You only get one chance to make a first impression, and Kendrick Nunn, well, he pretty much nailed it Sunday.
Nunn, the highly acclaimed transfer from Illinois, scored 40 in his debut for Oakland, finishing two assists shy of a triple-double as the Golden Grizzlies thumped Central Michigan, 108-88, in an exhibition game at the O’Rena in Rochester.
The game was a fundraiser for hurricane-relief efforts, and it raised $3.500.
Nunn, the 6-foot-3, 184-pound guard, led all scorers and added 10 rebounds and eight assists, in playing all 40 minutes of regulation. The teams opted to play an extra 10 minutes, not counting in the box score, so some backups could get some playing time.
Oakland coach Greg Kampe was impressed, but made it clear Nunn is just one cog to an offense that could be absolutely electric.
“The thing you have to remember, and before we all jump on the Kendrick Nunn bandwagon, is you’ve gotta guard Jalen Hayes, and you’ve gotta guard Martez Walker,” Kampe said. “(Nunn) only took 16 shots. It’s not like he’s out there getting 30 shots.
“You’ve gotta guard the other two guys, and if you don’t, that’s gonna help Kendrick as it’s gonna help Jalen, as it’s gonna help Martez, and as it’s gonna help Nick Daniels, too.”
Central Michigan isn’t known for its defense, so Sunday’s game turned into a bit of a pickup contest.
Walker had 24 points, Hayes — set to be suspended the first four regular-season games, including at Syracuse, per an NCAA ruling on a recent grade issue — finished with 19 points and Daniels scored 11.
All four are fifth-year seniors, which is why Oakland (25-9 last season) is a runaway favorite to win the Horizon League and get back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011.
Sophomore Brailen Neely from Detroit had 10 assists, and Isaiah Brock marked his return to the court with nine rebounds. Brock, the decorated U.S. Army veteran, decided after last season to walk away from basketball after one year at Oakland, but had a change of heart late in the summer and returned.
“It makes all the difference in the world,” Kampe said of Brock’s return, especially on defense.
Junior forward Julius Palmer also impressed Kampe, despite limited minutes in regulation. He will be counted on in the post, especially with junior center Brechting out two months with a broken toe.
Oakland shot a blistering 64.9 percent, with Nunn hitting on 13 of his 16 field-goal attempts, and eight of 11 from 3-point range.
Sophomore guard Kevin McKay scored 16, and sophomore forward David DiLeo and senior forward Luke Meyer scored 15 for Central Michigan, which could face a tough season after losing the nation’s leading scorer, Marcus Keene, as well as Braylon Rayson.
Western Michigan, the favorite in the Mid-American Conference, played an exhibition Sunday, pummeling Lourdes, 106-51, in Kalamazoo.
Detroit Mercy will play an exhibition at 7 p.m. Saturday against Wayne State at Calihan Hall. It is a fundraiser for Detroit Public Schools K-5 athletics.