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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.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Summit League race more important than Bracketbusters to Oakland coach Greg Kampe

An staunch critic since the Summit League enlisted its teams into this season’s ESPN Bracketbusters series nearly a year ago, Oakland coach Greg Kampe reasserted his position again Monday when it was learned the Golden Grizzlies would travel to Illinois State Feb. 18, a seven-hour bus trip. He was incenensed that his team would be asked to take such a trip in the heat of conference play, a game that also forced Oakland to reschedule the Jan. 3 visit by longtime rival Oral Roberts, which was visiting the O'rena for likely the final time.
But what if the Bracketbusters series was at a different time of the season? Kampe’s stance softened just a little bit, but he pointed out an earlier date might lessen the importance of a “bracket buster,” as the games are designed.
“I’d be more interested in it then, but they can’t do that,” he said. “That’s all part of putting good teams against each other so they can get an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament or whatever. I’m sure the purpose is good, but to me, it’s not important. What’s important to me is our league and getting ready for March.”
Kampe also said previously if the Golden Grizzlies were matched with Detroit as an opponent, he would refuse the game because he feels the Titans owe Oakland a rematch at the O’rena. As it stands, the Grizzlies are traveling 403 miles (Google estimate) to play an untelevised game that isn’t likely to have any bearing on Oakland’s at-large status in the NCAA tournament.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Gray lining for Grizzlies and more notes from NDSU loss

Oakland coach Greg Kampe didn't want to hear it following Saturday's loss, but there was one shining point in the Grizzlies' loss Saturday: They held on to the ball, committing just six turnovers, while forcing 15 North Dakota State turnovers and converting those for 19 points. That came on the heels of a win Thursday over South Dakota State in which they had 22 assists and just seven turnovers for their best assist-to-turnover ratio of the season: 3.14.Oakland has had a positive assist-to-turnover ratio just 11 times this season and is 6-5 in those games.

Although it seemed like a much different game from the Grizzlies' standpoint, the Bison shot 63 percent Saturday. That's just slightly down from 64 percent they shot in the previous meeting in Fargo, N.D. The Grizzlies are now 1-11 when an opponent shoots better than 50 percent from the floor.
The Grizzlies continue to struggle from the free-throw line, but had a difficult time even getting there Saturday. They were just 8 of 12 (67 percent), but typically average 24 free-throw attempts per game. Oakland is now 0-4 when it goes to the line fewer than 15 times in a game this season.
The Bison outrebounded Oakland, 30-21, meaning the Grizzlies are now just 3-8 when getting outworked on the glass.
More notes: Reggie Hamilton's 37 points weren't a career high (41 vs. Valparaiso), but it was his highest output in conference play. He moved up to 16th on the Summit League's all-time scoring list. ... Oakland also had its fourth game of at least 13 3s in its past five outings. ... The Grizzlies fell to 3-1 on Homecoming and 2-2 this season when wearing gray uniforms. They also fell to 2-2 in games decided by three points or fewer.... Oakland is now just 2-9 when trailing at the half. ... The 3,935 fans Saturday was the fourth-largest crowd ever at the O'rena and the third consecutive crowd of more than 2,600 for the Grizzlies, whose attendance figures were slumping earlier in the season. 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Breaking down Saturday’s final possession in Oakland's loss to North Dakota State (WITH VIDEO)

Trailing by three with 4.1 seconds remaining Saturday, Oakland, to say the least, didn’t get the shot it was looking for. Reggie Hamilton, who had hit a 3 on the Grizzlies’ previous possession, was the intended target. What transpired was different, as Laval Lucas-Perry ended up with the ball on the wing with little time to catch and shoot.

“We were either supposed to get it to Bass or Laval and I fly up the middle get it on the fly,” Hamilton said.”I couldn’t see who was playing me, but he was on me pretty tight.” 
Oakland coach Greg Kampe wasn't sugar coating anything in his shortest press conference of the season. 
“We run a play at the end of the game and the guy who’s supposed to catch the pass has his head down and doesn’t even see it,” he said. “You tell me what his focus is. The game’s on the line. Guess what? It was the same guy guarding the kid who made the shot. That’s my fault for having him in the game.”
It was a heated battle all night long, as the Grizzlies looked to avenge a 27-point loss in Fargo, N.D., late last month, a loss that briefly sent them spiraling.
“We didn’t want what they did to us in Fargo to happen again,” said Hamilton, who had a game-high 37 points, his eighth game over the 30-point mark. “We had that in the back of our minds how some of the players on North Dakota State were acting when they won the first time. That’s why there was a lot of back and forth. If you come out with a loss, that doesn’t mean anything.”

Despite good numbers for Nate Wolters and Jordan Dykstra, Oakland gets an important victory

While Nate Wolters is the premier scorer on a high-powered South Dakota State team, Jordan Dykstra again had a superb outing against Oakland, scoring a team-high 23 points to go with 10 rebounds on 9-of-15 shooting. He scored 18 of those points in the first half, nine points coming on consecutive 3s in the game’s opening 3:19.
“We had a gameplan to guard against Dykstra and he comes out and hits three 3s in the first minute and a half,” Kampe said. “Uncontested 3s. That was very upsetting to me.”
The second half went by a different script. Dykstra had just five points and spent more than 15 minutes between baskets until hitting a 3 with eight seconds remaining. Kampe credited the stellar defense of junior forward Drew Valentine.
“Drew’s stats mean nothing to me. He’s my MVP,” Kampe said of Valentine, who was one four Golden Grizzlies in double figures with 19 points and added eight rebounds. “We expect that from him and he never lets us down. Until Dykstra made that 3 with seconds to go, he had just two points in the second half.”
Wolters, on the other hand, nearly had a triple-double.
“(He) usually takes over close games,” Kampe said. “We rotated over Laval (Lucas-Perry) and (Ryan) Bass trying to keep it fresh. … All we were trying to do was keep him in front of us and make him hit jump shots. And for the most part, we did a good job. That kid is a pro.”
Wolters was 7 of 15 for 21 points and earned some recognition for his near feat, but Oakland got the 92-87 victory to climb back above .500 in conference play at 6-5 with seven conference games to play. The loss was just the second in conference play for the Jackrabbits, who led by as many as eight early in the game. Their other loss came to undefeated conference leader Oral Roberts, on the road. The Golden Eagles visit Brookings, S.D., Feb. 2.
Saturday’s Homecoming contest against North Dakota State, which beat Oakland by 27 points earlier this season, will be another measuring stick for the Grizzlies.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Reggie Hamilton steers the ship without scoring (as many)

Late in Thursday’s game, Oakland coach Greg Kampe pulled Reggie Hamilton aside to praise him for keeping a level head on what started as an off-night for the high-scoring guard.
“Most people think all I do is scream and yell, but what I said to him was ‘I’m so proud of you because we’re winning this game because of the 3 you made. That was the key basket of the game,’ ” Kampe said. “He hadn’t made a 3 all night. You could see he was frustrated, but he didn’t take that out by taking bad shots.”
Hamilton hit a crucial 3 with 3:16 remaining, his only one of the night, to pull Oakland back within a point after Nate Wolters put South Dakota State ahead by four from the free-throw line just seconds earlier.
Hamilton scored just two points in the first half, but finished with 16, while shooting just 3 of 11 but maintaining his double-figure scoring streak. He also had eight assists and just one turnover, a traveling call Kampe seemed suspicious of after the game.
“I told him we won tonight because he played like a team player,” Kampe said. “That’s a hard thing for a kid to do with seven pro scouts here matched up against another great player. The normal person who isn’t a natural leader probably would’ve dragged that team down and he didn’t. He lifted his team up.”
Hamilton was the nation’s second-leading scorer entering the game with a 23.4 points per game average. He slipped to third at 23.39. Wolters was eighth with 21.1 ppg., but moved up to sixth.
It doesn’t happen often, but Hamilton has had poor shooting nights a few times this season, most notably leading the Grizzlies to victory over Houston Nov. 22 while going 3 of 14 from the floor. He hasn’t had fewer than seven assists in the past four games and reached a season-high nine assists Dec. 1 vs. South Dakota. He moved into 11th place in all-time assists in the Summit League Thursday, while also becoming 17th in all-time conference scoring history.

'Darth Bader' returns to the dark side

How do you overshadow a near triple-double in college basketball? You would have to hit at least 10 3-pointers and lead your team to a much-needed victory over one of the conference's best teams and potential player of the year, right?
South Dakota State's Nate Wolters had 21 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds, and while he still garnered some praise, Oakland's Travis Bader was the toast of the town after leading the Golden Grizzlies' to victory behind a career-high 37 points and a school-record 10 3s.
“At six, I was like ‘I’m taking a lot of 3s right now,’ " Bader said. "But I was just focused on trying to get this win. I heard the crowd chanting my name at the end and Corey Petros came up and hugged me.”
Bader was 10 of 14 from 3-point range, tying for the most 3s made in the nation this season. Dec. 1 against South Dakota, Bader achieved his previous career high, 28 points, as well as his previous high of eight 3s. Following that game, Bader reached the 20-point plateau just once in conference play (21 vs. IPFW Jan. 14) before Thursday.
It should be noted this production came when leading scorer Reggie Hamilton was struggling, as he had just two first-half points.
“We have a lot of great players on our team," Bader's good friend Drew Valentine said. "That’s one of the strengths coming into this year was our depth and how many guys on our team can makes shots.
“It just shows we don’t have to count on Reggie every night to win games. We can win when other guys step up.”
Whereas Bader hit three 3s in the first 1:30 against South Dakota, it was the Jackrabbits' Jordan Dykstra who hit the game's first 3s in the first 3:39 Thursday. Bader hit his first 3 with 13:39 to play in the first half and had back-to-back 3s to open the second half, getting a third for the period with 15:46 to play.
Oakland has made at least 14 3s in three of the past four games. The Grizzlies made a season-high 15 in a loss at Oral Roberts last weekend.
The Grizzlies hit just four 3s besides Bader, who moved into eighth place on Oakland's all-time list of 3-point shooters with eight regular-season games remaining in just his second season. 

The career night earned Bader mentions from CBS' Eye on College Basketball for showing up Wolters and he was also noted in ESPN's Thursday recap of stars off the bench, noting his performance is the best of any reserve this season.

Keith Benson headed back to Sioux Falls in NBADL

After being drafted by the Atlanta Hawks, there were several familial connections to keep Keith Benson connected. After being released by the Hawks, Benson has landed in another familiar spot: Sioux Falls, S.D., with the SkyForce of the NBA Developmental League. 
The two-time Summit League player of the year signed with the NBADL earlier this week and fell to the SkyForce in the waiver order. The team is a minor league affiliate of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Miami Heat and Orlando Magic.
Oakland fans should note the SkyForce play at Sioux Falls Arena, home of the Summit League tournament, Thursday, March 1, two days before the tournament begins.
Benson has already played nine games at his new home arena, going 8-1 as a member of the Golden Grizzlies. The only loss came on a last-second shot, as North Dakota State topped Oakland in the 2009 Summit League Tournament final. The Grizzlies went on to win the next two in a row. 

Benson also played in an Italian league during the NBA lockout after getting drafted No. 48 overall in June.He is expected to play Friday night.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

South Dakota State at Oakland live chat

Join me at 6 p.m. Thursday for a live chat, as Nate Wolters and the South Dakota State Jackrabbits visit the O'rena to take on Reggie Hamilton and Co.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Travis Bader finding rhythm and more minutes off the bench

Oakland sophomore guard Travis Bader has been coming off the bench for the past five games. The moves seems to have helped him find a rhythm, as he's shooting 45 percent from 3-point range over the past six games. He’s even getting more minutes off the bench than he was as a starter, averaging 14.5 points per game in his last four outings.
“He had a tremendous freshman year where all he had to do was stand and shoot because all the emphasis was on (Keith) Benson and (Will) Hudson,” Oakland coach Greg Kampe said Tuesday on WXOU’s “The Greg Kampe Show.” “Now, we have to run him off screens. We have to run sets. It’s a whole learning process for him. Since we took him out of the starting lineup, he’s been really good.”
Bader is already ninth in program history with 153 3s made. He’s played at least 35 minutes in each of the past four games.
Kampe said he won’t return Bader to the starting lineup Thursday against South Dakota State, but expects him in the starting rotation at some point this season.
“He’s a guy we have to have on the floor because he stretches the defense when they guard him,” Kampe said.
Bader was 4 of 8 Saturday, as Oakland connected on a season-high 15 3s.
While it may have gotten more difficult for Bader to find an open look, his aim is still deadly.
“Bader isn’t shooting the 3 as well as he was last year, but if you back off and let him shoot it, he will kill you,” Kampe said.

Grizzlies’ postseason push begins now

After dropping four straight conference games to round out 2011 and begin the new year, Oakland has since gone 3-1, losing only a hotly contested shootout at Oral Roberts last weekend. In this span, the Grizzlies are outshooting their opponents, something expected but unheard of earlier in the season.
“If we can to keep shooting the ball the way we have been, we’ll be a typical Oakland team down the stretch this last month of the season,” Oakland coach Greg Kampe said on WXOU Tuesday afternoon.
The Grizzlies have been shooting 53 percent over their last four games, while holding opponents to just 47 percent.
By this weekend, Oakland will have played Oral Roberts, South Dakota State and North Dakota State, the league’s top three teams, twice. The Grizzlies stand in a three-way tie for fourth place at 5-5 with Western Illinois and Southern Utah. Kampe has conceded, although they’re not mathematically eliminated yet, the Grizzlies won’t be three-peating in the regular season.
“If we’re going to make a run in March, we need to start in February,” Kampe reiterated. “The one thing we have going for us in that tournament is that we’ve won it.
“We’re not going to win the second prize, but we can win the biggest prize.”
The competitive nature of the league this season will be on full display in early March at the Summit League Tournament in Sioux Falls, S.D. The conference had an RPI as high as 11 earlier this season and peaked at No. 12 in the Sagarin Ratings Dec.19. The conference is also home to five of the nation’s top 14 scorers, all of which Kampe asserted on his program would be professional players somewhere, if not in the NBA.
Longtime conference rival Oral Roberts is still without a conference loss, leaving open the possibility of going undefeated more than halfway through the season. The second- and third-place Dakotas are no pushovers, either.
“You’re going to have to win three really good games to win that thing,” Kampe said. “The league is just that good.”
Kampe also noted the rest of the league’s apparent lack of depth, pointing out that Oakland’s bench outscored Oral Roberts’, 30-12. The Grizzlies’ reserves have been formidable since Kampe sent Laval Lucas-Perry back to the bench, only to follow with Travis Bader.
“Nobody is really deep in our league,” Kampe said. “If a team gets an injury in February, that can change the whole axis of the league. An injury to a starter, not even a star player can change this whole thing.”
While time lets that scenario breath, Kampe and the Grizzlies can do themselves a favor beating South Dakota State in the O’rena Thursday.

Acclaim continues for Reggie Hamilton

Just a day after CBS analyst Seth Davis called Oakland guard Reggie Hamilton one of the best players nobody has ever heard of, the Associated Press lists Hamilton as one of six mid-major players helping fill the
"Jimmer void" left by the BYU phenom.
"Hamilton isn’t a particularly imposing figure at 5-foot-11, 176 pounds, but he’s ultra-quick with a first step that’s about like wet soap slipping through your fingers — gone before you know it. He’s also fearless, driving to the basket no matter who’s in there."
.... Although he was somehow edged out a consecutive Summit League Player of the Week nod, Hamilton still got props from StatSheet, receiving a similar honor from the site for his outstanding week.
"Hamilton was the best in the Summit League in assists (7.0 per game) and 3-pointers (4.5 per game). He also registered great stats in rebounding (2.5 per game) and scoring (25.5 pts per game)."
South Dakota State's Nate Wolters was second place and Oral Roberts' Dominique Morrison was honorable mention, as Hamilton earned his third such award.
Wolters did lead the league in scoring for the week, averaging 27 points per game.
Corey Petros was also named Freshman of the Week once again, his fourth such honor.
Oral Roberts' Steven Roundtree was Sixth Man of the Week after putting up nine points and eight rebounds on Oakland Saturday. The Grizzlies' Laval Lucas-Perry was the runner-up for the award.

Keith Benson may land in a familiar city in NBA D League

With the news former Oakland star center Keith Benson has signed to the NBA's Developmental League, what's even more intriguing are his possible landing places. A report by SB Nation indicates Benson could fall to either the Sioux Falls Skyforce or Tulsa 66ers in the waiver order.
The report speculates Benson could instantly become one of the league's premier players.
"Former D-Leaguer Ivan Johnson took the spot that was presumed to be Benson's in training camp, but the 6-foot-11 center will likely be one of the best big men in the D-League as soon as he joins a roster."
The Golden Grizzlies won the past two Summit League Tournament championships at Sioux Falls Arena, home to the NBDL's Skyforce, and appeared in another final. In all, Benson has played nine games inside the venue.
The Grizzlies also played their most recent NCAA tournament game in Tulsa after playing conference rival Oral Roberts once each season at the Mabee Center. While the 66ers play in the Tulsa Convention Center, Benson is likely familiar with the area at this point.
The Skyforce are affiliated with the Heat, Magic and Timberwolves, while the 66ers feed the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Two other teams high in the waiver pecking order are the Los Angeles D-Fenders, a Lakers affiliate; and the Springfield (Mass.) Armor, which aligns itself with the Nets.
An announcement was expected Thursday.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Reggie Hamilton’s big nights aren’t problematic, if Oakland is winning

With another 30-point outing, this time behind seven 3-pointers Saturday against Oral Roberts, Reggie Hamilton improved his scoring average to 23.7 points per game, good enough for second in the country. His premier scoring talent is reminiscent of former Oakland standout Mike Helms, who scored 27 points per game in 2002-03, finishing third in the nation and earning Mid-Con player of the year honors.
“Thirty-four years of stats have shown me that when you have one of the top scorers in the country, you don’t win,” Oakland coach Greg Kampe said on “The Greg Kampe Show” on WXOU last week.
With Helms leading the nation in scoring for much of the season, the Grizzlies were still losing. They were 17-11 in 2002-03 and just 13-17 the following season.
“That’s a scar that never healed,” Kampe said. “I care that Reggie plays well and we win.”
Hamilton is the only Oakland player to reach double figures in each game this season and has scored at least 20 points in 10 of his last 11 games. Although his scoring accounts for 30 percent of Oakland’s overall, Kampe was hesitant to say the Grizzlies’ scoring is imbalanced.
“We have five guys averaging in double figures,” Kampe said. “With (Ryan) Bass’ emergence, that could be six before long. … If you’re averaging 25 on a team that only scores 60, that’s almost half. And that’s not good.
“I like that Reggie’s been able to score that many and not have to take 30 shots to get there.”
Hamilton represents just 28 percent of Oakland’s field goal attempts. He does, though, have more than 100 more attempts than the team’s next most-frequent shooter, Travis Bader, and leads the nation in attempts, according to StatSheet. 
Helms went undrafted in 2004 and has bounced around various professional leagues including the CBA. The Grizzlies made their first NCAA tournament a year later as a sub. 500 team the following season. Hamilton and Oakland's fates remains to be seen. 
More stats on Hamilton:
It’s not just his shooting, which he’s been doing at a 43-percent pace, Hamilton Saturday also became just the Grizzlies’ second player in the program’s Division I era to reach 100 assists in consecutive seasons. Hamilton has reduced the turnovers that plagued him early last season, but has the Summit League’s 25th-best assist-to-turnover ratio. With 79 giveaways, Hamilton has made 27 percent of Oakland’s turnovers. Conversely, he’s fourth in the nation with 54 steals.
While third in attempted free throws, Hamilton leads the nation with 144 free throws made.
When the list of finalists for the Bob Cousy award for point guards was released last month, Hamilton was omitted in favor of familiar names like Detroit’s Ray McCallum and Michigan freshman Trey Burke.

Greg Kampe matches ‘Moneyball’ with gut instinct

While Sabermetrics and other new-fangled stat interpretation consumes modern scouting and coaching strategies, Oakland coach Greg Kampe doesn’t bother himself with those. After more than 30 years of coaching, he goes by his gut instinct and a few tried-and-true statistics.
“I’m not into that. The only numbers that matter to me are our points per possession and our points given up per possession, and our turnover rate,” Kampe said on WXOU’s “The Greg Kampe Show” Jan. 17.
“I’ve got every game I’ve ever been a part of for 34 years in the business, and those stats usually ring pretty true.”
Kampe boasted he can calculate a team’s overall record with relative certainty based on those stats above.
“All that other stuff, I don’t really care about that,” he said.
Kampe added field goal percentage, which Oakland has much improved in its past four games to the tune of 45 percent, are key. He also noted rebounding margins play a factor. The Grizzlies’ is currently a lean -0.3 after the spoils of the Keith Benson-Will Hudson era.
“You can be the greatest defensive team in the world, but if you can’t rebound the ball,” Kampe said. “We’ve found, statistically, that most people shoot about 40 percent on the first shot. The second shot raises it to 60 percent and third to 80 percent.”
The 28-year Oakland coach said marketers of various statistic analysis programs try to lure him to the dark side.
“I don’t need shot charts to tell me what’s going on,” Kampe said. “All I have to do is look at that. … When I grab a stat sheet before I go talk to my team, I look at field goal percentage and rebounds. What I really pay attention to is minutes played. I want to study what I’ve done as a coach. Then I look to see what they’re doing. Your strategy is based on your players. I have a tendency to keep my best players on the floor probably longer than I should. It’s a bad tendency.“
The talk about statistical analysis came after the show’s hosts, Bryan Everson and Matt Pocket, asked Kampe about the Grizzlies’ program on Fox Sports Detroit, in which Kampe described his workaholic in-season schedule which doesn’t leave much, if any, time for sleep.
“When you’re in this business and the margin of victory is so slim, you want to know everything there is,” he said. “I’m just not a guy that, analytically, can look at all that stuff. I will sit there and see all that and it will weigh on me. ‘What does this mean?’ I’ll spend so much of my time  trying to figure it out and I’ll never be able to sleep.”
Kampe said he’s willing to listen to “new” info, but “I know if we’re scoring 1.07 points per possession, we ’aint gonna win.”
Numbers like that during the Grizzlies’ six-game skid led Kampe to diagnose their offense as the main culprit.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Wrapping it up: Notes from Oakland’s final visit to Mabee Center

Positives: Oakland made seasons-high nine 3-pointers in the first half and 15 in all, shooting a season’s-best 53.6 percent from long range (15 for 28). Reggie Hamilton led the Grizzlies with seven 3s … Travis Bader was 4 of 8 from 3-point range, reaching double figures for the 14th time this season and moved into ninth place in program history with 153 made 3s. … Hamilton had seven assists, becoming just the second player in Oakland’s Division I era to reach 100 assists or more in consecutive seasons. … Freshman Kyle Sikora blocked two shots and got a team-high five rebounds in a career-high 19 minutes. … Eight of nine Oakland players who saw the floor collected a rebound, four of which had four rebounds or more. … The Oakland bench held a huge advantage, outscoring the Golden Eagles’ reserves, 30-12, who are thin behind Steven Roundtree. … The Golden Eagles shot 73 percent in the first half, but Oakland limited them to 43 percent in the second half. The Grizzlies were more consistent, shooting 54 percent in the first half and 60 percent in the second. … Oakland is averaging 86.75 points over the last four games with a 3-1 record.
Negatives: Oakland handled the ball well, committing just 12 turnovers, but the Golden Eagles converted those miscues for 25 points. Meanwhile, the Grizzlies turned eight Oral Roberts turnovers into just three points … The Grizzlies shot just 65 percent (11 of 17) from the free-throw line in their seven-point loss. It was their second consecutive game in the low-to-mid 60-percent range from the line.  … Oakland held its largest lead, a 10-point advantage, with 12:38 to play. Just over six minutes later, Oral Roberts had its largest lead of the game, nine points, with 5:58 to play. … The Grizzlies had just 13 assists while scoring 86 points.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Grizzlies find another European import

Oakland has lined up 6-foot-8 power forward Viktoras Merkevicius from Lithuania, who is currently playing for Stoneridge Prep in Simi Valley, Calif., a northern suburb of Los Angeles.
According to assistant coach David Rice, Merkevicius is averaging 12.5 points, 10 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in 25 minutes per game.
"He's become more of a force defensively inside" in the last year at Stoneridge, Rice said. "He's got a really good motor. He doesn't quit. He's very good on the offensive glass and very athletic."

Merkevciuc said the biggest change would be moving to the "four" after playing center this season for Stoneridge.
Oakland coach Greg Kampe doesn't shy away from European players, most recently inking freshman Korab Imami after it was learned the Grizzlies would be losing senior Ilija Milutinovic to a European pro league in the offseason.
"They know what they're doing," said Merkevicius,who also added he's not afraid to take a jump shot, but prefers to drive aggressively to the basket.
Kampe and the players left a good impression in their first meeting with Merkevicius, who made an official visit Jan. 2.
"(Kampe) is very honest and he says what he thinks, and the players are very friendly, he said. "That's why I chose Oakland."

... Reggie Hamilton won his third Summit League Player of the Week award of the season and fifth overall after a 30-point night at IPFW Saturday in Oakland's only game of the week. Hamilton twice split the award with South Dakota State's Nate Wolters earlier this season.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

More notes from the road

Oakland won its first game in 10 where an opponent shoots 50 percent or better. The Mastodons shot 53 percent Saturday. The Grizzlies, meanwhile, have shot 50 percent or better in consecutive games for the first time this season. ...Despite graduating shot-blocking dynamo Keith Benson to the pros, freshman Kyle Sikora turned away four shots Saturday, a career high. … Travis Bader missed his first three 3-point shots, but recovered to finish 4 of 10 en route to a 21-point night. Also, Ryan Bass was a career-best 3 of 4 from beyond the arc. Reggie Hamilton took top honors, going 5 for 10. … Hamilton, who dished out eight assists, now has three 30-point games against IPFW since coming to Oakland. … All three of Laval Lucas-Perry’s points came from the free-throw line and he tied for the team-high with seven rebounds. … Freshman Corey Petros has been atrocious from the line, was 5 for 5 tonight. … With 14 points, Drew Valentine reached double figures scoring for the 14th time this season. He also tied for the team lead with seven rebounds.

Oakland Gaines confidence at IPFW, settles in

IPFW forward Frank Gaines averaged 22 points in two games against Oakland last season. The Grizzlies held him to just 19 points Saturday on 6-of-11 shooting.
”I was very pleased with us defensively. Many of those baskets were tough to get and Drew Valentine did a wonderful job on Gaines,” Kampe said.
Gaines played 35 minutes, 11 more than anyone else on the team. With him on lockdown, that left Mario Hines as IPFW’s biggest contributor.
Everybody is shooting it well against us,” Kampe said. “We shut them down in the second half, but our young bigs couldn’t guard (Hines). He was too athletic. We’ve got to learn how to defend a guy like that and maybe as coaches, we have to help him. As we get closer to March and maybe we’ll put some double (-teams) in.”
Hines finished with a team-high 20 for the Mastodons.
With four losses in conference play before the month of February, Kampe thinks his Grizzlies are in a better position than before.
“We’re good shooters,” Kampe said. “The pressure of three-peating and everything is off. The pressure of all the winning streaks are all of us. This young team doesn’t feel the pressure and it’s like ‘Let’s go play’ and you’re seeing a team that’s starting to get its feet.”
The Grizzlies continue their three-game road trip at Southern Utah, the longest trip in conference play, and then their final stop at the Mabee Center in Tulsa, Okla. next Saturday.
“We’ve been playing like we did in November,” Kampe said. “We’ve got a tough road trip. Can we keep that going?
“Can we get back in this thing? I’ll let you know in two weeks.”
The Grizzlies are back to .500 in conference play after losing four straight.

Kampe on Ryan Bass: “Ryan Bass is getting a chance because of somebody else’s diminished time. Ryan has stepped up and if he continues to play the way he has, when March comes around, we’re going to be a tough out.”
Bass had a career-high 15 points in 22 minutes in his third consecutive start.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Uniform change spurs Oakland to victory

There has been a mixed reaction to the Grizzlies’ alternate gray uniforms they’ve worn a handful of times (personally, I like them even though they don’t incorporate the black and gold Oakland is known for). Regardless, coach Greg Kampe likes the message the unis bring along with them, opting for them for the third time this season Saturday against IUPUI. As you may have heard by now, the Grizzlies broke a six-game losing streak in emphatic fashion with a 93-81 win.
“The whole thing was ‘we’re wearing gray tonight,' ” he said. “'We have to win tonight. This has to be changed.’ We payed it like it was a ‘gray’ game. I’m very pleased with what I saw. It wasn’t a one-point win where the other team played terrible. We played tonight like we did in November, and that was a good sign.”
The Grizzlies shot better and played with swagger that’s been on layaway since before the holiday season. They’re now 2-1 in gray this season after a win over Tennessee and a loss to Michigan. Saturday was the first time they’ve worn the alternate uniforms, introduced last season, during a league (and untelevised) game. They wore the grays last season vs. Michigan State at The Palace among other games, going 2-2 with the new alternates. 
“We played with confidence on offense I haven’t seen in a month,” Kampe said about his team, which shot better than 50 percent from the floor for just the second time this season. The Grizzlies also snapped a seven-game streak of allowing opponents to shoot 50 percent or better. Guard Reggie Hamilton was in line with Kampe, saying the Grizzlies need to have the same kind of vigor at the conference tournament.
“A win is a win,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about. It’s good to have that swagger back, but it’s all about March, though.”

Growing pains: “I thought we’d have some early, but when you’re Oakland, nobody expects you to lose at home,” Kampe said following Saturday’s victory. “And you don’t expect to lose three in a row at home. We’ve lost four in the O’rena this year. You never expect something like that. We have too proud of a tradition and too proud of a program to think something like this could happen. But it did. You accept it and you battle your way out of it. And that’s what we did. Now, we want to take the next step forward.”

Team rebounding: “In the last two weeks, we haven’t gotten any rebounds, because they haven’t missed,” Kampe said. “Never in my life have I seen numbers like what teams are putting up against us. You could go in the gym without a defense and not put those numbers up. We didn’t rebound very well in the first half, but that was our one weak point. We shored that up in the second half.
“You’ve got to have help from everywhere and we had that tonight.”
The Grizzlies had seven of nine players with a rebound, four which had six or more. They outrebounded the Jaguars, 40-33, and are now 7-3 this season when winning on the glass.

Ryan Bass kicks himself in the Bass

Sophomore Ryan Bass got extended minutes Saturday against IUPUI, making his second straight start. After a poor showing against Western Illinois Thursday, Bass came through with a career-high 14 points and five assists in 27 minutes. He was 0 for 5 from the floor with four turnovers to just one assist in 25 minutes in his first start two days prior.
“The insertion of Bass into the lineup with confidence, before he was injured, he was heading toward this,” Kampe said. “The get the ball to the rim harder and more often.”
Bass was 4 of 6 from the free-throw line in the six-game-slump-ending victory.
“I like that (Ryan) Bass has a chance to establish himself as a player. Instead of waiting until next year to find out, he’s getting his opportunity now,” Kampe said.
Teams know to gameplan against an established guard like Reggie Hamilton. They’re going to have a hard time stopping both.
“With Ryan’s scoring ability, pressure on me gave Ryan a wide-open lane several times,” Hamilton said. “There’s not a lot of players who can guard Bass one on one when he gets hot.”
Kampe said on WXOU Tuesday afternoon he regrets burning Matt Poches’ redshirt so quickly, but the situation regarding Bass’ absence is a tricky situation because concussion symptoms take much observation and precaution. Kampe said it was unfair to the team’s seniors to not do everything in his power to keep the team up to speed on the fly, rather than potentially losing without trying to stem the tide.
On “The Greg Kampe Show,” a WXOU staple (Tuesdays at 4 p.m.), Kampe went better into detail regarding the instance in which Bass suffered the concussion, the second in his life, which led to a five-game absence. Kampe said Bass fell victim to a Blake Cushingberry ball screen and hit his head on the court on his way to the ground.
Greg Kampe said they "haven't gone down that road yet" regarding whether Cushingberry, who was later dismissed from the team, will return to the team next season.

Notes: The Grizzlies snapped a seven-game streak in which they didn’t lead at halftime. Their 12-point halftime lead was their largest since defeating South Dakota Dec. 1, a span of 12 games. … In all nine of Oakland’s wins this season, it has attempted more free throws than its opponents. The Grizzlies shot 31 attempts to IUPUI’s 17, making 24. Hamilton was perfect from the line for the 12th time this season, going 9 for 9. … Hamilton shot 10 of 14 for a season-high 71 percent from the floor. … With 20 points on 9-of-14 shooting, Corey Petros has reached double figures in three of his last four games and reached a career high against a conference opponent. … Drew Valentine chipped in nine points and eight rebounds, but his biggest contribution could’ve been holding conference leading scorer Alex Young to only six points in the first half (1 for 7). Thirteen of Young’s 16 second-half points came during the final 12:26, after Oakland had amassed a double-digit lead.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Oakland All-Access finally coming to FSD

The much-anticipated Fox Sports Detroit All-Access program will be a three-episode series featuring both men's and women's teams, beginning at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, announced Monday.
"They had to bleep a lot of it out," Grizzlies coach Greg Kampe joked on WXOU Tuesday afternoon.
"Fans are going to get a good look at what Oakland basketball is like and what our kids are like. It will be interesting to see what people think."
The first episode will feature point guard Reggie Hamilton in addition to profiles on both Kampe, who is in his 28th season at Oakland, and women's coach Beckie Francis. The FS Detroit team traveled with the men's team on its recent trip to the Dakotas just before the new year, so the show will document travel in the Summit League.
When thinking of a winter trip out west, fans might immediately think about how cold it is, but should remember the climate there is is similar to the Midwest, but slightly colder. That being said, Kampe noted there was a 69-degree difference in temperature from the Grizzlies' last visit in late January 2011 than their trip two weeks ago.
"It gives fans, recruits, high school coaches, anybody that is part of the Oakland nation an inside look at how the program is run and what our kids stand for," Kampe said in a press release. "It's a unique opportunity for those people to have an in-depth view of life at Oakland. Hopefully that will continue to help us recruit nationally, along with regionally as we continue the tradition of this program."
Kampe was on hand at the FSD studios Tuesday to screen a copy of the first episode.
The second episode will launch in February and the third episode will take place in March. The first episode is scheduled to re-air several times over the course of the month. Check your local listings for more info. According to, the program will re-air Friday at 10:30 p.m., 9 a.m. Saturday, 6 p.m. Saturday and noon on Sunday.

UPDATE: Oakland released a promo clip from the series. Watch below.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Postgame video after win over IUPUI

Saturday, January 7, 2012

IUPUI at Oakland live chat

Friday, January 6, 2012

Oakland finally getting a break after IUPUI visit

Win or lose Saturday against IUPUI, Oakland is guaranteed a seven-day break before its next game at IPFW Jan. 14. That will be the Grizzlies’ longest break of the season, after playing on two-day’s rest in three of four games. Oakland did get a five-day rest between the Western Michigan loss Dec. 23 and a rout at North Dakota State Dec. 28. Of course, they weren’t able to practice over the Christmas holiday and had to travel. 
“What we’ve got to do is like a football team that has to get to halftime, Kampe said. “We have not had practice time. We played all those games right before Christmas. We went home for two days and came back and played on the 28th and 30th and then we had a day off and then Tuesday, tonight and Saturday.
“We get a week off. We’re going to be able to get in the gym and have some real practices where we don’t kill the kids. We probably could’ve had some of those this week and not have worried that we were playing games.”

Bad news first: The Grizzlies had 20 turnovers and just six assists on 19 baskets. … The Grizzlies shot less than 40 percent (39 percent) in the first half for the fifth time in the last six games. … The 61 points scored is the fifth-lowest output for Oakland inside the O’rena. Ever. … Oakland is 0-4 this season when scoring between 60-69 points.... Hamilton, after his first turnover-free game Tuesday against Oral Roberts, committed five Thursday and had just three assists.
Some good: Oakland shot 35 percent from 3-point range (7 of 20), its highest in its last seven games dating back to a 41-percent outing Dec. 17 at Valparaiso. …. With 13 points on 4-of-8 3-point shooting, Travis Bader reached double figures for the 12th time in 18 games. With 15 points, Drew Valentine has done so 13 times. Reggie Hamilton, 16 points, is the only Oakland player to reach double figures each game this season.

Grizzlies holding, then folding in second half

Thursday’s halftime tie was just the first time in seven games, the last being non-Division I opponent Rochester College, the Golden Grizzlies didn’t trail at the half. They have trailed by as little as two (twice) and as many as 20 at North Dakota State.
The Grizzlies have only outscored one opponent in the second half during this stretch, going plus three vs. Western Michigan in a 15-point loss at the O’rena. They are negative 35 in second-half scoring otherwise.
Oakland coach Greg Kampe acknowledged the his young squad has been a first-half team during its six-game losing streak.
“The other night we scored, but we gave up (more points than we scored),” Oakland coach Greg Kampe said about Tuesday’s loss to Oral Roberts. “We need to get stops. We have a goal to get four stops every half. Obviously, we’re not reaching that goal or even getting close to it.”
The Grizzlies scored 54 second-half points against the Golden Eagles. But in turn, Oakland allowed 57 points, the most it’s surrendered in a half this season.
Kampe said the Grizzlies defended well in the first half, holding the Leathernecks to 55-percent shooting from the floor.
Oakland led twice in the first half, but never in the second, as Western Illinois went ahead by seven with 10:18 to play. The Leathernecks’ stretched their lead to double digits with less than four minutes to play.
Thursday was the second time this season the Grizzlies have been tied at half, the other coming Dec. 10 against Michigan at The Palace.
Kampe wasn’t quick to judge his reformed starting lineup, which featured Ryan Bass and Kyle Sikora both for the first time, and reinserted freshman Dante Williams after five games coming off the bench.
“We didn’t start the second half very well and that worries me,” Kampe said. “We might need one more scorer out there to start the second half. You can’t judge that on one game.”
The three new starters combined for just five points with Bass getting the most minutes, 25. Sikora was on the floor for just 13 minutes, scoring three points.  
“He just needs minutes,” Kampe said “If you look back to Will Hudson and Keith Benson, those guys when they were freshmen, Sikora’s numbers are very similar to Benson’s and Petros’ are to Will. And Petros’ numbers are way better. Hudson and Benson had veteran players around them. They weren’t playing with freshmen like these guys are. That might be a reason Petros’ numbers are better than those guys.
“It’s a learning process and these guys have to play minutes.”
Bass, statistically, had his worst performance since returning from a five-game absence, going scoreless, committing four fouls and as many turnovers to just one assist. His intensity from the opening tip didn’t go unnoticed. He remained upbeat following the game.
“I just have to keep bringing it and encouraging the guys to have an impact,” Bass said.  
It’s uncertain we’ll see the same starting five Saturday against IUPUI, but Kampe has gone at least four games with each of his previous three lineups.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Where’s the deef(ense)?

Oakland coach Greg Kampe sounded exhausted when he reached the mic after Tuesday’s loss to rival Oral Roberts.
“It’s obviously not getting any better,” he said to open the post-game press conference.
“Those first 10 minutes of the game, I was just looking at them like ‘What is going on?’ ”
He further lambasted his defense, but did offer an explanation.
“We get beat off the dribble a little too much, which creates an odd-man rush as in hockey and they pass it around for an open shot,” he said. “And everybody is making them for about six or seven games in a row. … Our field-goal percentage was very low through the first eight games and we were 6-2. We had tremendous stats through eight games. Now, it’s unbelievable (how bad) it is.
“We’re so bad on offense, we make so many mistakes that it leads to odd-man rushes.”
Both teams started poorly from the floor Tuesday, going 1 for 5 in the opening minutes. The Golden Eagles recovered to shoot 54 percent for the half, while Oakland went to the break at a 39-percent clip to a season-low 26 points. Oral Roberts then began the second half 7 of 8 from the floor and 4 of 4 from 3-point range en route to a season-high 69 percent (11 of 16) from behind the arc. The Golden Eagles were the second team in the past three games to shoot better than 60 percent from the floor against Oakland, going 34 for 51 (67 percent).
Guard Reggie Hamilton had an idea what’s happening on defense.
“Most of the time, it’s just a lack of effort, somebody doing the little thing that can make a play,” he said. “It’s people depending on someone else to get things done.”
Whatever the reason or the cure, Kampe and fans alike know it needs to be resolved quickly. The Grizzlies were 4-2 in the first half-month of the season with wins over Houston, Tennessee and Utah Valley, but just 4-6 in December.
“We were a darn good team in November and had a chance to be a really, really good team,” he said. “We’ve gone in the other direction. We have to find a way to get that changed back to change that back.”  
After Western Illinois’ visit Thursday, Oakland hosts IUPUI Saturday before heading back to the road for a three-game trip at IPFW, Southern Utah and Oral Roberts.

Rotation in line for a kick in the Bass

Oakland has now lost five in a row for the first time since the season it miraculously won the Summit League (former Mid-Con) in 2004-05 as a seven seed and advanced to the NCAA tournament for the first time. Coach Greg Kampe sounded like he was ready for a change, but didn’t exactly spell it out. The only thing we know is backup guard Ryan Bass will be getting more minutes.
“You lose five in a row and obviously you need to make some changes,” Kampe said. “There will be some changes when we play in two days. Ryan Bass is a spark plug and he was really playing well when he got injured and he was moving into some major minutes. When you miss six games, it’s hard to get back into your flow. … He was pretty good in the second half and he brings some defensive pressure to the table and he also brings quickness with the basketball. You’ll see him have a chance to get more minutes now.”
The Grizzlies were 2-3 without Bass, with one of those wins coming against Rochester College.
Bass had six points in 16 minutes after going scoreless against South Dakota State following his nine-point return at North Dakota State.
Kampe repeatedly notes Bass was showing positive signs of his ability to score as well as his attentive defensive efforts during Bass’ five-game absence. Bass was 3 of 7 shooting and had a career-high five assists Tuesday.
Only eight teams qualify for the league’s postseason tournament in early March. Kampe didn’t have time to think about that following Tuesday’s loss to long-time rival Oral Roberts.
“Have we even qualified for the conference tournament?,” he responded when asked (by me) about playing from a low seed in March. “ I’m just going to worry about Western Illinois and trying to figure this out.”
It’s not likely Oakland slips past eight, where it currently resides at 2-3, past UMKC (1-4) and newcomer South Dakota (0-5).
The Leathernecks visit at 7 p.m. Thursday.  

The Good: Reggie Hamilton had his first turnover-free game of the season and Oakland also coughed up the rock a season-low seven times as well. They forced 18 Oral Roberts turnovers for 18 points as well. Eight of Hamilton’s game-high 28 points came in the final 1:25, well after the game had been decided. Kampe denounced the final minutes as “pickup ball” and “garbage.”… Freshman Corey Petros had 10 points, reaching double figures for the ninth time this season and second consecutive game after four games without doing so. … Travis Bader broke an 0-for-9 slump from 3-point range, going 3 for 6 from long range.
The Bad and the Ugly: The Grizzlies scored a season- first-half low 26 points Tuesday led by Hamilton’s ineffective 1-of-7 shooting. They were just 39 percent from the floor in the half as a team. … The Golden Eagles became the latest team to scorch the nets on Oakland, shooting a season-best 69 percent from 3-point range. … Petros was the only Grizzlies player to miss a free throw, going 0 for 6. The rest of the team was 11 for 11, led by Hamilton’s 6-for-6 effort. … Oakland’s bench was outscored, 24-8, with all but two of those points coming from Bass.

Reggie Hamilton left off list for Cousy point guard award

Among his many accomplishments, Oakland guard Reggie Hamilton had been among the early list of candidates for the Bob Cousy Collegiate Point Guard of the Year awarded by the Basketball Hall of Fame. However, Hamilton was left off the list of the award's 20 finalists.
Some familiar names appear as finalists including Detroit sophomore Ray McCallum and Michigan freshman Trey Burke.
Hamilton is third in the nation in scoring, including a 41-point effort at Valparaiso last month. 
McCallum and Hamilton, for comparison, have nearly identical numbers, but Hamilton has nearly a full assist more per game on a team in which he is the leading scorer. Hamilton's assist-to-turnover ratio is also nearly identical to McCallum and Hamilton is averaging a full steal more per game.
The chart below looks funny, but basically says Hamilton is the superior point guard in this case.
IUPUI's Stephen Thomas was also nominated, but South Dakota State's Nate Wolters was not included. 
UConn's Kemba Walker won the award last season and other past winners include Ty Lawson and Raymond Felton, both out of North Carolina.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Live chat: Oral Roberts at Oakland

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Fox Sports Detroit grants All-Access pass

The Oakland athletics website is promoting Fox Sports Detroit's All-Access program about the Golden Grizzlies, which will air Jan. 12 at 6:30 p.m. The program is scheduled to re-air several times throughout the month, but it's unclear if this is a one-time deal or an ongoing series. More information is expected to be released this week.