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Oakland hoops gets rare visit from Power Five school

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Oakland coach Greg Kampe makes the calls every year.

Like an annoying telemarketer, he doesn’t get many folks saying yes when he comes calling to ask a Power Five school to make a trip to the O’Rena.

“I reach out to people all the time,” Kampe said. “I’d say 90 to 95 percent say no.”

Occasionally, though, someone says yes — like Georgia, which plays at Oakland at 7 Friday night.

Georgia coach Mark Fox “didn’t even hesitate,” Kampe said. Fox is a former coach at Nevada, so he knows how tough it is to get the big boys to come to a mid-major campus. He also is friends with Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy.

Georgia also has two Metro Detroit natives on its roster, Westland sophomore forward Mike Edwards and Bloomfield Hills junior forward Yante Maten.

The trip gives that duo a chance to play in front of friends and family, around the holidays as a bonus.

That’s how Kampe tries to sell the Power Five schools on coming to Rochester — as a chance to bring local guys back home. For instance, he recently called Marquette, which has two local commitments in its 2017 class, U-D Jesuit forward Ike Eke and Melvindale ABT forward Jamal Cain.

Marquette, of course, said no.

“I look for that,” Kampe said. “If a school that’s not from this area and doesn’t play in this area signs kids from the are, I try to get them.”

Georgia comes in 8-3 with losses to Clemson, Kansas and Marquette.

Oakland comes in 9-3, with two losses already this week — a buzzer-beater to Northeastern on Tuesday and an ugly, foul-laden grinder of a game at Michigan State on Wednesday.

Kampe doesn’t feel his team needs to win against Georgia to salvage the week, which was billed as a big week for the program, given it was off to its best start in the Division I era (9-1) and had three tough opponents in a four-day stretch.

“I think it’s more important for our fan base, people that care about our basketball program,” Kampe said. “Everyone was talking about how huge of a week it was. The reality of it is, it’s a week in December. People think that’s gonna determine if we’re gonna be any good or not.

“I guess we need to win the game,” he deadpanned.

The last Power Five school to visit Oakland was Tennessee in 2011. Michigan visited as recently as 2008. Marquette visited in 2004, Missouri and Texas A&M in 2003 and Michigan State in 1998, to open the O’Rena.

After Georgia, Oakland shifts to the Horizon League portion of its schedule, facing Wright State at home on Thursday. The Golden Grizzlies are picked to finish in the top third of the league.

Georgia at Oakland

Tip-off: 7 Friday, O’Rena, Rochester

TV/radio: Channel 20/WDFN

Records: Georgia 8-3, Oakland 9-3 @tonypaul1984