outrageous to me, but it’s like a have a big man then three Erik Kangases out there with me. So it might be possible,” he said.
Jones admitted he’s worried about getting homesick, but with the world of technology as it is, computers and the good, old-fashioned phone should keep him in touch with friends and family. And although the scenery is “way different than home,” Jones will at least have a somewhat familiar face on the team. Former Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne player Jaraun Burrows is also on the team.
Although he’ll be half a world away, Jones has already sized up the competition for his former teammates back on campus. The Golden Grizzlies open the season in November and begin their quest to repeat as Summit League champions in December.
“With the team that they have, they will win the league and at least win the first game in the NCAA tournament,” Jones said.
“I was working out with them before I left, and you can tell that the team is not satisfied with last year’s success. They want to do even better, and that’s a great thing to see.”
Everyone knows it will be challenging to replace Jones on the court.
“You don’t just replace a Johnathon Jones. You have a committee of people trying to get done what he got done for you,” Kampe said.
“The thing I’m worried about is leadership. He made big plays down the stretch. He was a stopper for us, too.”
Jones’ co-leader, forward Derick Nelson, is still in the process of signing a deal to play overseas, but “he’s just waiting to find the right fit,” Kampe said.
It looks like Jones has already found his.

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

Incoming freshmen star in BCAM All-Star Game

Incoming Oakland freshmen Zakiya Minifee and Malika Glover starred in the Class A-B game at the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan All-Star game at Brighton High over the weekend.
Minifee and Glover scored in double figures, with Minifee earning MVP honors, leading the White Team to an 88-82 win.
Minifee and Glover led East Lansing High to the Class A state championship in March.
“I am quite impressed that Zakiya and Malika did so well,” Golden Grizzlies coach Beckie Francis said in a release. “They have been working really hard during our summer conditioning and it looks like they are already seeing the benefits.”
Fellow OU freshman Jenna Bachrouche (North Farmington) was also scheduled to play in the game. Results submitted to Oakland indicated she did not play in the contest.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Valentine's little brother picks MSU

Multiple sources are reporting that sophomore Drew Valentine's younger brother, Denzel, has given a verbal commitment to Michigan State. Denzel Valentine reportedly had been courted by Oakland, but was reported to say had MSU coach Tom Izzo left for the Cleveland Cavaliers' coaching vacancy (remember, that was the first time Dan Gilbert got burned this summer), he might have committed to Michigan or Georgetown instead.
Denzel Valentine is just a junior at Lansing Sexton, the same school as his older brother and Oakland assistant Saddi Washington. Sexton coach Carlton Valentine, the boys' father, was an MSU basketball standout in the mid-1980s and later played professionally in Sweden.
Denzel Valentine was an all-state honorable mention, leading the Big Reds to the Class B state finals last season. He is expected to make his intentions formal during the fall signing period, according to the Lansing State Journal.

Former PG Johnathon Jones signs to play in Europe

Golden Grizzlies Gameplan is reporting that former Oakland point guard Johnathon Jones has signed to play professionally in Slovakia. Jones, the all-time winningest player in Oakland history, will play for MBK Rieker Komarno next season.
Jones holds the all-time assist record in the Summit League, which he led the Grizzlies to dominate last season during a 17-1 campaign capped by a league tournament title and an appearance in the NCAA tournament.
Jones becomes the 24th professional player to come through coach Greg Kampe's program. Jones' teammates Erik Kangas (Spain) and Dan Waterstradt (Romania) also currently play pro ball in Europe.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Offseason Grizz Talk

Oakland coach Greg Kampe talks about the upcoming season, all-everything Keith Benson's rehab from offseason thumb injury as well as a team fundraiser next week.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Maynard, Cushingberry among OU players at pro-am league

Oakland University mens players Drew Maynard and Blake Cushingberry were among the handful of players taking part in a pro-am league at Great Lakes Athletic Club in Orion Township. Their team was scheduled to take on Will Hudson and Reggie Hamilton's team in the playoffs this week.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Oakland hosts EMU, Rochester for Henson Tournament

The holiday tournament will run on December 20-21 inside the Athletics Center O’Rena.
From staff reports
The Oakland University men’s basketball team will host the first-ever tournament inside their home arena, as the Lou Henson Award tournament is scheduled for Dec. 20-21 inside the Athletics Center O’Rena.
Eastern Michigan, Rochester College and Valparaiso will join the Summit League champions in the tournament.
The Golden Grizzlies were selected to host this tournament in honor of center Keith Benson, who was tabbed winner of the Lou Henson Award last season, given to the nation’s top mid-major player by
“This opportunity came to us after (Keith) Benson won this prestigious award last year,” Oakland coach Greg Kampe said. “We’re excited to have this tournament on our campus and look forward to hosting Eastern Michigan and Valparaiso, along with local rival Rochester College.”
The Golden Grizzlies will face Rochester College in the second game on Monday night (Dec. 20). The winners will play in the late game on Tuesday (Dec. 21), with the losers facing off in the earlier game. Game times have yet to be determined due to possible radio and television obligations.
“This is something we want to do every year,” Kampe said. “We hope that we can get Rochester (College), a team from the MAC and Horizon League to participate.”