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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, May 25, 2012

O'rena floor gets a facelift

First, the steps got a fresh finishing coat on the eve of the Republican Debate last November, and recently, the floor of Oakland's O'rena got its first alteration since opening in 1998.
The biggest change is the use of the bear's head at center court rather than the long-used bear wrapped around the OU logo.
"We've been talking about redoing the floor the past couple of years," Oakland director of athletics Tracy Huth said. "We want people to recognize our brand and right now we're doing that with the front-on bear's head.
"There were all these logos that were being developed over the course of time and we felt we needed to zero in so people would have the ability to recognize Oakland athletics."
The bear head design is distinct enough to be recognizable at any size, Huth pointed out, adding to its versatility. 
Huth added the newer block "O" will continue to be used to represent the school as well. 

Also, the baselines now read simple "Oakland" rather than "Oakland University." Huth said the black background was created with a stain rather than black paint, which should reduce any chipping.
Huth said the bear's head will likely be used in some fashion when the school hosts an NCAA tournament regional at The Palace next spring. Oakland drew attention for its cursive "Oakland University" on The Palace floor when it last hosted in 2006.
"We had a lot of leeway with what we did and we just wanted to get Oakland out there," Huth said.
The following year, the NCAA began standardizing its tournament sites, making them sterile and nondescript.
That's never been part of the thinking in the design process at Oakland, though.
"I wanted something unique that potential recruits would see and always remember," Oakland coach Greg Kampe said of the design during a March live chat. "I believe our court, when flashed on TV is memorable and people say 'Oh, that's Oakland.' Thirteen years ago, there was no other court like it. Now, you see many similar designs."
Kampe added that if he had to chose how to completely makeover his home court, he would make it entirely black with gold trim.
As for current changes to the O'rena, Huth said a companion to the mural on the east wall is likely on the south side of the arena as well, but wasn't sure if there would be time to have it created prior to the start of the season. He didn't specify what the subject of the new mural might be.
What would you like to see painted there?

UPDATED: Former Southfield star Carlton Brundidge not working out with Oakland

Former U-M guard Carlton Brundidge
A report last week by the Michigan Daily indicating former Southfield standout Carlton Brundidge, a pending Michigan transfer, was working out with Oakland was premature.
The tweet began "Nothing official, yet," but it seems it may not be official, ever.
Brundidge, an Oakland source said, has not spoken with the Golden Grizzlies about transferring, nor has the school requested his release from Michigan and coach John Beilein, who like many coaches won't release players in-conference but adds the stipulation that potential transfer schools not be scheduled opponents for a time of two years.
It seems "working out" may have been recreational in nature apart from the team.
Brundidge announced his departure in March after appearing in just 15 games off the bench and averaging 2.9 minutes per game. 
The former Class A First-Team All-State pick remains in transfer limbo until further notice. He gave U-M a verbal commitment as a junior in 2009 and was Beilein's first commitment for the Class of 2011, according to UMhoops.
Oakland got transfer Laval Lucas-Perry two years ago after Beilein dismissed the Flint native from the team.
Oakland has recently lined up former Clarkston point guard Mitch Baenziger, a third-team all-county selection by The Oakland Press, as a preferred walk-on, according to MIPrepZone recruiting guru Scott M. Burnsetin.
Baenziger led the Wolves to consecutive league titles and was also the Wolves' starting quarterback on a heralded squad. 
Former Oakland walk-on John Kast was also a one-time Clarkston Wolves player under Dan Fife.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Former Oakland forward Drew Maynard returning to Rochester

You read that headline correctly ... except Drew Maynard, who left Oakland midway through his junior year in 2010-11, will be playing for cross-town Rochester College next season.
Maynard has one season of eligibility remaining after receiving a red-shirt year for his partial season in 2011.
Maynard had a breakout season in 2008-09, as he and good friend and fellow freshman Blake Cushingberry were called on heavily for big minutes in the absence of Derick Nelson.
Maynard left Oakland after a bout with behavioral issues, landing at Division II Valdosta State. According to MIPrepZone writer Scott Burnstein, Maynard averaged 10 points and six rebounds last season.
“I grew up around here and I know the Pleasant family and the Rochester College program very well, dating to all the way back to when I was in elementary school,” Maynard told Burnstein. “That kind of familiarity was just one more thing telling me this is the place where I need to be to finish my career.”
The Warriors are tentatively scheduled to visit the O'rena at some point next season, as they tend to do in the Rochester series of benevolence. 
Meanwhile, Cushingberry, who missed the entire 2010-11 season with an ACL injury, was suspended indefinitely for academic reasons midway through last season. 
Read more about Drew Maynard transferring to Rochester College here

Friday, May 11, 2012

Reggie Hamilton flying under the radar

Former Oakland guard Reggie Hamilton was recently featured in Hoops World's (at least) three-part "Seniors Under the Radar" series alongside Walton Sports Management Group roster mate Kent Bazemore, formerly of Old Dominion.
Hoops World mentions the lack of buzz following the nation's scoring champion, comparing him to Sacramento's Isaiah Thomas for his ability to score while lacking typical NBA size.
“It’s just something that you have to expect,” Hamilton told Hoops World. “It’ keeps me hungry. If I feel disrespected by it, people aren’t paying attention to the accomplishment. I’m humbled by it, but not giving too much attention to it. I’m just putting in the work I need to.”
Hamilton also touted his work ethic and ability to make his teammates better.
“I’m an energy type of player, do a lot of moving around and scoring the ball,” Hamilton said. “I feel that I’ll be able to help teams put the ball in the basket and be able to create for other players, as well."
According to Draft Express, invites for the Chicago pre-draft camp were sent today. Former Oakland center Keith Benson turned heads at the combine before being taken No. 48 in last year's draft by the Atlanta Hawks, who have offered Benson a return invite to work out with them, according to Oakland coach Greg Kampe.

Current Detroit athletic director denies feud with Oakland

One day after the University of Detroit's former athletic director offered insight into U-D's thought process behind blocking Oakland from the Horizon League many moons ago, the school's current AD told the Detroit Free Press there is no feud between the schools.
"I don't know about any animosity," Detroit athletic director Keri Gaither said. "We play Oakland in many of our sports. They were just here for track. We had a dual meet a few weeks ago. As far as I'm concerned, I think we're OK."
Since Butler announced its departure from the Horizon League, which happened just last Wednesday, we've officially learned a few things:
1. Oakland wants to be in the Horizon League, officially.
2. Detroit once blocked Oakland's membership in the Horizon League, officially.
3. Both schools' athletic directors have insisted there is no ill will between the schools, who regularly compete in every sport except men's basketball, which both schools pride themselves on, officially.
4. The Horizon League has not, officially, spoken with any schools about membership, and seems intent on taking its time to find the right fit, which many people in the media and real life believe is Oakland.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

It's now official — Detroit once blocked Oakland from Horizon League

Greg Kampe, never one to mince words, confirmed what Oakland fans have long theorized — the University of Detroit once blocked Oakland from joining the Horizon League. 
In an Associated Press story Wednesday, Kampe said the Horizon had been in contact with Oakland about joining in 2002. That would have been, depending on the time of year, just two years after Oakland joined the Summit League.

"About 10 years ago, there was interest in us from the Horizon League and Detroit stopped it," Oakland coach Greg Kampe recalled. "I know that's a fact because I called the athletic director then, Brad Kinsman, and he told me."
Like a good jounralist, author Larry Lage contacted Kinsman, who confirmed the snub.
"The feeling back then was that it didn't make sense to share this market with another school in the same conference," said Kinsman, who retired in 2006. "Times have changed, coaches have changed, but I don't know what the thinking is now."
Kampe discussed the present possibility of joining the Horizon League Tuesday in the season's final "Greg Kampe Show" Tuesday on WXOU.
"I would hope they (Detroit) would see what we would bring to the Horizon League," Kampe said, noting he's forgotten about the slight a decade ago. He went on to discuss Oakland's success in Olympic sports, especially swimming. Kampe also noted in men's basketball, which is the Horizon's cornerstone, Oakland's RPI and attendance over the last three seasons would place the Golden Grizzlies within the Horizon's top third of teams.
While we're left to wonder what could have been and what might be, it might offer some closure to Oakland fans.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Oakland and the Horizon League: By the numbers

Run The Floor recently broke down Oakland University, basketball-wise, as it relates to the Horizon League. Here are some highlights:
"11 - The Golden Grizzlies are 7-4 against Horizon League teams (counting only Valpo games from 2007 onwards) since 2003, in 11 meetings."
"151 - Oakland's Pomeroy ranking at the end of the 2011-2012 season. Cleveland State (83), Butler (110), Detroit (120), Valparaiso (147) and Milwaukee (150) were higher, but not by much."
"$1,555,472 - Oakland spent that much on their basketball program in 2010, according to the most recent numbers available over at BBState, which marks them as solidly mid-major. That number would rank them eighth in the Horizon League, ahead of Green Bay ($1,409,931) and Youngstown State ($1,022,407)."
The story also mentions the Golden Grizzlies would make sense for the Horizon League from a scheduling aspect, pairing them with Detroit as a travel partner.
"Also, since the league depends on "swings" in its scheduling where teams travel in pairs, Oakland and Detroit would make perfect travel partners a la UIC and Loyola in Chicago. Under such a plan Valparaiso and Wright State would also become travel partners with Butler gone."
The story calls Oakland the Division I front-runner for the vacancy, but mentions the conference could go with a Division II choice as well. 
Oakland coach Greg Kampe talked at length about a potential move to the Horizon League on Tuesday's season-ending edition of "The Greg Kampe Show" on WXOU, examining these factors and then some.

Kyle Sikora lands back on the beach

After two seasons at Oakland, redshirt freshman Kyle Sikora, from Key Largo Fla., will be returning home. Oakland confirmed Tuesday he will be transferring to Stetson, a Division I program near Daytona, Fla.
Sikora saw plenty of playing time this season in the absence of Ilija Milutinovic, who skipped his senior season to play professionally in Europe.
Sikora started 16 games this season, averaging almost 10 minutes each, and showed his potential as a defensive force, blocking 23 shots and averaging 1.8 rebounds per game.
After a strong start to his Summit League career, where Sikora scored a career-high nine points on 4-of-5 shooting against South Dakota, he never scored more than six points in any game.
Sikora ended his Oakland career while battling an ankle injury during Oakland's run in the Tournament. 
A late bloomer in high school, Sikora will be a fourth-year sophomore when he takes the court for the Hatters in 2013-14. They were 9-20 overall and 6-12 in the Atlantic Sun last season.
Sikora isn't the only body Stetson has recently lined up. The Hatters recently inked their fourth recruit for next season as well.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Move to Horizon League would be monumental, not monotonous for Oakland

Oakland director of athletics Tracy Huth was with the school when it made the monumental  leap to Division I competition in the late 1990s. He could be steering the school’s next move if Oakland gets invited to join the Horizon League, as it has been speculated in past weeks.
“We can contact the Horizon League all we want, but it’s not going to make any difference until they actually come to us, which has not happened,” Huth said Thursday, one day after the Horizon lost centerpiece member Butler to the Atlantic 10.
While surely time consuming, switching conferences doesn’t appear to be taxing on Oakland’s athletic department and campus community as stepping up from Division II.
“That was different within the NCAA structure because you have to make a declaration and then you go through an extended period of time,” Huth said. “You have more of a waiting period with that process.
Would the Summit League, Oakland’s home since 1997-98 when it was the Mid-Continent Conference, try to keep Oakland?
“That I don’t know,” Huth said. “I’m sure they’d certainly like to have us stay and they may ask us to stay, but I don’t know what a league would do specifically to try to keep a team.”
Horizon League commissioner Jon LeCrone confirmed the conference’s 5,000-seat arena stipulation for its members, but added they didn’t want to get bogged down in seating capacity while searching for a new member. Oakland’s O’rena, which opened in 1998, holds 3,000 at capacity and has been stuffed to 4,000 at times.
If Oakland’s main sports complex doesn’t meet the Horizon’s lofty standards, it could mean the school’s other facilities are in order for an upgrade should the Golden Grizzlies move conferences.
“That’s something we would have to explore,” Huth said. “I don’t know what some of their facility requirements are in some of the sports. If the call ever came, that would be something we would certainly be looking at.”
Leaving the Summit League can come at a cost, as seen when Oral Roberts paid more than $250,000 for its emancipation last year. Huth noted Southern Utah, however, gave the league more notice, two years, of its impending departure, resulting in fee free egress.
“It all depends what the exit strategy is and that’s all predicated on when there’s an opening in an alternate conference,” Huth said.
Oakland would be the fourth team to leave the conference in recent years. The Grizzlies share a common lineage with the previous defectors — they’re all the farthest-flung members in the plains state-centric league.
“When you look at the member institutions that have done it have done it for geography,” Huth said.
With the better conference locale, more name recognition and a recruiting boost should follow.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

REPORT: Oakland as interested as its fans in joining Horizon League

Adding to the speculation of Oakland leaving the Summit League, director of athletics Tracy Huth told the Detroit News "Absolutely, we would definitely be interested" in joining the Horizon League.
"We have enjoyed our affiliation with the Summit League over the years (but) it makes sense (to join the Horizon). Geographically it makes a tremendous amount of sense. Monetarily it makes tremendous amount of sense."
Huth added he has had no contact with anyone from the Horizon League.

Horizon League commish: We haven't talked to anyone about joining yet

The day Oakland fans have longed for possibly came a little closer Wednesday, as Butler promptly informed the Horizon League it would be leaving. Conference commissioner Jon LeCrone addressed the media via teleconference from New York, where he indicated the league hasn't yet contacted any potential new members.
Oakland, IUPUI and Robert Morris have all been rumored as possible candidates to replace Butler in the Horizon League.
LeCrone seemed adamant the conference won't rush to a decision to add any members and pointed out the league has operated as an odd-numbered conference, as it would have nine members after Butler departs after next season.
"Although difficult, it was possible to do," he said. 
Where Oakland fans may be intrigued, LeCrone confirmed the veto power of conference members. It has long been rumored conference member University of Detroit vetoed Oakland's acceptance into the conference in 2007.
LeCrone said blocking power extends 25 miles from a member institution and a unanimous vote from the conference's other members can overrule the exclusion. He also noted the league's board can amend the rules at any time.
The conference also has a 5,000-seat arena pre-requisite, which LeCrone noted has been waived in the past. Oakland's O'rena seats roughly 3,000 for a sellout and nearly 1,000 more at standing-room only.
"We don't want to get confined to seats," LeCrone said of the search for new members.
LeCrone declined to specify the cost of the Horizon League's exit clause. He also added the conference's headquarters will remain in Indianapolis.
At several times, LeCrone noted the conference will rely on its principles and values while searching for a new member, while lamenting the big conference expansion sweeping the college landscape.
"We have an aggressive growth agenda which has been in the planning stages for some time," LeCrone said in a statement prior to the conference call. "That agenda is values based, collaborative, measured, informed and principled."
LeCrone was not specific about a time frame for the conference to extend membership, but made it clear the league would be doing its due diligence in the search. 
Listen to Wednesday's teleconference below. It begins shortly after the three-minute mark.