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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, July 31, 2012

Oakland coach Greg Kampe putting his weight behind Coaches vs. Cancer

Oakland coach Greg Kampe appeared on WDIV-4 Tuesday evening to promote his latest effort for Coaches vs. Cancer: 30 days on an all-juice diet.
The long-time Oakland coach has tried many things, but not this.
Kampe sat poised, right outside the O'rena with a beet, radish and carrot drink, chatting with WDIV sportscaster Bernie Smilovitz, who circuitously asked the coach how much weight he expects to lose during the fast.
"What, are you saying I'm fat?" Kampe joked.
Kampe begins the fast next Tuesday, Aug. 7. He is among the more than 2,000 basketball coaches across the NCAA's three divisions to participate in the program, according to the American Cancer Society.
The website for Coaches vs. Cancer claims that since the program's inception in 1993, the program has raised nearly $50 million for cancer research.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

2012-13 schedule on the way

Oakland coach Greg Kampe and the Golden Grizzlies are typically late to announce their schedule — which can lead to additional non-conference matchups (see Ohio State in 2010-11) — but he did say there "a couple of contracts to finish." Kampe did confirm opponents from the "Bix Six" fans may have already been aware of:
  • Pittsburgh — Which Oakland last played in the 2010 NCAA tournament
  • West Virginia — Where Oakland opened the 2010-11 season
  • Michigan State — After near Oakland upset at The Palace in Dec. 2010, Oakland upset new No. 7 Tennessee the next week.
  • Tennessee — See above. Returning to Knoxville, Tenn., looking to make it three straight over a "BCS" opponent.
  • Alabama — Opened last season there with a 74-57 loss to the No. 19 Tide. 
The rekindled series with Valparaiso continues, as the Grizzlies season ticket brochure includes the Crusaders as well as a home date Feb. 23 for ESPN's Bracketbusters. Oakland opens the Summit League season Dec. 1 hosting IPFW and then visits upstart Western Illinois Dec. 27 after a brief conference hiatus.
The Golden Grizzlies trip to the Dakotas Jan. 10-12 before hosting the Bison Feb. 7 and the defending conference champion Jackrabbits Feb. 9.

Kampe, who this week finally joined Twitter, expects the schedule to be released soon. Traditional team practices begin in October, but the Golden Grizzlies have been conducting non-basketball workouts as allowed by new NCAA regulations.

Oakland says goodbye to two more players

After a promising start to his Oakland career, Blake Cushingberry was sidelined first by a knee injury and then beset by academic issues in his return campaign last season. His time at Oakland is officially over, having been released from the team when his winter semester grades weren't up to par.
"We paid for him to go to school in the winter," Oakland coach Greg Kampe said. "And he didn't get it done.
"That close to graduation is an absolute shame."
Additionally, Oakland recently learned it would be without Viktoras Merkevicius, a 6-foot-9 center from Lithuania via California prep school. Merkevicius is now the second 2012 commit to not meet NCAA clearinghouse academic standards and will now attend a two-year junior college.
In May, it was learned Michael Lewis from Slidell, La., had failed to meet those standards, leaving Detroit Crockett's Lloyd Neely the only Golden Grizzlies recruit to make it to campus for next season.
"We knew Mike wasn't going to make it, but we were devastated by this," Kampe said.
Seven-footer Kyle Sikora also transferred to Stetson in the Daytona Beach, Fla., area to be closer to home.
Dayton transfer Ralph Hill and West Virginia transfer and Saginaw native Tommie McCune both chose Oakland within days of each other this summer. Both will be forced to sit out the 2012-13 season due to NCAA transfer rules.
Red-shirt freshman Korab Imami, who stands 6-foot-11, will be available to Kampe this season. 

Numbers game
Also announced in the Grizzlies' summer media guide, freshman Mitch Baenziger (Clarkston) will get Cushingberry's No. 22, while McCune will wear Reggie Hamilton's No. 23. Also, Providence transfer Duke Mondy, who will play this season after sitting out 2011-12, will wear No. 10. Neely will have No. 12 and Hill keeps No. 50, which he wore with the Flyers.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Former Oakland workhorse Will Hudson joins defending NBL champions

While former Oakland teammates Keith Benson and Reggie Hamilton earned roster spots on NBA Summer League teams, workhorse forward Will Hudson keeps plugging away in the NBL.
Hudson has signed a one-year deal with the New Zealand Breakers, the two-time defending league champions. But while Hudson and the Grizz Gang are rightfully excited, the move is seen as a bit underwhelming Down Under.
A Madison, Wisc., native, Hudson helped Oakland to consecutive 17-1 seasons and conference tournament titles before joining the Gold Coast Blaze, where he averaged 9.5 points and 6 rebounds per game last season. He continued to be a force near the basket, gobbling up offensive rebounds (third in NBL with 3.4) and putbacks, as he did for Oakland coach Greg Kampe.
Like Benson, Hudson was affected by last season's NBA lockout, which wiped out the Summer League. Hudson now replaces fellow American Gary Wilkinson, who left the team to play in Estonia. Wilkinson was a big part of the Breakers' back-to-back titles, according to Stuff in New Zealand. Wilkinson reportedly split for Europe for a more lucrative offer, one, according to Stuff, the Breakers could not match.
"They have swapped one of the league's most dominant imports, all-NBL second teamer Gary Wilkinson, for what appear to be the journeyman talents of ex-Gold Coast Blaze big man Will Hudson," wrote Stuff's Marc Hinton. 
"As import signings go, this one, confirmed by the club yesterday, is about as underwhelming as it gets."
But Breakers general manager Richard Clarke seems to know what he's getting in Hudson.
"We're not trying to find someone to do the same things as Gary," Clarke told Stuff.
"His job is to help us be good, and we needed a player who understood that.
"He's got good size, and is athletic enough to guard guys on the perimeter. He's going to help give us a whole lot of different looks."
Breakers coach Andrej Lemanis was also encouraged by Hudson's signing:
"Our staff has always been very impressed with his work ethic, his rebounding and his activity at the defensive end," Stuff reports. "He plays as part of the group and is willing to do the things that help his team mates to be better."
Sounds like the same Hudson Oakland fans grew to love and, with any luck, he'll win over the fans in New Zealand.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Former Oakland center Keith Benson's Vegas is showing

After last year's NBA lockout stunted former Oakland center Keith Benson's growth as a professional, he's ready to make an impact this season.
Benson started Friday for the Atlanta Hawks in his NBA Summer League debut, scoring 19 points in as many minutes on 9-of-12 shooting, adding six rebounds. He tied first round pick John Jenkins for team-high scoring honors.
Benson told the Atlanta Journal Constitution this week he had improved his strength and was going to be more aggressive. That cold be seen Friday, as Benson threw down consecutive dunks, as the Hawks extended their lead over the Wizards.
"I think I have a good chance (now) to show what I can do and show my skills for a longer period of time," he said to the AJC.
Benson was cut during an abbreviated preseason following the lockout by the Hawks, who drafted him No. 48 last year, making Benson the first Oakland player to be drafted. He had played briefly in France during the lockout and found his way tot he NBA Developmental League before making his NBA debut for the Golden State Warriors late last season.
Benson was also recently at an NBADL elite camp and a Cleveland Cavaliers minicamp, which followed the late-June draft. 
The Hawks released Benson to make room for a veteran roster, but new general manager Danny Ferry reportedly wants to go young, focusing on polishing young talent, which could work in Benson's favor.
The Hawks take Saturday off, before returning Sunday at 8 p.m. EST to face the Spurs.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Ankle injury forces former Oakland star Reggie Hamilton to sit out summer league

After playing four minutes in his Pacers debut Monday, former Oakland guard Reggie Hamilton came up limping on his way to the bench, having tweaked his ankle.
A visit to the doctor Tuesday morning revealed an ankle sprain, according to Hamilton's agent, Austin Walton, who said Hamilton likely won't be playing in any of the Pacers' remaining four games of the Orlando Summer League.
Walton reiterated Hamilton will not be playing in the Las Vegas league later this week, either.
"It's only a five-day event," Walton said. "And, at the end of the day, his health is the most important thing."
Walton expects Hamilton to make a decision about his professional plans by the end of the month. Walton has said previously Hamilton has several offers from European teams and expects more to come before they make a decision.Walton added Hamilton will "more than likely" be playing overseas next season.
"We'll examine our options," he said.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Oakland adds Saginaw native Tommie McCune in another transfer

On the eve of the first day of summer classes, Oakland announced it would not be just Ralph Hill who was enrolling at the school via transfer. Oakland coach Greg Kampe alluded to the Golden Grizzlies landing another transfer when he spoke last week about Hill.
The program tweeted Sunday afternoon: "Oakland Univ. would like to welcome Tommie McCune to the Golden Grizzly family! The 6-7 power forward starts classes tomorrow!"
According to, McCune, who left West Virginia after one season, would be the highest-ranked recruit to commit to Oakland
McCune reportedly comes with a record off the court as well.
After playing in just 13 games his freshman season where McCune averaged 0.4 points and 0.6 rebounds, he was released from West Virginia on the eve of the Mountaineers' trip to the NCAA tournament. According to MLive, the Saginaw native was suspended twice last season, once after being charged with shoplifting in his hometown.
(The Free Press goes into more depth regarding the matter)
Coach Bob Huggins noted playing time, not off-court incidents, when discussing McCune's transfer.
"'He said, 'Coach, I love it here,'' Huggins said. 'He said 'I love the people, but I need to play and I'm looking around, saying I can't sit here and waste another year and not play.'' "
As noted by Patrick Hayes of BallinMichigan, "If McCune is focused and moves past some of the things that got him into trouble in the past, he’ll be a major get for Oakland with his size and athleticism on the wing."

Pacers make good on compliments to Reggie Hamilton with Summer League spot

It took less time for Reggie Hamilton to line up a job with the Indiana Pacers following the draft than the four-plus-hour melee from New Jersey lasted.
Within about an hour after the NBA's summer spectacle ended, Hamilton's agent Austin Walton tweeted that Hamilton had accepted a spot on the Pacers' squad in the Orlando Summer League, which begins next week.
The nation's leading scorer, Hamilton sat and watched as the nation's top rebounder and assist man also went undrafted.
According to Walton, the Pacers said Hamilton was the best guard they had brought in for a pre-draft workout. Indiana was one of eight teams Hamilton worked out for in the weeks leading up to the draft.
Among the Pacers expected in Orlando, according to Indy Cornrows, are draft pick Miles Plumlee and Lance Stephenson, who Hamilton is expected to push for a spot.  
"I believe Hamilton would be a very nice asset to this team as he would bring some great scoring and another player who can create his shot," the report read.
The Pacers obviously aren't scared away by mid-major bias, having just re-upped with former Summit League Player of the Year George Hill on a five-year extension. 
To hold you over until next week, watch Hamilton's recently-released highlight tape from last season below: