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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.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Oakland guard Drew Maynard reinstated for practice

From staff reports
ROCHESTER — Oakland junior Drew Maynard (Lake Orion) has been reinstated for practice with the Oakland University men’s basketball team, Tuesday after spending the offseason and Oakland’s first six games apart from the group. He practiced with the team Tuesday.
“Drew has taken the first step in the process of rejoining the team,” said Oakland men’s coach Greg Kampe. “He is not reinstated for game action at this point.”
Maynard was suspended indefinitely from the team Oct. 12, just days before the official beginning of the season, which commences with “midnight madness” celebrations from programs around the nation, for violation of team policies. He played in 32 games in 2009-10 and averaged 4.7 points per game and 2.4 rebounds per game.
Maynard started the final seven games of the regular season last year, before a severe ankle sprain sidelined him for the Summit League Tournament. He returned to play in the team’s appearance in the NCAA tournament just a week later.
Maynard was an All-County Dream Team member as a junior and senior in high school and had a significant role with the Golden Grizzlies his freshman season, 2008-09, when he started in 20 of the 36 games in which he played.
Maynard, who stands 6-foot-7, is noted for his leaping ability, authoring several highlight-reel dunks.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Why Keith Benson won't get ALL the recognition he deserves from the Summit League

Reigning Summit League Player of the Year Keith Benson, also recently voted Summit Preseason Player of the Year, just received his first player of the week endorsement from the league. A couple questions to ask: Can he win the award each remaining week through March and 2. Why didn't he get the award the previous two weeks?
"He probably should get it every week," Oakland coach Greg Kampe said during a WXOU radio broadcast Monday. "I don't even pay attention. I didn't even know he got it.
"The bottom line is, if he's cutting down the nets in March, he's had a successful year. If he's not and he's been Summit Player of the Week 57 times, who cares."
Benson averaged 22 points, 14 rebounds, 4.7 blocked shots and three assists in three games during the week. In a victory over Austin Peay, one of his 22 rebounds was a kick out to Reggie Hamilton, who hit the game-tying shot. The Grizzlies went to overtime and won the game.
"He made the all-tournament team this weekend and I threw the plaque at him and said 'Here, they said to give this to you,' " Kampe said.
"This is a team event. It says 'Oakland' across the front of the jersey. Kito can do some of the stuff he can do because of what the other players do. They get him the ball. They are good enough they can't put five guys on (Benson)."
As good as he is, the league isn't going to give the award to Benson each, week, regardless whether he is the league's best player.
The award was given most recently to UMKC's Jay Couisnard and was shared by North Dakota State's Michael Tveidt and South Dakota State's Nate Wolters. Not to say those guys didn't have good games, but I would argue Oakland's non-conference schedule is by far the most challenging of any in the league. That being said, Benson is still posting great numbers every time he takes the court in a tough game like West Virginia or Purdue. It's as if the league requires a player to WIN games to be given consideration for the award.
When things were crumbling versus ranked teams last year, Benson was the one who played like his normal self. That trend seems to be continuing.
Kito is a guy who's being projected as high as the late first round of the NBA draft from a largely unrecognized mid-major and the league is saying he's not the best player in the conference week in and week out?
"He's probably good enough he could get it every time he steps on the court," Kampe said.
I'm all for fairness to other players, but maybe this season they should give out two awards each week — one for Benson, the actual player of the week, and another for the runner(s)-up.

OU’s Benson named Summit League Player of the Week

From staff reports
Oakland senior Keith Benson has been named the Summit League Player of the Week, the first such honor this season for the reigning conference player of the year.
Benson (Birmingham Detroit Country Day) averaged 22 points per game, 14 rebounds per game and 4.7 blocked shots per game as Oakland won the Chicago Invitational Challenge upper-division championship last week.
Benson earns player of the week honors for the seventh time in his career. He pulled down a career-high 22 rebounds against Austin Peay on Saturday and tallied 22 points for his fourth double-double this season. He dished out a career-high seven assists and blocked six shots against APSU.
Against Southern on Friday, Benson posted 19 points and 13 rebounds in a 105-53 rout over the Jaguars. He added a game-high 25 points at Wright State on Tuesday to go along with his seven rebounds and six blocked shots.
Benson’s 22 rebounds against APSU was the fifth most in Summit League history, last done by Oral Roberts’ Caleb Green against Southern Utah on Feb. 28, 2004. His 17 defensive rebound was a new school record and the 22 boards ranks as the most-ever in Oakland’s Division I era.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Hamilton didn't call bank

First-year Oakland player Reggie Hamilton has already hit a lot of 3-pointers thus far in the season, but none have been bigger than the one he knocked down Saturday. Keith Benson kicked the ball out Hamilton, who knocked down the 3 off the glass with just three seconds remaining in regulation. The shot tied the game, sending Oakland to an overtime, which they dominated, and a win over Austin Peay State at the Chicago Invitational Challenge.
"I had to knock it down," Hamilton said. "Kito got the rebound for me, and I had to knock it down.
"He did his job and I felt I had to do my job for the team, too."
The shot couldn't have happened in a better road arena than the Sears Centre, located just outside Chicago, not too far from Hamilton's roots.
Hamilton admitted Sunday he didn't call the bank shot, as it's common practice in pickup games.
"The bank shot has been going kind of good for me this year," he said. "That's actually my third one.
"That's what happens when you get a lot of shots."

Hamilton is the team's leading 3-point shooter at nearly 50 percent. He went 4 for 4 in the first half Saturday, but missed his first four attempts in the second half prior to the game-tying bomb.
"All my life, I've been a 3-point shooter," he said." Coach Kampe and the team put me in a position to get those shots. The team has done a good job of distributing the ball to Kito and that opens it up for me on the perimeter."
(Fast forward to the 1:25 mark to see the shot)
Hamilton joined us for this week's edition of "Grizz Talk."

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Oakland vs. Southern live chat

Join me for a live chat Friday at 3:30 p.m., as Oakland tackles Southern in the CIT.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Wrong State: Turnovers doom Oakland as it blows 14-point lead

The fanbase was quite disappointed with the loss Tuesday at the Nutter Center in Dayton, Ohio, where Oakland blew a 14-point second-half lead, falling to Wright State, 82-79, Tuesday.
"You're on the road against a good team and you know those things are going to win (games)," Oakland coach Greg Kampe told WDFN-AM (1130) after the game.
"To make the mistakes we made down the stretch. You just can't have it."

Will Hudson had a nice game to start, pacing Oakland out of the gate and then hit foul trouble and didn't score again.
"That fourth foul Will made ... it just doesn't make sense to me," Kampe said.
Oakland had 15 turnovers, which is actually a season low, but it didn't help them keep their lead, as the Raiders used a 16-4 run to overtake Oakland.
It was just deflating to see them lose after sticking it to Purdue for so long Sunday night. It was a similar circumstance as the Oakland women's team had recently, where after they held a double-digit lead late over Penn State, the Lady Lions won in overtime after a furious late rally. Next game: Oakland women get blown out by Bowling Green by 36.
Sure, Reggie Hamilton's bank 3 and converting free throw was nice, putting Oakland up 1 late, but they allowed Wright State to shoot 48 percent from 3-point range.
"We battled back, but this is a very disappointing game," Kampe said.
Opponents have shot better than 40 percent from deep so far this season, and that average climbs a little bit higher tonight.
(Hamilton has actually been their best 3-point shooter so far, shooting nearly .500 from downtown, as he was 4 of 9 tonight.)
When you lose by three points, it also doesn't help that your opponent was perfect from the free-throw line, 22 of 22. The Raiders were also 44 percent from the floor for the game. Oakland actually shot better, 50 percent (27 of 54), but the Raiders made their shots count from deep.
Oakland gets a chance to rebound against a struggling team, just like their female counterparts did Monday against Rochester, when the play Southern Friday at 3:30 p.m. Be sure to join us for another live chat.

Live chat of Oakland at Wright State

Join me at 6:30, as I host a live chat during the Oakland-Wright State game.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Join us at 6:45 p.m. for a live chat, as Oakland travels to No. 14 Purdue.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Grizz Talk Nov. 19, 2010

Freshman guard Travis Bader and sophomore guard Ledrick Eackles joined me after Friday's practice for a chat. Coach Greg Kampe sat down as well. The team memebers talk about the upcoming four-game road trip, which includes at tip against Purdue, as part of the Chicago Invitational Tournament. Be sure to come back Sunday for a live chat starting at 6:45 p.m. with Ross Maghielse, as Oakland takes on No. 14 Purdue at Mackey Arena.

Cushingberry to have surgery Monday

Blake Cushingberry stayed to watch the Oakland women nearly upset Penn State Thursday at the O'Rena. He said he's feeling better and that his surgery is scheduled for Monday in Royal Oak. He's out for the season after tearing his ACL in practice in the preseason. ... A new Grizz Talk will be posted later this afternoon featuring interviews with Travis Bader and Ledrick Eackles.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Playboy names Keith Benson preseason All-America

I didn't realize Playboy covered college hoops, but according to The Denver Post, Oakland's Keith Benson was one of two centers named to the team.
.... Also, we will be live chatting during the Oakland game at Purdue Sunday night beginning at 6:45 p.m.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Benson named to Naismith Preseason watch list

From staff reports
Oakland senior center Keith Benson (6-foot-11, 230 pounds) has been named to the 2010-11 Naismith Preseason Watch List, announced by the Atlanta Tipoff Club on Tuesday. The Naismith Trophy is given to the men’s college basketball player of the year.
Benson, a native of Farmington Hills, who went to Birmingham Detroit Country Day), has the Golden Grizzlies off to a 1-1 start this season. He posted his 30th double-double against West Virginia (Nov. 12) with a game-high 22 points and 15 rebounds. Despite early foul trouble that limited him to just 19 minutes, Benson scored 10 points in the second half and finished with six rebounds and three blocked shots.
Benson has moved into 11th all-time in Summit League history in rebounds (760) and continues to rank second all-time in blocked shots (249).
Benson led the Golden Grizzlies to their most successful season with 26 wins and a league-record 17-1 mark in 2009-10. Oakland went on to the NCAA tournament, as Benson averaged a double-double at the Summit League Tournament (13.0 ppg, 15.7 rpg). Oakland fell to No. 18 Pittsburgh in the first round of the NCAA tournament, 89-66, but Benson finished with 28 points and nine rebounds.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Live blog of Oakland at Ohio U

While I couldn't make it to the game, that won't keep me from watching!

Getting ready for Ohio

Oakland (0-1) takes on Mid-American Conference Tournament champion Ohio tonight at 7 p.m. Oakland coach Greg Kampe made an appearance on the Oakland produced show "Coaches Corner" on Monday.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Ready for the season

From Friday's Oakland Press:
Of The Oakland Press
ROCHESTER — The Oakland University men’s basketball team was pretty sure what it had last season when the Golden Grizzlies began their epic run to the conference championship and NCAA tournament. Things aren’t quite as certain this time around, as Oakland begins its season in Morgantown, W. Va., for a tip against the Mountaineers, a Final Four contender last season.
“We’re going to do go out there and find out how they expose us,” Oakland coach Greg Kampe said. “We’ve practiced for quite a while now, we have a veteran team and we think we can do some things and we’re going to find out if we can do them against … nobody’s going to play defense better than West Virginia does. Bob Huggins’ teams have always been known for being great defensive teams.”
One of the biggest differences this season will be at the point guard position, where the Grizzlies are recovering from the graduation of four-year starter Johnathon Jones, the Summit League’s all-time assist leader. Larry Wright will be one of multiple Oakland guards distributing the ball this season, something he hasn’t been asked to do in his career.
“I’ve been getting very comfortable (handling the ball),” Wright said. “(Ryan) Bass has been picking me up at full court, making me handle (the ball). I’ve been taking tests and asking people about the point guard position about how I can get better.”
If the Grizzlies don’t figure out what ails them against West Virginia, they have several more opportunities before conference play begins in earnest. Kampe has once again lined up a top-tier non-conference schedule for Oakland, where it plays five of the preseason top 25 teams.
The Grizzlies “host” No. 2 Michigan State at The Palace Dec. 11 and play at No. 4 Ohio State Dec. 23. They also play at Purdue in the Chicago Invitational Challenge later this month. Their second game is Monday at reigning Mid-American Conference Tournament champion Ohio, which defeated Georgetown in the first round of the NCAA tournament last year.
The Golden Grizzlies played Pittsburgh in the tournament last season, their second Big East opponent of the season following a bout with then-No. 5 Syracuse. The conference’s physical style of play can take some getting used to.
“It’s just a physical style with stronger, faster players,” said Oakland senior center Keith Benson, a potential first-round NBA draft pick.
The Golden Grizzlies won’t earn the respect of their top-notch opponents without first knocking one of them off, Benson added.
“(West Virginia) recognizes we have some talent on our team, but you don’t fully get the respect until you beat one of them,” he said. “We’re going to have to play a solid game and everybody has to play their part and be into their roles. We’re going to have to knock down some outside shots and get some good post play and just really play a solid game.”
The Grizzlies were recently ranked No. 8 in the preseason mid-major poll, the program’s highest ranking to date. They finished at No. 9 after a 17-1 conference record in 2009-10, which set the Summit League record for winning percentage.
“It’s great that we’re there, but the reality of it is, with the schedule we play, we probably won’t be there in a few weeks.” Kampe said. “We’re going to have to crawl back into it in a couple weeks like we did last year.”
Meanwhile, the Oakland women's team kicks off its season today at 7 p.m. at the University of Detroit, seeking to avenge the season-opening loss the Titans dealt them at home last season.
“There’s so much we still need to work on still,” Oakland women’s coach Beckie Francis said. “But this is just the first game. You can’t have everything in and perfect”
Francis is using the season opener as the same learning tool Kampe will for the men. But there’s more certainty on the women’s team, where they return potential all-league center Brittany Carnago, after she missed last season with a knee injury suffered in exhibition play.
Carnago is joined in the frontcourt by sophomore Bethany Watterworth (Lake Orion), who filled in admirably during Carnago’s absence, earning all-league second- and newcomer team honors.
The Golden Grizzlies rallied behind their freshman fill-in and star Melissa Jeltema, who now plays professionally in Germany, to finish second in the Summit League (14-4) during the regular season. Similar to last season, the Grizzlies are already seeing contributions from their younger players.
“So many people stepped up in so many positions that we were almost surprised,” senior Kirstie Malone said. “We had some freshmen step in and have some good minutes and our defense was definitely there (during exhibition play).
“It’s not like they’re freshmen. It’s really surprising because these girls are so mature. They’re at a whole ’nother level that it’s not even like they’re freshmen out there. They’ve been in state championships, they’ve been in big games and it’s like nothing to them to step into the college game.”
Also like the men, the women have a challenging schedule out of their conference, which includes hosting Penn State (Thursday) and Illinois.
“(We play) two tough Horizon League teams, then UIC (Illinois-Chicago) … and come right back with Penn State and then the MAC champion. It’s great. At least it’s not Kampe’s schedule,” Francis joked.

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

Oakland men at West Virginia, 9 p.m. Friday,, WDFN-AM (1130).

For another thorough preview, read Golden Grizzlies Gameplan.

In other news: Hartland guard Matt Poches and Ann Arbor Huron guard Dante Williams made their commitments to Oakland official on Thursday, signing National Letters of Intent.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Changing of the guards

The injury to Blake Cushingberry and the suspension of Drew Maynard has accelerated the speed with which the Golden Grizzlies must rotate at the guard position.
"We've gone from a team that's lost Jones and Nelson to a team that's lost Jones, Nelson, Cushingberry and Maynard," Oakland coach Greg Kampe said. "It's a different team now."
While Ledrick Eackles and Drew Valentine both saw good chunks of playing time last season, they're just sophomores and Valentine has been struggling as of late.
"He's in hurry-up mode and he's making too many mistakes," Kampe said. "He's got to learn how to value the basketball."
And while Larry Wright is in his final year, he has never been asked to play the point, something he's expected to do this year.
Of course transfer Reggie Hamilton will take some of the pressure off, but Hamilton was initially expected to be the lone man at the point. That seems to have since changed.
Freshman Ryan Bass is expected to contribute, as the shortage has now made a red-shirt season impossible for the athletic guard from Dayton, Ohio. Bass himself has been hurt, sidelined with a groin injury.
Kampe is enamored with red-shirt freshman Travis Bader and the potential he has.
“I’m really, really excited about the way Travis has progressed. He brings that (Erik) Kangas-like shooting. I’m not saying he’s Kangas, but he brings that to the table. He’s very confident and he’s worked his tail off and he’s had the best preseason. He’s the guy that’s made the biggest impact when you wonder about who’s going to step up."
Despite keeping his typical rotation in limited supply, Kampe will be stretching it this year.
“I like the fact we’re nine deep, and if Maynard ever makes it back, we can be 10 deep. I’m not afraid to do it. I’ve never done it in my career. I’ve never been able to play more than seven or eight guys, but with this team, I feel we can play 10 and I want to do that.”
Watch Kampe's post-game press conference following the Grizzlies' blowout win over Marygrove Tuesday.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Season tipoff Grizz Talk

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

First Maynard, now Cushingberry

(From an OU press release)

Junior Blake Cushingberry tore his Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) during a practice last week. Cushingberry, a 6-foot-3 guard from Romeo will miss the entire 2010-11 season.

"I really feel bad for (him)," Oakland coach Greg Kampe said. He's had his best preseason of his career, he's in the best shape he's been in since he got here and played so well leading up to this injury. I feel bad for him and feel bad for our team, too, because he was going to be our defensive stopper and that is something we have been searching for on this team. We expect him to be back next season at full strength."

Cushingberry started in the final four games for the Golden Grizzlies last season and shot 43 percent beyond the arc in league play (23-53). He played in all 35 games for Oakland and averaged 4.7 points and 1.9 rebounds per game. More importantly, he scored a season-high 23 points in the semifinal game against IPFW at the Summit League Tournament, ending in double-figures scoring in two of the league tournament's three games.

During his career, Cushingberry has played in 71 games and made 19 starts. He is shooting 31 percent from three (67-219) and has 51 steals. He will have surgery on Monday, Nov. 22 at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak.