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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, November 26, 2012

Duke Mondy still learning Oakland offense

Duke Mondy = work in progress
Despite a 16-point, five-assist and season-low tying three-turnover performance Friday at Michigan State, Oakland coach Greg Kampe feels point guard Duke Mondy still has plenty of work to do before he grasps the Golden Grizzlies’ offense.
“He didn’t do a good job of managing the game for us,” Kampe said. “He’s still learning how to do that because he’s never had to do that. It’s going to take some time.
“We’re not anywhere where we’re going to be with him managing and understanding why we’re running a play and what we’re trying to get out of it. That takes time.
“It looks simplistic, but there’s a lot of reads in it.”
As for the giveaways, Kampe felt Mondy still had some room for improvement, as well.
That’s something that has to be done over time,” Kampe said.  
After seven turnovers in a near upset over Pitt Nov. 17, Mondy has that many in the past two games.
Worst game in Division I era?
Oakland shot a Division I-era low of 28 percent (16 of 58) at Breslin Center. That was just one facet of what Kampe considered an ugly game for his Golden Grizzlies. He and Michigan State coach Tom Izzo were in unison saying Friday’s game was the worst between the schools in Oakland’s Division I era.
“The intensity was great, but the level of play was sloppy and there were all the turnovers,” Kampe said. “We were both very upset with the way our teams played.”
Michigan State turned over the ball 20 times, while Oakland had just 11 giveaways. The Grizzlies shot just 21 percent in the first half and went 0 for 10 from 3-point range before the break.
“We’ve played some really good, clean games against them,” Kampe said. “Even when they’ve beaten us, we’ve played some clean games where we’ve executed and done good things. The first 10 or 15 minutes (Friday) were really ugly.”
Late deficit at MSU
After Oakland came within four points with 6:36 to play, the Spartans closed the game on a 15-1 run. Kampe attributed the letdown in part to the team’s rigorous travel, which has taken them more than 10,000 miles in the past three weeks.
“We were done,” he said. “We just didn’t have anything left in our legs to make that next push. That’s common when you travel like we do.”
A new 4
True freshman Lloyd Neely made his first start Friday, tallying five points in 21 minutes. Kampe insisted Sunday Neely will get enough time to prove himself at the position.
“We’re looking for stability at the 4,” Kampe said. “I’m not going to just start a guy for one game." 
Kampe planned to start Neely Monday at Tennessee. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Storified acccount of Oakland's near upset at Pitt

Friday, November 16, 2012

Oakland not dwelling on the past against Pitt

Greg Kampe not dwelling on the past
Oakland coach Greg Kampe doesn’t remember much about the last time his Golden Grizzlies faced off against Pittsburgh in the first round of the 2010 NCAA tournament at Milwaukee’s Bradley Center.
“All I remember is we were winning and Derick Nelson took an elbow to the head and split his face open. Twenty minutes later, they picked all the blood up and the momentum was gone. They went on a 10-0 run and we were never in the game again.
“Derick came back in the second half and didn’t score a point.”
The Panthers won, 89-66, their largest win in the three-game all-time series.
An unknown then, Grizzlies guard Travis Bader sat on the bench during that game, taking a freshman red-shirt his first season with Oakland. He remembers quite a bit about Pitt coach Jamie Dixon and his methods.
“ I remember (he) really gets on them during the games and makes sure they’re not letting up at any point and stays on them,” Bader said. “I remember watching from the bench and thinking if I got lazy, I’d get ripped into.
“They’re going to be one of those big, quick athletic teams, but we’re used to playing those. We have an experienced group of guys.”  
Oakland returns to the Petersen Events Center Saturday at 7 p.m. for the latest installment of the series.
“I don’t care about Pittsburgh. I’m going to watch some tape on them,” Kampe said. “We’re getting ready for our conference, and right now, I care about Oakland. My staff watches all that Pittsburgh stuff, (but) all my preparation is Oakland.”
Oakland travels to No. 21 Michigan State next Friday before heading to Tennessee Nov. 26 looking to sweep the three-game series with the Volunteers. They head back to the Big East to take on West Virginia Dec. 19.
“We’re playing all these tough teams so I can see us stripped naked," Kampe said. "Everything is going to show up against these teams.”

Inbounds play always the right call  
One constant in Kampe’s coaching repertoire has been the infamous inbounds play called out of the dead ball. Oakland scored three times off layups with it at Boise State.
“We have one play. We score on it all the time and we’ve run it for 30 years,” Kampe said. “Eventually, somebody is going to figure that out and guard it. Until they do, we’ll just keep running that one play.
“There’s no genius to it.”
The one play missing from last year seems to be the fall-down 3-point attempt, which Oakland milked for several extended trips to the free-throw line.

Oakland coach Greg Kampe shakes up lineup prior to Pitt

Dante Williams will be taking a seat
Three games into the young season, Oakland coach Greg Kampe has made his first alteration to the Grizzlies’ starting lineup, although it’s not entirely unexpected. Kampe made the call to pull transfer Raphael Carter into the starting five in place of sophomore Dante Williams. Carter has played sparingly in the past two games after returning from injury and Kampe is looking to get the junior 15-20 minutes per game.
“The most minutes he has played is seven,” Kampe said. “The only way he’s going to get better is to play some minutes. If I start him and get mad at him and sit him, that should still guarantee him 10 minutes.”
Kampe said Carter is fully recovered from the injury, suffered in practice before the season-opener. Carter played spot minutes at Louisiana and Boise State.
“You don’t bring a guy in as a junior and not play him,” Kampe said. “He was doing a nice job and then he got hurt.”
Kampe hopes Williams can build his confidence and said playing in a reserve capacity could be the best thing for Williams.
“He makes too many mental errors,” Kampe said. “Those always seem to bite us at the wrong time.”
Meanwhile, junior Ryan Bass has been thriving off the bench of late. He had 11 points Tuesday at Boise State in just 10 minutes of action.  
“We’re going to put him in the game and tell him to score,” Kampe said. “He didn’t shoot it very well the first two games, but he was 4 of 5 in this last game.
“That’s what you do with a guy in his position. If he’s making shots, you keep him in. If it’s not going in, you take him out. He’s very comfortable and he likes the idea of going in there and having to go in there score.”
With Carter making his first start, it’s natural to wonder when freshman Lloyd Neely will make the transition. The former Mr. PSL from Detroit Crockett has been held scoreless in each of the past two games, failing to collect a rebound in either game.
“Lloyd’s got a bright, bright future,” Kampe said. “But he’s a freshman. Physically, he’s not quite ready to play the pace we play. The amount of up and down in this game, it’s just so fast. He just has to learn the speed of the game. He’s going to be a really good player and we’re excited to have him here at Oakland.
In other news from the post, junior Joey Asbury has surpassed freshman Korab Imami on the depth chart. Imami did not travel with the team on its first two road games of the season.
“I’m very pleased with (Asbury),” Kampe said. “He’s ahead of Korab, but a lot can happen throughout the course of the year.”

Nothing ‘left’ to wonder about
Oakland cemented a piece of its future with the signings of point guards Kahlil Felder (Detroit Pershing) and Nick Daniels (Westland John Glenn) as well as forward Jalen Hayes (Lansing Sexton).
“This was a huge recruiting year for us,” Kampe said. “And we hit a home run.
“We’re just extremely excited about this class.”
Each player is also left-handed.
“They can defend, they're athletic and they can score,” Kampe said.
Daniels is 6-foot-1, 160-pounds, and is 300 points shy of setting his school's all-time scoring record and is a 3-point threat, according to a program press release.
Felder, 5-foot-9, 165-pounds, averaged 19 points and more than seven assists per game last season.
Hayes, 6-foot-7, 200 pounds is the latest Sexton product from the Golden Grizzlies’ pipeline to Lansing Sexton, which brought Jordan Howenstine, Drew Valentine and assistant coach Saddi Washington to Rochester.
Hayes runs the floor well and is an excellent finisher around the basket, according to the statement, and has led Sexton to back-to-back Class B state championships.
“We needed this class,” Kampe said. “The core of our team is in their junior years. That will allow this team to learn from them as freshmen.” 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

GRIZZ TALK: Oakland preps for Pitt, remainder of road trip

Oakland coach Greg Kampe talked about reducing the number of turnovers each game and finding that and other flaws early in the season.
New point guard Duke Mondy discusses his first road trip with the Golden Grizzlies as well as his new role as distributor and scorer.
Travis Bader talks about going from a red-shirt freshman to one of the best scorers in Oakland history.

Click on a name below to watch the extended version of each interview:
Greg Kampe
Duke Mondy
Travis Bader

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Duke Mondy muscling his way onto Oakland’s itinerary

Oakland’s lengthy road trips in- and out-of-conference are something of mid-major legend. And when the plane’s wheels go up this weekend as Oakland departs for Louisiana, new point guard Duke Mondy will finally make his first road trip with the team.
Mondy wasn’t allowed to travel with the team last season, as he sat out due to NCAA transfer rules.
“I’m very excited to get on the road and get this trip started,” he said of the seven-game expedition.
The Providence transfer has shown flashes of brilliance since his Oakland debut last week, as well as drawing countless praise from coach Greg Kampe. But, despite Mondy’s defensive attributes and passing ability, he maintained a less-than-praiseworthy 0.80 assist-to-turnover ratio in the preseason. Mondy knows several factors contribute to such a stat and he’s ready to put it behind him.
“People have games like that,” he said. “The turnovers I made were mental mistakes. They called a couple travels on me and I made a couple bad passes. I’m just moving on.”
After waiting a full season to join his teammates, Mondy said the Grizzlies’ two exhibitions really helped get him acclimated to the speed of the game. Now that he’s there, he’s just trying not to do too much.
“I just try to make the easy pass,” he said. “I don’t try to force things, I just play.”
And while he’s just now suiting up for Oakland, like transfers before him, he took up residence on the Rochester-area campus a full year prior.
“That helped me just to get used to the campus because I didn’t visit (before transferring),” Mondy said. “During the school days when people were actually on campus, it was kind of different. I was getting lost a couple times going to class.
“They recruited me out of high school, so I already kind of knew what campus was like but I didn’t have the full grasp of going to classes. It was like freshman year all over again.”
Mondy learned the vantage point on the bench is much different than that of the point guard gliding up the court.
“It helped me playing as well, because I was just sitting back and spectating and watching from (fans’ and coaches’) point of view. It’s easy to criticize when you’re watching than it is when you’re playing. That’s helping me out in games.”
As previously noted, Mondy has put on size in his time away from the court, nearly 20 pounds, something Kampe credited with helping his new signal-caller make a crowd-pleasing assist to forward Drew Valentine.
“The moves I make have become a lot easier with the strength I’ve gained,” Mondy said. “My body type changed. It helps when I want to get to a point on the court or even when I’m guarding a bigger guy or when I’m finishing with contact.”
Fans will get to see the full effect of Mondy’s presence for the first time, in regular-season play at least, Friday at the O’rena. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

UPDATED: Former Grizzlies: Mike Helms named captain; Keith Benson traded to Erie BayHawks

Former Oakland guard and Detroit native Mike Helms was named captain of the Windsor Express Thursday and then proceeded to score 25 points and seven assists in the team's franchise debut Friday night.
The Express introduced Helms at Oakland's media day last month, where the former high-scoring guard was very grateful for the opportunity given to him by Oakland coach Greg Kampe.
Mike Helms sits next to mentor Greg Kampe
"Coming out of high school, there weren't a lot of believers in my game because I wasn't the prototypical guard," Helms said. "He always saw it in me and he gave me the opportunity. For that, I'm forever grateful because without Oakland University, it would have been a rough ride. He still looks out for me and I definitely appreciate what he's done for me.
"It's always bittersweet coming back here knowing I didn't put a banner up there."
Kampe noted Helms played his first season when Oakland wasn't eligible for the NCAA tournament due to its transition to Division I competition. The Grizzlies finished second two of Helms' first three seasons, before a disappointing 13-17 finish and seventh-place conference standing his senior year.
"To make the jump to Division I and play who we play, to finish second in this league twice, is quite a feat. ... He was our first All-American in Division I. He had a storied career here. It's interesting to hear him come back as an older man and regret not getting a banner. The reality of that is, who goes from DII to DI and hangs banners?"
Helms was the third-leading scorer in the nation in 2002-03 with 26.9 points per game, an average a half-point better than Reggie Hamilton's nation-leading 26.2 this past season. The mark is still the single-season Mid-Con Summit League standard. Helms was also named Mid-Con player of the year in 2003. 
Helms even recalled a loss to Ferris State just days after the Golden Grizzlies had beaten Michigan.
The 29-year-old has played in Argentina, Australia, Singapore, Israel and Mexico in his professional career. Helms has been out of professional basketball since the end of the 2010-11 season. He got married and the couple had their first child during the hiatus and Helms appreciates that family and friends can now make the short trip across the border to watch him play.
"People sometimes say 'You should have been in the NBA,' " Helms said. "Maybe that wasn't my path. Maybe it was my path to tell you what to do or not to do.
"I wouldn't regret anything I've done because I've learned a lot from it."
The National Basketball League of Canada expansion franchise was looking for veteran leadership when it signed Helms late this summer.

"He's learned the value of leadership as he's grown up," Kampe said, praising Helms in return for his well-documented scoring ability.
"You're getting a young man who can score the ball any way he wants it," Kampe said to Express management. "As many times as he got knocked to the ground, he never got injured."
"He's a highlight waiting to happen." 
UPDATE: The Windsor Star reports Helms is fourth in scoring in the NBL of Canada with 24 points per game. 

Also: The Sioux Falls Skyforce of the NBA Developmental league released its training camp roster this week, and former Golden Grizzlies center Keith Benson was on it. He was one of five returning players listed on the call sheet.The only problem is, Benson had already been traded to the Erie BayHawks in a pre-draft deal pulled off by new Erie GM and former Detroit Piston Allan Houston.
Benson's new coach, Gene Cross, told Benson could've been a top-three pick if he had been in this season's NBADL draft crop.
BayHawks training camp starts Saturday (Nov. 9).
Benson played 20 games for the SkyForce last season, averaging 15.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game, before being called up by the Golden State Warriors, where he played on a 10-day contract before being released. He opted not to return to Sioux Falls for the few remaining games of the season.
Benson was cut last month by the Atlanta Haws, despite a noteworthy performance in the NBA Summer League.

The Hawks drafted Benson 48th overall in the 2011 NBA draft, making him the first Oakland player taken in the draft. The Hawks cut Benson during a training camp shortened by last season's NBA lockout nearly a year ago.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Oakland coach Greg Kampe closing in on 500 wins

For a brief moment at the Golden Grizzlies’ media day, coach Greg Kampe paused to reflect on his nearly 30 years at Oakland, where he enters his 29th season at 490-349 (.584). 
Prior to four straight 20-win seasons and postseason berths, Kampe guided the Oakland program into Division I competition and has cemented Oakland among the household names of mid-major programs.
Oakland was a perennial Division II power in multiple sports, including basketball. But Kampe was hesitant to make the transition Division I, according to his bio page on the Oakland website.
“When we went Division I (in 1998-1999), I thought I was going to get fired in three or four years,” Kampe joked. “We’ve won 90-some games in four years. I’m proud of that. I’m proud of our staff, players and administration and what basketball means here. People know where we’re at and who we are. I’m proud of what we’ve become.”
Dozens of his former players have played professionally, including Rawle Marshall and Keith Benson, who have both logged time in the NBA.  
Kampe heaped praise on his coaching staff, in particular associated head coach Jeff Tungate, who is in his seventh season, and assistants Darren Sorenson (sixth season) and Saddi Washington (seventh).  
“I’ve got a great staff. This is the fifth or sixth year we’ve been together. At this level, that doesn’t happen,” Kampe said.
Kampe has taken the Golden Grizzlies to the NCAA tournament three times in Division I with three regular-season division titles. He led the then-Pioneers to the Division II NCAA tournament in four consecutive seasons from 1993-94 through 1996-97, when they reached the regional final (Sweet Sixteen).
Kampe has also been named Summit League coach of the year five times, including back-to-back honors in 2010-11, when Oakland amassed consecutive 17-1 regular-season conference records. 
Oakland was 197-272 (.422) before Kampe took over in 1984-85. He is now one of the winningest active coaches in Division I as well as one of the five longest-tenured coaches in Division I.
In January, Kampe was enshrined in the Golden Grizzlies' Hall of Honor.
“It’s really a prideful thing to see what we’ve done, Kampe said. “The future is even better for us. There’s going to be a day when we do something special in March.”

UPDATED: Oakland's interior depth already being tested

Oakland coach Greg Kampe said at the team’s media day, a lack of depth in the post is the team’s Achilles Heel.
With untested bigs behind forwards Corey Petros and Drew Valentine, Kampe noted his squad could be in trouble if the team's only two returning players who logged significant minutes in the post were to fall victim to injury or illness.
Petros shared the floor at times with freshman forward Lloyd Neely and transfer Raphael Carter against Davenport. Red-shirt freshman Korab Imami, who is now the team's tallest player at 6-foot-11, saw just seven minutes in the game.
“We have perimeter depth, but you can’t lose a leader like Drew Valentine,” Kampe said. “You can’t lose (Travis) Bader because they have to guard him anywhere he stands on the court.
“This team is definitely talented enough and I feel really good about this team. I definitely think this is an NCAA (tournament qualifying) team.”
Kampe credited his team’s depth in previous years with helping survive injury, noting sophomore Dante Williams will again be an X factor for the Golden Grizzlies. The 6-foot-6, 187-pounder has the size and length to be plugged into several types of situations, as Kampe noted after the win over Davenport.
“We feel really good about everything about us,” Kampe said.  
Transfer Raphael Carter was the last addition to the 2012-13 squad with his transfer becoming finalized in the late summer. Kampe continues to tout Carter as a major contributor and he proved his coach right in Tuesday’s exhibition win over Davenport.
“(He) can block shots, but he’s not Keith Benson,” Kampe said. 
Carter will have to wait a few games to have much of a physical impact, as Kampe announced this week his backup forward had suffered a deep bone bruise in practice. Kampe hopes to have Carter back in the lineup by their Nov. 17 visit to Pittsburgh. 
The spotlight briefly shifted to Imami after 7-footer Kyle Sikora transferred and Oakland lost two of last season’s recruits, Viktoras Merkevicious and Michael Lewis, to sub-standard academic performance.
Oakland also added forwards in Dayton transfer Ralph Hill and Saginaw native Tommie McCune from West Virginia within weeks of each other this summer. Both players have to sit out this season due to NCAA transfer rules, however.
“You work on transfers non-stop,” Kampe said. “You never know when that’s going to happen. We always try to save scholarships so we have them. If you look at our history, every great team we’ve had has had a transfer on it.
“We have a lot of role players. Our transfers have always been pretty good. … We always try to create a culture where people will want to come to Oakland.
This is the third consecutive season the Golden Grizzlies are suiting up a transfer guard. Prolific scorer Reggie Hamilton debuted in 2010-11, while teammate Laval Lucas-Perry joined last season for his final year of eligibility. Providence transfer Duke Mondy played his first game for the black and gold Tuesday, albeit in the team’s alternate gray uniforms.
“The better you are in practice, the better your team is going to be,” Kampe said.

Oakland's renewed commitment to strength and conditioning already paying off

At times late last season, Oakland coach Greg Kampe lamented his young team’s lack of size and physical strength. Then he got busy bulking up his Golden Grizzlies.
“As a young team last year, it was a glaring weakness," he said at the team's media day.
In late April, Oakland announced it had promoted Sam Brown to assistant director of strength and conditioning specializing with the men’s and women’s basketball teams.
Kampe again noted the renewed emphasis after an exhibition win over Davenport earlier this week, saying transfer Duke Mondy has put on roughly 20 pounds, further enhancing his noted passing ability.
“When were a dominant team, we worked got away from that strength,” Kampe said, recalling praise of his team’s strength from UCLA coach Ben Howland.
“That’s always been a staple of ours and we kind of got away from that.
“This offseason, the No. 1 priority has been to get bigger and stronger.”
In another example, Kampe noted forward Corey Petros could only do one pull-up at the end of last season. He completed 26 when he was tested this fall.
In a few short months, there's been a marked improvement off the court and time will tell the full scope of those gains on the hardwood.