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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.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Lesser demand for this year's Grizzlies?

After fielding numerous inquiries in the annual Summit League media teleconference just one season ago, with one foot already on the golf course, Oakland men's coach Greg Kampe sounded poised and confident while he fielded questions from members around the league. Last year's questions came in response to the Golden Grizzlies' ascension to the front of the preseason polls and the return of seniors Derick Nelson and preseason player of the year Johnathon Jones. Not to mention eventual Summit Player of the Year Keith Benson.
So it was surprising to hear Kampe field only one question from the media Thursday on the league-wide teleconference in regard to whether Oakland deserves its unanimous preseason No. 1 ranking.
“I have no idea where we stand. So far, I have not seen any team in our league play,” Kampe said. “That’s one thing about this league, I hear about all these great recruits … it’s not like we’re centrally located and I could have seen these kids in high school and know how good they are or even try to recruit against them, so everybody’s got new players and I have no clue if they’re any good or not. I’ll see when they start playing games.”

It is a bit easier to predict the where Benson stands, as he attempts to lead the Grizzlies while improving his likely NBA draft status.
“I expect him to be the best player in the league. He better be that,” Kampe said. “I don’t see a lot of 6(-foot-)11 prospects floating around in our league. If he isn’t, I haven’t done a good job or he’s had a terrible year.”
What has changed? While the loss of Jones and Nelson are going to realized early on, the Grizzlies are still the prohibitive favorite around the league AND they return Benson, who was forced to withdraw from the draft after a lingering thumb injury turned up in a pre-draft exam.
Is it because people wondered if Oakland was for real? Has the conference been beaten into submission after the Golden Grizzlies went 17-1 on their way to the program's second Division I tournament berth?
Despite the losses of Jones and Nelson, the Grizzlies should have adequate replacements.
“There’s guys playing at that position who are very good players that we feel we’re not going to miss a beat with," Kampe said, mentioning sophomore Ledrick Eackles and junior Blake Cushingberry by name.
Kampe also reitterated he will put the ball in Larry Wright's hands at point guard, but also noted the talent of freshman Ryan Bass, a heralded recruit from Dayton Dunbar HS.
“He’s going to be a very good Summit League player. Is he ready right now? We’ll know by Dec. 2. We’ll see what we do at that position,” Kampe said.

While other program's coaches were asked about the a rumored conference change, a subject conference commissioner Tom Douple declined to comment on, the lines went quiet for Kampe and women's coach Beckie Francis. There were also no questions submitted from fans, a new feature the league added this season.
Is the lack of questioning a sign Oakland isn't the "media darling" of a season ago, maybe not the overwhelming favorite like last season? Were the inquisitive media simply absent on this day or has the possibility of multiple teams leaving the league in favor of a football conference become the main story? We still have to wait two more weeks for that opening tip in West Virginia and into December, the beginning of conference play, if there are more questions.

Other notes: IUPUI men's coach Ron Hunter called the Summit League "the most underrated league in the country." ... IPFW men's coach Dane Fife says he has his deepest team in his six seasons, as the Mastodons return seven letter-winners. ... A poignant fan question came in for Western Illinois coach Jim Molinari from a fan in Bad Axe, Mich., one of the few fan submissions.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Oakland men's assistant coach Saddi Washington reminisces on MAC heyday

Soon to be inducted to the Western Michigan hall of fame, OU men's assistant Saddi Washington spoke to MLive about playing in the MAC during its salad days during the 90s, as well as having one of the best games of his career in the NCAA tournament, leading the Broncos over Clemson in the first round of 1998's Big Dance.
“It was probably the most unbelievable moment in my career,” Washington told MLive.
Western's tournament hopes were thought dead after losing to Miami (Ohio) in the first round of the MAC tournament.
"But then to get an 11 seed at-large bid against an ACC program like Clemson and then have the game that we had against them, it had the whole city, the whole campus, the whole university on fire," Washington told the publication. "And it helped tremendously that we were in that Chicago region, so that all of our supporters could come and watch us. It was an awesome experience.”
He also mentioned the number of AAU programs siphoning kids out of state, leading to in-state schools, such as MAC programs, missing the NBA lottery-type talent it had in the mid-90s.
Even as Washington's name swirls every time there's an assistant coaching vacancy in Michigan, he said he's at home at Oakland, and doesn't want to uproot his young children. But he did say it would be interested in returning to Kalamazoo in the future.
“I’m always hopeful that one day, when things come into line, yeah, definitely, who wouldn’t want to come back to their old alma mater and coach and be a part of the family again?," he said. "Once a Bronco, always a Bronco. I still feel connected.”
Washington enters his fifth season with Oakland Nov. 12, when the Grizzlies tip off against Final Four contender West Virginia.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Media day written

A link to my men's and women's media day story: http://t.co/jHbXp9S

Also, a link to a media day photo gallery: http://ow.ly/2XVKu

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Media day videos

WDFN-AM (1130) Oakland basketball color analyst Neal Ruhl sat in for the latest Grizz Talk, media day edition. Also, coach Greg Kampe addresses the media, and the teams seniors are joined by junior guard Reggie Hamilton.





All that was said at media day

Taken entirely from OUGrizzlies.com

Oakland Head Coach Greg Kampe (27th season)

Opening Statement
We’re excited November is not far away. We’re back working at it. We had a lot of accolades in the offseason. There is a lot of fun coming in with the season that we had. One of the things that people don’t realize about our team and players is that the season ended in a bad way for us. So when people talk about repeating and motivation, we have a lot of motivation. We had a chance to win an NCAA tournament basketball game and we kind of folded down the stretch. We had a five-point lead when Derick (Nelson) got hurt and Pittsburgh scored 76 points over the last 27 minutes. We were really disappointed as we had positioned ourselves to do something. We had a great offseason and we are motivated by those last 27 minutes. We have a desire to get back and atone for that. I’m very pleased with the work ethic the players have shown so far. As a coaching staff we are pleased with their work ethic and are excited to be back at it. We open the season against West Virginia, a Final Four team last season, and we’re anxious to show what we can do.

Plans for the point guard position this season
When you lose a guy that played 37, 38 minutes a game, a four-year starter and the winningest player in school history in JJ (Johnathon Jones), a player that has become more a part of me than any other kid I have coached, it definitely is going to be an issue. We’re just going to be a different team this season, that is all. We’re going to learn through experimentation, we’ll learn through the games that we are going to be playing. We’re going to find out very quickly what are weaknesses are and we will adapt to it. I’m not worried about it because we have some really, really good players and we’ll figure out what the best way to play is and do it.

In what way will you be different from last year
I think we will play a little faster pace. We have a lot of really good players and I need to get them on the floor. One way to do that is to play faster. We really want to push the ball, probably more than we have ever done. We’re going to defend the whole 94 feet which is something we have not done since moving to NCAA Division I. I believe we can do it with the athletes that we have. We have a bunch of guys that have great motors. What I mean by that is they can play hard for longer periods of time. We’re going to take advantage of that. Offensively, this team can shoot the ball better. Last year we found ways to score points. This year, we have guys that can really shoot the ball which is going to lighten the load on Kito (Keith Benson). If you’re going to double team Kito, I think you’re really going to pay for it.

On the depth of this year’s team
Oh this team is deep. I have guys that could start on most teams in The Summit League that may see 5-7 minutes a game for us. That’s because maybe there a little inexperienced or behind someone. We really feel comfortable with everyone on our roster. I could put anyone out there and be satisfied with that they will accomplish.

How much do you like playing the schedule that you have
I don’t like getting beat. If it was up to me, we would find the 30 easiest teams in the country, beat them by 50 and play everyone 20 minutes and I would look like a genius. That is how I would like it but that is not the way to do it. The way to do it is to do it the way we do it. That doesn’t sound real good but the point is this is our style, the way we do things and we think that it makes us better. There are a lot of reasons such as the money we make, the exposure the university gets but the biggest thing for me is, we will find out what we are weak in. We’ll work on those things so by the time conference rolls around, we are better.

Having been through a schedule like this the year before, are you better prepared
Well, we did not do real well against the big boys last year and part of that was our style of play. We played a very methodical game. We were athletic and out athletic the team in our league. We just didn’t out athletic Kansas, Michigan State and those teams. We’ll do some things different this season such as play a little zone, which we didn't do last year until the end of the season. To beat those teams, compete with them, you have to trick them a little. Show them things that they don’t expect. You have to make the threes to compete. The year we lost 75-73 to Michigan State, we made a ton of threes. Last year we weren’t equipped to make a bunch of threes but this year we can. I think our chances are better, but the reality is, I don’t care. The games I care about are the ones in January and February. When March comes, then I will care about those games.

The contributions you expect the freshman class to make
I love our freshman class. I really really think our future is secure. We had a really good class last year and we really like them this season. We have a point guard that I think will be a star. We have a four man who I think will be an all-league player. We have a five, who with development, will be very good in our league. He is not ready now but with the things he can do and his size, 7-0, he is going to be a quality player. There will be a day, three years from now, where people will say, how did they get him? Having said that, I really would like to redshirt all three of them. With all the players we have, if we need to reach into the freshman class, that would not be a good thing. I would like to redshirt them, but whether or not I can, I probably won’t know until the middle of November.

Who do you consider to be a role model from the professional coaching ranks
You know, that is an interesting question. Before we built this place and before The Palace was built, all those Detroit teams came here to practice. I got to sit and watched all those great players and coaches. Chuck Daly was a great guy and we communicated very well together. I learned more from him than any other coach. The Piston’s GM, Jack McCluskey was a mentor as well. Those two guys taught me a lot about how to carry yourself in this profession, how to be successful. So if I had to point a finger at anyone, I would point it at those two guys.

With the departure of Jones and Nelson, who do you see as the lock down defender
That’s a good question. I’ve been waiting for that question. That is the issue. I’m very worried about that issue defensively. We would say we don’t want that guy to score and JJ (Johnathon Jones) would go out there and Drew Nietzel (Michigan State) would go 3-of-9. Last year, Pittsburgh had this great scorer and I think he had three points in the game. That’s because JJ could lock people down. Not only could he, he wanted to do it, he enjoyed it, it was a badge of courage for him. Because Derick (Nelson) was beat up and injured so much last year, we couldn’t get the lock down every night. When we really wanted someone to step up and lock a player down, Derick could do it and did. So who are our lock down defenders? I couldn’t tell you right now. If there is a question mark in my mind about this team, that is it.

The roles of Ilijia Milutinovic and Travis Bader this year
When I said earlier, we have a lot of good players, Bader is one of those guys. He might get only 5-7 minutes a game for us where on a lot of the teams in our league, he could average 12-14 points a game. Then again it may work out that he is getting 20 minutes a game. I don’t know. Defensively is the issue for him. I have no issues with him offensively. I could put him at three different spots and we wouldn’t miss a beat. We might even get better with him out there. But he is going to have to prove he can guard. I’m not saying he can’t, he’s just never played so I don’t know.

Illija (Milutinovic) is one of those guys that has been stuck behind Keith Benson. When we got him, I felt he would be very good in our league and I still believe he will be. The question is, I got a guy who is an NBA prospect, a projected lottery pick. Do you take that guy off the floor? No. We plan on playing Illija more this year. He’s earned it in practice, the right to get that chance. I just have to get him out there because it’s hard to get Kito (Keith Benson) off the floor. He needs time and minutes, but what he needs more than anything is the ability to make a mistake and not think that I will pull him immediately.

Why do you have five Big 10 teams on the schedule
Well, there are a couple of reasons. Reason number one is (Keith) Benson. He jumped on the scene last year when he did what he did against Cole Aldrich (Kansas). There were like 13 pro scouts there and they all stepped back and said WOW. We wanted to give him the opportunity to compete against the guys he is going to be measured against in the draft. You may ask, why would you do that? I’ll say, because we can make a lot of money doing that and we can improve our RPI.

OAKLAND PLAYERS

Senior guard Larry Wright

How will your role differ this season
This year I have to learn to be more aggressive. I was passive last year and I need to be more assertive out on the floor.

Adjusting to a leadership role this season
I learned a lot from JJ (Johnathon Jones) and Derick (Nelson). At times last year my head was down with being new. JJ and Derick really taught me a lot about leadership, being confident, keeping your head up. It's my responsibility to take what they taught me and teach it to my new teammates. That will help us get better.

Junior guard Reggie Hamilton
How much and what did you learn from sitting out last year
The main thing I learned was how to win. It was a big factor being in practice with good guards like Johnathon Jones and Larry Wright. When you're around good players, you can only improve your own game.

What do you feel the team needs to improve upon the most and how do you address that
The area we need to improve in is being able to communicate. It's a small problem right now, but it can be a big problem if we don’t work on it. We just have to talk all the time, and if we do that, I think this will be the best defense that Oakland has seen in a long time.

How does it feel to be back on the court
It was a long great year to be a part of this team. While last year was fun, I’m glad to be back out on the floor and ready to get to work.

Senior center Keith Benson
What did you work on the most in the offseason
I put on some weight and gained strength. I’ve been working out in the pool to improve my footwork. My ball handling is improved which will allow me to come out on the perimeter when necessary. Been working on my leg strength and improving my defensive play in the post.

With your injury keeping you out of the NBA draft last year, do you have a chip on your shoulder
I don’t have an extra chip on my shoulder personally. This team is always hungry and I’m working hard to play the best I can and help my team out.

Adjusting to a leadership role this season
I try to lead by example and practice. I want to teach the young guys to work hard, let them know when they're doing things wrong and right, help them with the drills. It all starts in the locker room where we just try to come together as a team.

How does it feel to have played with Will Hudson over the last few years
Every year we are getting better and better at working from the high post and low post. We just work on helping each other off the double teams.

Senior forward Will Hudson
Adjusting to a leadership role this season

Like Kito (Keith Benson) said, we have to set the tempo for the younger guys. It’s our job to let them know about the traditions here at Oakland and to continue it. You just have to keep pushing to get better every day. That is what we strive for.

The elevation of your game over the past three years
Each year in the offseason you have to bring something new to the team. I just work as hard as I can, go all out every time I step on the floor. My goal is to do whatever is needed to help the team win basketball games.

What is the goal that is pushing you guys this season
Obviously, coming back and winning another championship means everything to this program. The whole offseason, our focus has been geared toward another championship run.

How does it feel to have played with Keith Benson over the last few years
We’ve gotten to know each other pretty well over the last few years. It’s gotten to the point where we instinctively know what is going on with each other on the floor. We’re always trying to push ourselves to be in a better position to score or play defense, whatever is needed.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

OU women picked third in poll

Following a season where the Oakland University women’s basketball team put together a second-place finish in the absence of its potential all-league center, the Golden Grizzlies have been picked to finish third in the Summit League preseason poll.
Brittany Carnago returns to the team after a knee injury sidelined her for the entirety of 2009-10. She was a preseason second-team selection, while last year’s replacement, Bethany Watterworth (Lake Orion) was chosen for the first team.
Watterworth, a sophomore, started in 29 of 30 games she played, averaging 13.6 points and 5.8 rebounds per game for the Oakland, which finished 14-4 in the league, but was upset in the first round of the conference postseason tournament. Watterworth was named to the Summit League second and newcomer teams for her efforts.
In keeping with the youth movement, fellow sophomore Kevi Luper, who last year became the first player to be named the conference player of the year, defensive player of the year and newcomer of the year as a freshman, leads favored Oral Roberts.
Luper was named preseason conference player of the year, while teammate Jaci Bigham, another sophomore, was also named to the first team. The pair gave Oral Roberts one of the highest-scoring backcourts in the nation.
The Golden Eagles received all but four first-place votes.
Two-time defending league champion South Dakota State was picked to finish second.
Former Pontiac Northern standout Stephanie Rosado, who now plays for Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne, was also a first-team selection.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Grizz Talk premiere

In between Grizz Madnezz Friday at the O'Rena, we caught up with senior guard Larry Wright, reigning Summit League player of the year Keith Benson and of course, it wouldn't be Grizz Talk without Oakland coach Greg Kampe.





Thursday, October 14, 2010

ESPN/Blue Ribbon preview

(This is a complete transcript of the ESPN/Blue Ribbon preview)

COACH AND PROGRAM

Oh, to have the moment back. If only Pittsburgh's Gary McGhee hadn't accidentally elbowed Oakland star Derick Nelson in the head, opening a gash and wounding the Golden Grizzlies' hopes in the NCAA Tournament.

Longtime coach Greg Kampe had the Panthers right where he wanted them. Sort of. The game was close to home, in Milwaukee. Plenty of Oakland fans found tickets to the Bradley Center.

For the first 13 minutes, the Golden Grizzlies gave their fans plenty to cheer about. Oakland held a five-point advantage just before Nelson's injury.

Then, the unthinkable happened. Nelson fell to the court after getting hit hard. He needed six stitches above his eye and later returned to the game, but the damage had been done. Oakland's hopes for an upset rested, at least partly, on its senior leader.

"It definitely changed the whole game," Kampe said. "We just stopped guarding. When he went out, we were like, 'Well, OK, we can't win.' "

The Panthers had 13 points at the time of the injury. They scored 76 more in the final 27 minutes of a 23-point win.

"After going back and looking at it, it made me angry," Kampe said.

Of course, Oakland had other reasons to be angry. Like drawing a No. 14 seed and being forced to play Pitt in the first round. The Golden Grizzlies won 20 of their final 21 games going into the tournament, had a solid RPI (53) and thought they deserved a better placement.

But the NCAA Tournament is ancient history. Kampe's solution now: Get back to the NCAA Tournament and give it another try. And watch out for flying elbows.

PLAYERS

While Nelson is gone, the best player in the Summit returns to Oakland: 6-11 senior center Keith Benson (17.3 ppg, 10.5 rpg). The league MVP showed he could play with the big guys, scoring 28 points and grabbing nine rebounds against Pitt.

It wasn't the first time Benson had put up numbers against the nation's elite. In an earlier game against No. 1 Kansas, Benson scored 20 points to Jayhawks star Cole Aldrich's four. Benson blocked Aldrich's first two shots.

"We think, if he has a great year, he could be a lottery pick," Kampe said.

Kampe isn't going to ask Benson to make any changes in his game.

"I want him to repeat what he did last year," Kampe said. "We're going to feed him the ball and he's going to get fouled a lot."

Benson has some help, starting with 6-2 senior guard Larry Wright (11.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg).

"We need a higher three-point field goal percentage [.333, 54-of-162] from him," Kampe said. "We see a lot of goofy defenses because of Benson. The guys they leave to double down have to step up and make shots, especially open three-point shots. He was inconsistent with it. Everything else about his game, I love."

The other starter inside will be 6-9 senior Will Hudson (6.0 ppg, 4.9 rpg).

"Next year after the season's over, when everyone's talking about losing Benson, I'm going to be saying 'Yeah, but the guy we really have to replace is Hudson,' " Kampe said. "He does all the little dirty work. He's not as efficient offensively as we would like him to be. He'll get better this year."

Ledrick Eackles (6.1 ppg, 2.0 rpg) will move into the starting lineup. The 6-1 sophomore is the son of former NBA standout Ladell Eackles.

"He was inconsistent as most freshmen are," Kampe said. "But when he was good, he was really good. He was great against Pittsburgh. He single-handedly almost got us back into the game. I expect him to have a really good year."

UMKC transfer Reggie Hamilton, a 5-11 junior, will take over at point guard for the prolific Johnathon Jones, who passed for 224 assists last season. His average of 6.4 assists per game was fourth in the nation.

"[Hamilton is] at the same talent level as Johnathon Jones," Kampe said. Hamilton was leading UMKC in assists when he left the program in late January 2009. His career high in assists (nine) came against his future teammates in 2008.

It might take two players to replace Nelson. One contender, 6-3 junior guard Blake Cushingberry (4.7 ppg, 1.9 rpg) is a talented shooter. Another contender, 6-3 sophomore Drew Valentine (1.5 ppg, 1.4 rpg) got limited minutes in 2009-10.

"I really like him," Kampe said. "I think he's got a chance to be an outstanding player in our league."

Travis Bader, a 6-3 freshman guard, will get quality minutes after redshirting last season.

"He's a knockdown shooter," Kampe said. Bader attended the same Michigan high school (Okemos) as Johnathon Jones. Bader's father served as director of basketball operations at Michigan State for eight seasons.

When he first arrived on campus, Bader weighed 160 pounds. He's now in the 180s and much better prepared to handle the grind of a college basketball season.

"He's had a very productive redshirt year," Kampe said.

There's a 7-footer backing up Benson at center, junior Ilija Milutinovic (1.9 ppg, 1.2 rpg).

"He doesn't get a lot of minutes because I'm not going to take Benson out much," Kampe said. "He's a banger. He can make a jump shot. He's at the point in his career that he needs to earn more of those backup minutes."

Another returnee expected to get important time is 6-7 junior guard Drew Maynard (4.7 ppg, 2.4 rpg). He started seven games last season.

Oakland brought in some size in its freshman class. Corey Peters is a 6-10, 243-pounder from Eisenhower High School in Utica, Mich. He's got post-up skills and also a mid-range face-up game. Kyle Sikora, a 7-0, 231-pound center from Florida Christian in Key Largo, Fla., is a disruptive defensive player who once blocked 16 shots in a game.

Ryan Bass, a 5-10 guard from Dunbar High School in Dayton, Ohio, is an athletic, scoring point.

BLUE RIBBON ANALYSIS

BACKCOURT: B
BENCH/DEPTH
: C+
FRONTCOURT
: A
INTANGIBLES
: A

It won't be easy for Oakland to replace Nelson and Jones, who was fourth in Division I in assists.

But with Benson back, the Golden Grizzlies have to be considered the Summit favorites, both for the regular-season title and in the league tournament. They might not go 17-1 again, but 14-15 wins in the conference seem likely.

Out of conference, Kampe has compiled his usual string of behemoths. This year's list includes games against Purdue, Illinois, Michigan State, Michigan, West Virginia and Tennessee. The Michigan State game is at the Palace of Auburn Hills and all of the other games are on the road.

The same kind of schedule in 2009-10 didn't seem to bother the Golden Grizzlies. Kampe likes the competition and the school likes the paydays.

"There's a whole handful of reasons that we do it," Kampe said. "No. 1 is it really helps us in recruiting. We want to get a level of kid who is almost at that level. And these kids want to believe they should be there.

"From a coaching standpoint, you learn where you are bad against those teams. If you have a weakness, those teams pounce on it. It really helps me get ready for our conference season."

Win one or two against the power conference schools and Oakland has a chance, should it win the Summit Tournament, to improve upon its NCAA seeding.

The 26 wins last season set a school record. Topping that might be a challenge. But getting close seems likely.

"The big thing is we want to be better," Kampe said. "Our whole focus is to get back there [to the NCAAs] and give ourselves a chance to win one. It's so hard to get there at our level."

Kampe continues to recruit, continues to build. The school is entering just its 12th season in Division I. Oakland needs three good days in early March to reach its third Division I NCAA Tournament. The guess here is that will happen.

Not that Kampe's team will take the Summit for granted. Oral Roberts brings back four starters. IUPUI beat the Golden Grizzlies last season.

"If we go 17-1 this year that is a real accomplishment," Kampe said. "We just want to win it and win our tournament."

For the most comprehensive previews available on all 335 Division I teams, order the "Bible" of college basketball, the 2010-11 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, at www.blueribbonyearbookonline.com or call 1-877-807-4857.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Prognosticators come to their senses

After an unflattering prediction by Rush the Court the other day, Oakland is back on top of the latest previews by Rivals.com and ESPN via Blue Ribbon. For ESPN, Eamonn Brennan breaks down the league in a quick, minute-long video, calling the Summit League Oakland's to lose with the return of Keith Benson. However, the remaining team-by-team content has restricted access.

Said Rivals:
"Frustrated as Keith Benson was that an offseason thumb injury forced him to put his NBA career on hold, the situation couldn't have worked out any better for the Summit League, which is no doubt ecstatic that its marquee player is back for another season."

"Greg Kampe's squad may not be quite as good following the loss of assists leader Johnathon Jones and all-around threat Derrick (sic) Nelson. Still, as long as Benson is in the mix, Oakland will be the heavy favorite to repeat as champion."

Rivals also has Benson as an All-Summit League first-team pick and guard Larry Wright as a second-teamer.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

And now for the bad news

While it's been an offseason of accolades and praise for Oakland this offseason, the team announced junior Drew Maynard (Lake Orion) has been suspended from the team indefinitely for "violating team policies."
Maynard will not be involved with any team practices or workouts, effective immediately.
Oakland coach Greg Kampe said the suspension is not related to any legal or academic trouble with the 6-foot-7 guard.
Kampe declined to elaborate on the matter except to say "We're prepared to play without him."
Is there a chance Maynard could get reinstated?
"He's going to have to jump through a lot of hoops. That's one of the things he's good at, so we'll see what happens," Kampe said.
The announcement, made by the team, comes three days before the team's season-opening practice.
Maynard made seven starts in 32 games played in 2009-10, averaging 4.7 points per game and 2.4 rebounds per game. He scored a season-high 18 points at No. 5 Syracuse (12/22/09) and tallied his first-ever double-double at Seattle University (12/17/09) with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
The Grizzlies routed the Summit League last season on their way to the school's second-ever NCAA tournament berth and is heavily favored to win the league again.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Grizzlies receive first second-place nod

College basketball blog Rush the Court is giving the Summit League to ... Oral Roberts in its season published Saturday. The site goes as far as to say "This might be one of the most talented ORU teams in the last ten years, and it’s their championship to lose."
The graduation of Derick Nelson and Johnathon Jones seems to have played a part in the RTC evaluation:

“(the Golden Eagles) are healthy and much deeper from a stellar recruiting class. In addition, IUPUI and Oakland, their two main rivals, have taken a step back — losing their best players to graduation.”


Apparently, the author hasn’t heard too much about Oakland center Keith Benson. However, Benson was chosen for the all-league team and later acknowledged as a potential first-round NBA pick.
RTC also says if the Golden Eagles’ key players hadn’t sustained injuries, they would have won the league last season, also.

“The Golden Eagles could have captured this conference championship last year had they been healthy. Just a recap of last season: ORU lost their first and second string point guards to season-ending ACL tears; they lost their backup center to an ACL tear; their shooting guard quit the team; their best shooter, Warren Niles, played with a broken hand all season; their sixth man, Kyron Stokes, needed ankle surgery and played through the pain; they had to add two walk-ons just to dress a full roster; they had only seven scholarship players available, and only five who were fully healthy—yet they still won 20 games and upset #12 New Mexico, Missouri (with the game-winner below), and Stanford.”

RTC's predicted order of finish AND records
1. Oral Roberts (15-3)
2. Oakland (14-4)
3. IUPUI (14-4)
4. South Dakota State (10-8)
5. North Dakota State (9-9)
6. IPFW (8-10)
7. UMKC (7-11)
8. Western Illinois (6-12)
9. Southern Utah (4-14)
10. Centenary (2-16)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Benson, Benson, Benson

Oakland center Keith Benson, who said he recently received his diploma, was put on Rivals.com's preseason top 50 list at No. 36. The site read:

No. 36: Oakland C Keith Benson
THE PARTICULARS: 6-11/230, Sr.; Detroit Country Day
THE BUZZ: Don't be fooled because he plays for a small-school program near Detroit - this guy is one of the best big men in the nation. Benson averaged 17.3 points and led the Summit League in blocks (117), rebounds (368) and double-doubles (18) last season. He even produced against the big-name foes on the Grizzlies' schedule.

The same day, he was also omitted from list the Wooden Award finalists. Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Eisenberg called Benson one of the biggest Wooden snubs.