Kampe not 100 percent, but vows to be ready for season

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Greg Kampe

The question was casual and simple, and the response was appropriate.

How are you feeling, Greg Kampe?

And he coughed.

"It's improving," the Oakland men's basketball coach said recently, after clearing his throat. "I'll be ready for the year.

"It was a tough month, you know. It's something that grabs you like that, that you don't know much about it and it's unsuspecting.

"It was a tough battle for a while."

Kampe, 61, is recovering from a months-long illness which started with kidney stones -- and pushing off treatment for said kidney stones -- and ended with Kampe in the hospital, battling the deadly blood disease known as sepsis.

At one point during his hospital stay, a nurse asked if he wanted to see a clergyman.

Kampe pulled through, though he's still getting back into game shape, if you will, with the start of the season looming. He still doesn't work full days, though he said, "By November when we start, I'll be 100 percent."

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Oakland, again with great expectations and a loaded roster led by the likes of Illinois transfer Kendrick Nunn and holdover Martez Walker, opens the regular season at home Nov. 11, against Fort Wayne.

The Golden Grizzlies will participate in Horizon League media day Friday at Little Caesars Arena, site of next spring's Horizon League tournament.

As Kampe battled the illness, he's had to lean heavily on his coaching staff, which includes new members Tony Jones and Mychal Covington, a former Golden Grizzlies player, as well as Dan Hipsher.

It was a critical time, as Kampe was laid up much of July, a huge recruiting month.

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His staff, though, helped him land several key recruits, including guard Traveon Maddox from Novi and point guard Braden Norris from Ohio for the class of 2018, plus Tennessee point guard C.J. Gettelfinger for the class of 2019. Oakland also welcomes a transfer in former East English guard Karmari Newman, who's coming from George Washington and eligible in 2018-19.

Oakland is coming off a 25-9 season -- second-most wins in program history -- that included a share of the Horizon League regular-season championship, but again it was upset in its first Horizon League tournament game. Its consolation was an NIT victory over Clemson. Incidentally, it was after that game that Kampe first started to get really sick, starting a weeks-long ordeal which landed him in ICU for five days in July.

"I'm doing much better," Kampe said recently. "I'm playing golf again now."

Playing golf well?

"Not yet," he said, laughing. "I don't have a lot of strength."

The Golden Grizzlies should be the heavy favorite in the league this year, especially with Valparaiso moving out to the Missouri Valley Conference.

Detroit Mercy, meanwhile, should be much improved in Bacari Alexander's second season, after the Titans went 8-23 last season. Detroit Mercy got a transfer in former Michigan player Kam Chatman, and has Jaleel Hogan back, after it was touch-and-go on the academics front for a while. Last year's star freshman Corey Allen should continue to develop, as well.

Oakland and Detroit Mercy's men's and women's teams will participate in Horizon League media day at LCA on Friday.