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Drew Ellis covers Oakland University basketball for The Oakland Press. His news and notes keep you up to date with Golden Grizzlies men's basketball.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Ralph Hill excels for Oakland as Tommie McCune sits due to suspension

Ralph Hill drives to the basket against Detroit Feb. 14. Photo by Dylan Dulberg
Although he'll be appearing in his 21st game of the season tonight at Illinois-Chicago, junior transfer Ralph Hill's presence in the lineup has had more of an impact than Oakland coach Greg Kampe likely could have predicted.
Hill, who has been sidelined with a leg injury since transferring from Dayton, is taking full advantage of the opportunity he got only after typical frontcourt starter Tommie McCune was suspended for two games for violating team policy prior to the Detroit game last Friday.
Hill scored a career-high 15 points in a loss to Wright State earlier this week after adding 11 against the Titans. He's expected to start a third in the Windy City.
“It’s like we added a new player to our team," Kampe said on "The Greg Kampe Show" on WDFN-AM (1130). "He’s been injured and I kind of gave up on the injury and figured he wasn’t going to do much. And then, with Tommie’s suspension, Ralph had started to practice extremely well and had some confidence. We gave him the opportunity and he can look at me and say ‘Why wasn’t I out there sooner?’ That’s how well he’s been playing. (His struggles) have all been due to the injury and how far behind he’s been. He’s caught up quickly. It’s like we’ve added a new player and that can only help us down the stretch.”
Hill has spent much of his time in black and gold attempting to overcome bone density problems, Kampe said last week after Oakland's victory over Detroit.
"He was told he may never play again," Kampe said of Hill. "And then what happened to (Louisville’s Kevin Ware), we’re worried about that happening on our court. A whole year, he didn’t do anything and he’s coming back to practice winded and overweight. He can’t guard. Instead of quitting, he’s just kept getting better and then two weeks ago, out of nowhere, he had this great practice."
The veteran coach, known for voicing his frustration, promised patience with Hill. 
“We told him ‘we’re not going to yank you," Kampe said. 
Kampe has also been expending his patience with McCune, who was also sat out the first half of a game earlier this season after missing class. The West Virginia transfer was dismissed from the team during his red-shirt season last year after getting arrested following a domestic dispute, according to documents obtained by The Oakland Press through a Freedom of Information request.
McCune, who was not charged with a crime in the incident, was reinstated shortly before this season began and Kampe has repeatedly stated his commitment to the Saginaw native, but declined to elaborate on the events surrounding the latest suspension.
“He’s had a checkered past and he’s someone I care a great deal about and my job is to get him through here with a degree and make him a productive citizen," Kampe said following the win over the Titans. "Where he came from, that’s going to be a challenge. He’s made great strides, but he slipped up and made a mistake. I could easily turn my back, but we’re not going to do that because we love the kid and we want him to be successful. So, we suspended him for two games and he’ll be back next week.”
Friday's would be the first back from suspension for McCune, who has started 19 games and is averaging 6.2 points in 17.1 minutes per game. He's also gotten notice for his highlight-reel moments, landing the Golden Grizzlies on Fox Sports 1's "The1" for his dunk against Illinois State Dec. 16. 

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