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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, June 24, 2011

FSN gets Oakland, U-D on the same court

It's not the way Oakland fans had hoped, but FSN Detroit paired Oakland coach Greg Kampe with Detroit coach Ray McCallum onstage with Greg Kelser and George Blaha during their Pistons pre-draft party at The Palace.
If you follow Oakland, you surely know about the bad feelings between the two that keeps the natural, tri-county rivals from playing each other.
Kampe spoke, obviously, about Keith Benson and McCallum, naturally touted his prodigal son, Ray Jr.
There wasn't much tension visible throughout the discussion. Who knows, maybe they did some talk about scheduling behind the scenes. Anything's possible on draft night, right?

ESPN analyst Bilas questions Benson's heart after selection

It seemed as if ESPN analyst Jay Bilas couldn't find anything nice to say about Oakland, rather Atlanta's Keith Benson, after Benson was chosen by the Hawks midway through Thursday's second round of the NBA Draft.
According to the Detroit Free Press, Bilas asked "how high does that motor of his rev?"
Oakland coach Greg Kampe took to the defense immediately afterward.

"It was horrible," he said. "I don't know why Jay Bilas, if he was going to make a statement like that, wouldn't have called his coach first. He could've asked me after five years what I thought about his motor and toughness."
Benson assured the Freep his motor is strong and he will continue to get stronger.
ESPN closed its analysis by adding that Benson will need to add weight, which should come as no surprise to anyone who has been following him. Benson was listed at 230 by Oakland, but weighed in at more than 10 pounds less than that at the NBA combine.

Atlanta was as big a surprise to Benson, Kampe as everyone else

Oakland center Keith Benson Thursday became the first player from the school to get drafted by an NBA franchise, going 48th to the Atlanta Hawks, a team that had not worked him out. Oakland coach Greg Kampe was as surprised as Oakland fans that Benson had not gotten the call earlier, and that it was a team that had not much contact with the prospect outside of the NBA combine.
"That was one team I had not thought about. All the teams I talked to said he'd go between 20-35," Kampe said. "When it got that late, I thought he'd go to Detroit at 52.
"I'm very surprised."

Although shocked as his coach, Benson was excited to join a team headed in the right direction.
"I'm really excited to be picked by a playoff team and to be the first-ever player drafted from Oakland," Benson said via press release. "It means a lot to me. They have a lot of good players like (Al) Horford, (Joe) Johnson and (Josh) Smith. I am looking forward to taking the next step in my life."
Kampe called Benson's selection the next step in the process of building the Oakland.
"We got good," he said. "We won games and got into the (NCAA) tournament. We got a pro into the draft. That's just another progression of what we're trying to do."

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A look at the new guy in town

After losing Ilija Milutinovic Friday, Oakland announced Monday it had signed 6-foot-10 Korab Imami of Kosovo, who played at a South Carolina prep school last season.
"He is a 6-foot-10 perimeter player who has decent post moves," Oakland coach Greg Kampe said in a press release. "He can go out and guard on the perimeter and he can run pretty well. To get a player of his quality this late is a coup for us."
(Watch what I believe to be Imami's highlights. It's unclear whether this is a European production or from his S.C. team)

In early May, Kampe was disappointed the Grizzlies hadn't landed anyone to go with Hartland's Matt Poches and Dante Williams from Ann Arbor Huron to go in this year's class of new recruits.
“We washed out in spring recruiting," Kampe said then. "We wanted to get a big who could play right away. We looked at prep schools and junior colleges and we didn’t get the kids we wanted. We set our sights high knowing we felt good about what we had.”
Siting the Aiken Standard, Corey from Golden Grizzlies Gameplan tweeted Imami originally signed with Seton Hill, a Division II school, in early May. It's possible Imami was one of the Grizzlies' targets Kampe referred to in that edition of Grizz Talk, recorded May 25.

NBA Draft preview: Benson feature

Here's a snippet of the Keith Benson feature I'm writing at this very minute for Thursday's edition:

Benson poised to become first pick from Oakland

Oakland University coach Greg Kampe has repeatedly said there’s never going to be another Keith Benson. Kampe has said he’s never coached a player like him. That’s mighty praise for a kid who flew well below the recruiting radar out of high school.

Kampe pleaded with fans on several occasions to get to the O’rena to see the wunderkind wearing No. 34.

“Keith was a special player,” Kampe said. “We don’t get them very often, but who does?”

That’s coming from a coach who has helmed Oakland since its days in Division II, entering his 28th season this fall.

The 6-foot-11 Benson sits, wherever that may be on draft night, likely to be the first player ever drafted out of the now-18,000 strong school tucked away in Rochester. His career at Oakland ended in March, as he set himself at the free-throw line after time had expired. He was awarded two free throws, which he made, to close a four-point loss to Texas. Some of those Longhorns, Tristan Thompson and Jordan Hamilton, will be on the draft board near Benson in Newark, N.J., Thursday.

Read more online Wednesday and in Thursday's print edition of The Oakland Press.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Looking at Oakland departures in the last season

Ilija Milutinovic is the second player to defect from back-to-back Summit League championship teams. Transfers can be a routine offseason happening with successful teams, and Oakland is no exception.
"You recruit good players and they want to play," Oakland coach Greg Kampe said. "We average about one (transfer) per year."
Here some of the names that have left the program in the past two offseasons:
  • Ilija Milutinovic - Wealth of experience behind Keith Benson and Will Hudson, but personal issues led hm back to Serbia.
  • Ledrick Eackles - Star power couldn't shine bright enough after ankle injury set him back mightily in sophomore season after becoming impactful freshman.
  • Drew Maynard- Never met potential. Freakish athleticism wowed the crowd, but off-the-court issues led to the sidelines his junior season.
  • Jay Thames- Played more sparingly than Milutinovic. Didn't see chance for playing time, transferred to community college.
To be honest, the potential loss of Keith Benson to the NBA draft last season would have had infinitely more of an impact, but fate stepped in on that one. Now, Benson is a potential first-round pick Kampe.
Did I miss anyone? I've only been on the beat for the past two years. Which departures, prior to the past two years, do you think had the most impact on the program?

Expect Oakland to go small more often

Oakland center in waiting Ilija Multinovic announced Friday he won't be returning to Oakland for his senior season, opting instead to play professionally in Europe. The decision was made for "personal" reasons, according to press release.
The Golden Grizzlies, repeat Summit League champions, lost center Keith Benson to graduation and likely to the NBA when the the league's draft takes place next week.
"It's really hard when you're playing behind Keith Benson," Oakland coach Greg Kampe said. "He would have made more progress if he was able to play. ... Who's going to play behind an NBA draft choice? I'm not saying Ilija couldn't have been an NBA pick if he had gotten to play as much. We couldn't play them together and Will Hudson was there, too."
Kampe felt Milutinovic was poised for a breakout season, in part because Kampe expected Milutinovic to play 30-35 minutes per game. That could've landed him in a higher-profile league.
"He would've ended up in one of the Euro leagues where he can make a lot of money because he's 7 feet tall," Kampe said.
Milutinovic, who has played sparingly in his career, was going to be counted on heavily in the post by Oakland. The Grizzlies have another 7-footer in Kyle Sikora and Utica Eisenhower product Corey Petros to help fill the void.
Kampe expects to feature a highly-touted backcourt of Reggie Hamilton, Laval Lucas-Perry and Travis Bader more prominently than before.
"We're going to have to go small, especially during league play," Kampe said. "There are going to be times when we play (Blake) Cushingberry or (Drew) Valentine at the 4."
Oakland is expected in the near future to announce the signing of another big man landed during the late signing period.
Read the Oakland release here