Army vet Brock leaves Oakland basketball after one season

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Isaiah Brock is leaving the Oakland men's basketball program after one season to focus on his studies.

Isaiah Brock's time at Oakland University was as memorable as it was brief.

The U.S. Army veteran who made national headlines before he ever suited up for Oakland, and then more headlines for his impressive play as a 23-year-old freshman, has decided to walk away from the sport.

Athletic director Jeff Konya confirmed the decision to The News on Wednesday afternoon.

Brock first approached coach Greg Kampe and Konya with his thoughts a week-and-a-half ago, but Konya, in a face-to-face meeting while Kampe was in the hospital, urged him just to take some time and think it over. The two connected again late Tuesday night, and Brock's decision was final.

He wants to focus on his studies, and will continue to attend college, via the GI Bill. He remains enrolled at Oakland, but it's not immediately clear if that's where he will continue his college career.

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Being an advanced-age player who knew his chances of playing athletics professionally were significantly slim, Brock decided he wanted to shift his focus to academics immediately.

"I certainly thank him for his blood, sweat and tears for the program," Konya said. "He brought a level of maturity from his experiences to the team. He made some really good friendships with his teammates.

"He was a real pleasure to deal with as a young man and as an adult."

Brock, a native of Baltimore, spent four years in the Army, including multiple deployments to overseas hot zones like Afghanistan and Kuwait. There, Brock often was tasked with retrieving the fatally wounded and preparing his fallen soldiers for their final trip home. He was well-decorated, earning the Army Commendation Medal, a National Defense Service Medal and a Global War on Terrorism Medal.

Kampe met Brock at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait in 2015 during the Hardwood Classic, a goodwill tour to see the troops. After Kampe's team played the team Brock was on, Kampe got talking to Brock, and found his story fascinating. Even though Kampe admittedly had no clue if Brock ever could compete at a Division I level, he offered him a scholarship anyway.

Brock arrived at Oakland last year and enrolled in classes, before the NCAA gave him some bad news. He was ruled ineligible to play, based on five-year-old high school grades, rather than his real-life experiences in the Army.

The NCAA's decision was met with an immediate and loud backlash, from Oakland, the national sports community and even Michigan congressman Mike Bishop (R-Rochester Hills), who penned a letter to the NCAA asking it to reconsider.

Oakland wins appeal; Army vet OK’d to play basketball

Oakland officially appealed the decision, and the NCAA reversed course before the start of the season. Brock, a 6-foot-8, 191-pound forward, became one of the best freshman in the Horizon League in 2016-17.

He started 29 of the team's 33 games, averaging 6.1 pounds and 6.2 rebounds. He was a real force on defense, with 72 blocks, second-best in the league. His leadership skills, given his background, were critical, as well. He was a respected voice in the locker room.

Kampe was counting on Brock to be a big part of the 2017-18 team, which has great expectations, with the addition of Illinois transfer Kendrick Nunn. Oakland, behind the gun a little bit now, will look to find a suitable replacement for Brock, likely from outside the program with a junior college transfer.

Brock, who wants to study psychology, didn't immediately return multiple messages from The News.

"As it was characterized to me, (basketball) wasn't a priority for him in his life with his experiences and how old he is," Konya said. "And obviously he wants to go and be a college student."

New coach at Oakland

In other Oakland news, the university made official the addition of Mychal Covington to Kampe's coaching staff.

Covington, a four-year point guard for the Golden Grizzlies, ended his Oakland career fifth all-time in assists with 514, and was seventh in the country with 7.1 assists during his senior season.

He's spent 11 years coaching at the high school level, including at Pontiac, Melvindale ABT and Cornerstone Health and Technology. He also has been a fixture on the Metro Detroit AAU coaching circuit.

Covington replaces Drew Valentine, who left to take an assistant job at Loyola of Chicago. He's the second new assistant to join Kampe's staff this offseason, following Tony Jones, who was hired after Cornell Mann left to join the staff at Missouri.

Twitter: @tonypaul1984