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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, January 29, 2013

Greg Kampe reflects on staying at Oakland after 500th win

Greg Kampe in the early Division I days
Shortly after collecting career victory 500 Saturday against Western Illinois, Oakland coach Greg Kampe reflected on career opportunities he has bypassed over the years in favor of Oakland. He talked about the school presidents (4) and athletic directors (5, including his two stints) who have come and gone in his 29 years.
“I’ve made conscious decisions to stay,” Kampe said. “I’m not going to sit here and say I wouldn’t leave. If Joe Dumars called tonight and offered me $25 million, I’d probably take it. I’m not stupid.
“I’ve turned down jobs that pay double what I get paid here. I’ve brought my family up in this community. It’s been a special place and I feel very fortunate that I’ve been able to stay.”

Kampe discussed building Oakland basketball into a nationally-recognized program from its roots in Division II as a GLIAC power.   
“I’ve never really been one to want something better,” Kampe said. “I’ve always been one to try and (improve where I am). We’ve tried to make this UCLA. As long as I’m here, that’s what the goal will be.
“That’s why I’ve stayed. I’ve been fortunate they’ve let me.”
Five hundred wins, three NCAA tournament appearances and hordes of professional players bear the brand of Kampe’s efforts.
“It’s not getting what you want, it’s wanting what you’ve got,” he said. “That’s how I’ve always felt here.”
Kampe was recently recognized by Forbes for the value he brings Oakland’s pocketbook, being named No. 17 in mid-major coaches in terms of value.
Kampe also discussed the milestone with College Insider in this podcast, saying he spent about 20 minutes revelling in the accomplishment before moving onto preparation for Saturday’s opponent Omaha. He also called Oakland’s 1999-2000 Mid-Continent Conference title the program’s greatest accomplishment.

It’s got to be the shoes
If you watched Saturday’s broadcast on Fox Sports Detroit, you may have noticed Kampe’s shoes at some point. The bright green tennis shoes clashed with his suit and tie, but probably would’ve blended well with Kampe’s former sweater-vest look. Kampe tweeted before the game that he had forgotten about wearing the shoes as part of the Coaches vs. Cancer campaign.
“I got talked into these shoes,” Kampe said after the game. “These things will sit somewhere with the 500 game ball.”
The shoes and game ball may be collecting dust next to Kampe’s retired sideline attire, but he did tweet that he would bring back the sweater-vest for the Golden Grizzlies’ final home game March 2 against Fort Wayne if he reaches 1,500 Twitter followers by March 1. As of Jan. 29, he still needed 564.
Kampe moved away from his usual outfit of the mid-2000s beginning last season. The transition quickly earned him acclaim from the likes of Sports Illustrated.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Oakland’s surprising loss to South Dakota relieved pressure to win Summit League

Greg Kampe demonstrates proper FT technique
The Summit League has shortened this season by two games to a 16-game schedule with just nine members this season. Being a game behind most of the league’s teams, Oakland reached the halfway point at 4-4 after a win over IUPUI Thursday.
After a stunning 19-point home court loss to South Dakota last week, the Golden Grizzlies’ hopes at a conference title were all but eliminated after being dealt a fourth loss in league play.
“Our goal of winning the league championship is probably something that’s not going to happen,” Oakland coach Greg Kampe said prior to Thursday’s win. “We have to focus on the main goal, which is winning the (conference) tournament. We have to take each game one at a time and make sure we improve ourselves and get ourselves (invincible), so when March gets here, we’re ready. We want to make our typical February run and it’s important we do that to show improvement and that we’re learning how to win.”
Oakland rebounded for an 18-point win over the last-place Jaguars (1-8) Thursday. Meanwhile, Western Illinois, which visits the Grizzlies Saturday, defeated Fort Wayne in a very low-scoring affair, to go to 8-1 on the conference season. Idle North Dakota State is still 7-1, while South Dakota State is 6-2 after eight games. The aforementioned Coyotes are 4-5.
Kampe said he doesn’t see either of the Dakota State teams losing four games in conference play.
“To sit here and think if we win out, we’re going to win the league, that’s the wrong way of thinking,” he said.  
“As a coach, I can start experimenting. There’s some guys who might need a few more minutes and now I can tweak and do some things without the risk of losing a championship, things I wouldn’t have done if we were in a championship race.”

Struggling Grizzlies resort to free throw challenge  
With his team’s noted struggles from the free-throw line, Oakland was shooting just 70 percent from the line entering Thursday, coach Greg Kampe initiated a bracketed, seeded free-throw challenge this week. Kampe isn’t just watching, either. He entered the challenge himself.
“We just started something to lighten it up,” Kampe said. “Some guys aren’t shooting free throws so well. We’re just doing something for fun.”
Tuesday, Kampe made 9 of 10, but lost to Raphael Carter, who also made 9 of 10 but earned the tiebreaker for swishing more of his shots.
“It’s upsetting to lose to a 40-percent free-throw shooter,” Kampe joked. “Probably the first time this year he’s (done that).”  
Thursday, the Grizzlies were 13 of 18 (72 percent) from the line including perfect performances from: Travis Bader (6 for 6), Duke Mondy and Drew Valentine were both 2 for 2. Corey Petros was just 2 for 6 and Matt Poches was 1 of 2.

Oakland’s Travis Bader finds different ways to score in threes

Travis Bader scored three points in different ways Thursday including the old-fashioned way, as well as converting three free throws in the same trip; and most importantly, Bader made 11 3-point shots, another school record for the junior who is 36 triples away from tying Erik Kangas’ illustrious Oakland record of 348.
Bader recognized he didn’t didn’t accomplish the feat on his own.
"My teammates did a great job finding me in transition and finding me in the offense,” Bader said. “Corey (Petros) probably knocked a couple guys out tonight trying to screen. Same with Drew Valentine and Ryan Bass."
Oakland coach Greg Kampe appreciated the way his team was feeding beast. Bader also set a school record with 18 3-point attempts and was 15 of 24 shooting and 6 of 6 from the free-throw line.
“They recognized it was his night and we needed that to win,” Kampe said. “That’s what I liked. The players recognized it and helped him get the shots. Maybe two times did he make a move or go get the ball and get the basket by himself. The rest of it came out of the offense off screens and great passes.”
Valentine, Bader’s friend and roommate, tweeted after the game joking that Bader had 47 points due in part to the screens he set. Others teammates also took to Twitter to congratulate Bader on the nation’s highest-scoring individual performance of the season.
Bader became the fifth Oakland player in the Division I era to score 40 or more points and topped Mike Helms’ previous Division I-era best of 45 points set in the 2001-02 season.
Bader has now hit at least one triple in 42 consecutive games. And noted on Twitter, he outscored Saturday’s opponent, Western Illinois, 47-43.

New day for Mondy
For the first time this season, Oakland’s Duke Mondy did not start the game. Kampe opted to insert sophomore Dante Williams, who started the season’s first three games before heading to the bench. Mondy responded by scoring 11 points and dishing out five assists and five steals in 25 minutes.
Kampe said previously Mondy was having trouble getting Oakland into its offense and noted it typically takes transfers some time to adjust. When Kampe’s first substitution came around, it was sophomore Matt Poches entering the game for Ryan Bass with 11:34 remaining in the first half.
“It was my intention to sit him the whole game, but he handled practice very well this week,” Kampe said. ”I put him out there and he played his best all-around game since he’s been at Oakland. His stats were very similar in 25 minutes to what they would be in 40 minutes. He also did a great job on the glass.”
Mondy also had five rebounds to help the Grizzlies to a 37-18 advantage.
“He’s a man out there and those are the things he should be doing,” Kampe said. “We just tried to refocus him. Sometimes when you get a transfer … it takes a while and sometimes it takes sitting on the bench to understand you have to do things the way we need them done. He understood very well.”
As for Mondy’s replacement, Kampe said Williams played “exactly how I thought he would play.”
After making a couple mistakes, Kampe said he was encouraged to see Williams’ progress through his response.
“I was pleased to see he let it go,” Kampe said. “He was strong enough to come back and make (a 3-pointer). That was a good sign. Dante played 17 OK minutes. I need 17 better minutes Saturday.”
Kampe said he’s committed to going with the same starting lineup against Western Illinois during Saturday’s Homecoming game.

Oakland releases West Virginia transfer Tommie McCune for violating team policy

Tommie McCune
Saginaw native and former West Virginia forward Tommie McCune was dismissed by Oakland Wednesday for violating team policy having not played a single game for the Golden Grizzlies.
McCune's transfer was announced by Oakland in early July and he had been practicing with the team while sitting out due to NCAA transfer rules.
McCune, who played in just 13 games as a freshman at West Virginia, was named an all-state player multiple times and averaged a double-double in each of his final two seasons at Saginaw High. By his high school recruiting ranking, he was the highest-rated player to choose Oakland, albeit via transfer.
Oakland coach Greg Kampe could not elaborate on the reason for McCune's release:
"He's a really good player," Kampe said. "Unfortunately, he's going to be a good player for somebody else."
McCune had a criminal record, which he and Kampe addressed at the time of his transfer.
"We knew he had some issues through his life," Kampe said. "I really like him and will continue to help him be successful whether he's at Oakland or not."
McCune reportedly left West Virginia as a result of a lack of playing time and said he didn't feel it was good fit for him.
Kampe said it's possible the Golden Grizzlies could use McCune's scholarship to recruit a late addition to the 2013 class which already includes: Detroit Pershing guard Kahlil Felder; Westland John Glenn guard Nick Daniels and Lansing Sexton forward Jalen Hayes.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Ryan Bass’ absence cited in first-half collapses

As captain Drew Valentine attempted to explain Oakland’s second straight late first-half collapse Saturday, coach Greg Kampe added that Ryan Bass was on the bench in foul trouble during both runs. The Grizzlies lost a 13-point lead at went to halftime tied in Thursday’s win over Kansas City and threw away a 14-point advantage Saturday against South Dakota before falling behind by eight points at the half in an eventual loss.
“Our point guard play when Ryan has not been on the floor has not been good enough,” Kampe said. “He’s got to learn. He’s going to sit there and he’s going to watch us blow leads and eventually, the light is going to go on in his head. Both his fouls were touch fouls 25-30 feet from the basket. Once you get one of those, you probably don’t want to pick up a second.”

Dante’s inferno
Last week, Kampe called sophomore Dante Williams an enigma because of his inability to carry over his practice persona to into game time. Williams had two 3-pointers as part of a 17-4 Oakland run which began with less than eight minutes to play and pulled the Grizzlies within nine points with 4:37 to play. Williams had six points in 10 minutes of play, his highest-scoring game since the season-opener vs. Albion when he had nine points.
“It doesn’t surprise me,” Kampe said. “He makes shots in practice when he’s not on the first team.
“We’ve tried to milk him through this to gain him confidence to get him to play and I thought that was a situation he might thrive in when we were down 20 and there was no pressure. … Maybe that will give him some confidence he can break out with. He can shoot the ball and we need a guy off the bench that can score points.”
Oakland’s bench was again outscored, 31-6, Saturday, all six points coming from Williams.
Williams started the season’s first three games after starting 18 as a freshman last season. He is averaging 11.6 minutes per game this season, slightly more than his 10.1 mpg average last season and did not play in last week’s loss at North Dakota State or the following game against Kansas City Thursday. He’s averaging just 2.14 points per game this season as Oakland’s bench routinely gets handily outscored by opponents’ reserves.  
“He hasn’t be able to translate his ability to score in games, so I was really pleased to see him make those,” Kampe said.

Small ball
Coming back from down 22 points with less than eight minutes to play is improbable, but Oakland made its run Saturday, which was stunted at nine points with less than four minutes to play. Kampe credited assistant coach Saddi Washington with the idea to replace the Grizzlies’ big men with a smaller lineup.
“We had five minutes left and we were down 22, let’s give it everything we’ve got,” Kampe said. “The problem was, that team shoots free throws extremely well. … So we had to do it without fouling and I thought we did a great job.”
The Coyotes, one of the nation’s best free-throw shooting teams, was 19 of 20 from the line Saturday. Meanwhile, the Grizzlies set a season low for free throws made (seven), according to StatSheet.

Turnovers still plague Oakland
After turning the ball over 20 times Thursday vs. Kansas City, Oakland committed 18 Saturday against South Dakota.
“We don’t value the possession and we don’t value the basketball and that’s rearing its ugly head,” Kampe said. “That causes the defense to have to play in an odd-man situation. That hurt us.”
The Coyotes scored 25 points off those turnovers, the Kangaroos managed only 22 points Thursday off Oakland giveaways.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Late first-half collapse leaves Oakland coach Greg Kampe speechless

Oakland coach Greg Kampe wasn’t his typical, boisterous self for much of Thursday’s game against Kansas City. He seemed to wind down as Oakland’s 13-point first-half advantage disintegrated following nine turnovers, five of which coming from point guard Duke Mondy, over the final 5:30 of the first half.  
“(He) facilitates the offense very well within the offense,” Kampe said. “But (he’s) not very good at this stage of his career in getting us into the offense.”
Mondy has greatly reduced his turnovers after fellow guard Ryan Bass was introduced into the starting lineup in early December. Kampe credited Bass with steadying the point guard position, adding Mondy is struggling with confidence.
After the game, Kampe said he remained subdued in an effort to calm his team.
“This team has been a real challenge for me because we think we play a cerebral game,” Kampe said. “While this team might have the best GPA of any team I’ve had in years, it’s been a real struggle with us on the floor. We have not been the smartest team.”
The longtime coach cited several instances during the game where his team rushed or made unforced errors.
“There’s a big difference when you’re behind and you’ve got to make plays,” Kampe said. “We don’t understand ‘down and distance’ and we’re 20 games in and that’s frustrating to me. I pride myself that our teams are cerebral, smart teams.
“We’ve got to get smart, and that’s my job.”
The Grizzlies committed 17 first-half turnovers Thursday, compared to just three in the second half. Kampe seemed to return to his normal, vocal self late in the game.
Both teams were equally sloppy early on Thursday, as the Golden Grizzlies held an eight-point advantage midway through the first half.
“The first 10 minutes of the game, we should’ve been ahead 15 or 20 points,” Kampe said. “We had all kinds of fast-break opportunities off steals and … it kind of looked like a pickup game at the rec. But that’s who we are and we’re probably going to give up some pretty good field goal percentages. But if we can create 20 turnovers, we can make up the difference.”
That’s what the Grizzlies did Thursday, and are averaging 13.17 turnovers in conference play.
Kampe said the Grizzlies are in a position where they need to gamble by playing aggressive without a shot-blocking presence, which also contributes to opponents’ shooting success against Oakland. Opponents are shooting 49 percent this season, while North Dakota State shot 61 percent against Oakland last weekend.
Oakland is also outrebounding Summit League opponents by 2.83 rebounds per game through six conference matches this season.
“We’re rebounding the ball well,” Kampe said. “I thought that would be a weakness of this team and it hasn’t been.”

Bader diversifying his game
After a sophomore season in which Travis Bader was second in the nation in 3-point shooting, he knew opponents would be focused on preventing his open looks. Some opponents have found great success focusing on Bader this season, but most have fallen victim to Bader’s newfound aggressive streak.
In one particular instance Thursday, Bader collected a pass in the corner, pump faked, waited for a UMKC defender to go flying past, faked again, waiting for another defender to lunge into the audience, then Bader stepped forward to hit a 15-foot jump shot.  
“Coming into the offseason, I really wanted to focus on attacking the basket and being able to do more than just shoot because I knew they were going to try to take that shot away this year,” Bader said. “I need to find more ways to pump fake it more.”
The effort is resulting in several more trips to the free-throw line. Bader has already taken 15 more free-throw attempts this season than he did in 36 games last season. He entered Thursday’s game second in the Summit League in free-throw shooting percentage at 86 percent, before a perfect 9-for-9 performance from the line Thursday.
“I still need to find more ways to get to the free-throw line, but I’m doing better,” he said.
Oakland was a much-improved 21 of 27 (78 percent) from the line as a team Thursday, but the more Bader gets to the line, the better.

Injury to North Dakota State’s Taylor Braun reminiscent of Oakland’s Derick Nelson

The substantial injury to North Dakota State’s Taylor Braun could have a far-reaching impact on the Summit League race this season. Braun is expected to miss 4-6 weeks after breaking a bone in his foot and is reportedly hopeful to return for the conference tournament in March.
Oakland coach Greg Kampe had pondered, along with his staff, if such an event were to transpire, how the Summit League would be affected.
“Any of the other (top three) can beat each other. Three or four losses could win the league. North Dakota State lost a great player,” Kampe said.
“We’ll see what they’re going to do with their depth.”
A lack of depth is common among the league’s top teams, Kampe said, noting there isn’t one team superior to the rest of the conference as in years past.
“This year is different than the last four or five years in the league where there has been a dominant team. The last three years, there’s only been one-loss (teams). Before that, it was two (losses). This year, there are four teams, I believe, that can run the table.
The Bison, after a win over Oakland in which Braun was hurt, improved to 6-0 and were tied with Western Illinois heading into Thursday’s league play.
A similar injury plagued Oakland’s 2008-09 season, when preseason first-team selection Derick Nelson went down with a foot injury and was unsuccessful in his attempt to return early in the season.
“We’ve seen that injury before in this league,” Kampe said. “You feel sorry for yourself the day it happens and then you sit down in your office and figure out what the hell you’re going to do.”
Oakland recovered, though, advancing to the Summit League tournament championship game against North Dakota State before enduring one of the most infamous moments in Oakland hoops history. North Dakota State's Ben Woodside hit a last-second shot to propel the Bison to the title and subsequent NCAA tournament berth.
“We ended up losing that year on a last-second shot in the conference championship game without (Nelson),” Kampe said. “We had a double-digit lead with seven or eight minutes to go in the game. Maybe we could have won that. Maybe it’s my fault we didn’t finish that game. 
"It says ‘Oakland’ across the jersey — you have to have that mentality that when someone gets hurt, it’s the next man up. For North Dakota State, somebody else has got to step up.”

Mirror, mirror
Fans and media alike aren’t taking well to the Summit League’s “mirror” scheduling where the conference's men’s and women’s teams are playing the same opponent on the same day -- in different venues. For example, the Oakland men hosted Kansas City Thursday, while the women played at the Kangaroos’ home arena.
From a coaches’ standpoint, however, there doesn't seem to be much change.
“That has no effect on me,” Kampe said. “I’d like to watch our women’s team play, but they always played before us and I didn’t get to see much of it anyway.”
The mirror strategy eliminates Saturday doubleheaders, as Kampe mentioned. Oakland began the season with a patented men’s-women’s doubleheader Nov. 9 -- against different opponents. There will be one more twinbill at the O’rena this season, however, Feb. 23. The women finish their home slate hosting Fort Wayne at 2 p.m. and the men host a Bracketbusters opponent (TBD) at 6 p.m.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

GRIZZ TALK: Oakland brings road act to O'rena

Oakland coach Greg Kampe and guard Ryan Bass join beat writer Paul Kampe to discuss the Golden Grizzlies' upcoming homestand, where they play six of seven at the O'rena after playing 15 of their first 19 games on the road.

For full interviews with Kampe and Bass, click the links below:
Oakland coach Greg Kampe
Oakland guard Ryan Bass

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Travis Bader acclimating himself to newfound attention

Travis Bader: Unshakeable
There's a lot more than just accolades after becoming one of the nation's most-regarded 3-point shooters, and Oakland's Travis Bader is seeing the reaction of opposing coaches and fans on his way through the record books.
A season after making an NCAA second-best 124 3s last season, Bader, a preseason Summit League First Team selection, had to adjust to more physical defensive tactics. He’s responded by continuing to be a deep threat as well as improving in his ability to get to the basket. He is second in the Summit League in scoring, averaging 20.3 points per game.
The pressure is more than last year,” Bader said. “All you hear is coaches and players yelling ‘Where’s Bader?’
“At the beginning of the season, it just kind of threw me off with how much pressure I was getting. I’ve adjusted and practiced how to get open and reading different situations.”
Bader is dealing with each opposing coaches' concerted defensive effort as well as their players and rabid fans — who have even resorted to Bader’s personal Facebook page to drum up material, including photos, with which to taunt the vaunted long-distance ace from the supposed friendly confines of the free-throw line.
“Someone (at Eastern Michigan Dec. 22) told me I was a Nickelback fan, which isn’t true,” Bader joked. “You hear it some places more than others.”
Bader remembers Pitt fans heckling him even before the 60-minute game countdown clock had begun Nov. 17 and later held photos printed from his Facebook page. They even resorted to calling out his sister’s name as well as attempting coin nicknames other than the “Darth Bader” moniker that follows the 6-foot-5, 187-pound red-shirt junior from Okemos.
“They try to get in your head, but to me, it’s funny,” he said.
After an early-season slump while acclimating to opponents’ overtures, Bader has rebounded to lead the nation in triples, 60, including a 45-percent clip in the past seven games. Oh. And Bader also leads the Summit League in free-throw shooting at 90 percent (72 of 80).
Opposing coaches and fans alike may want to retool their strategy.