Oakland's recruiting reach is expanding, not just beyond the Midwest, but beyond the United States.
The Golden Grizzlies men's basketball program this week landed a big recruit.
And when we say big, well ...
"I mean, he's a big boy," said Gerald Alford, laughing. "You look at him, you're like, 'Whoa.' He's 18 years old, but he's a man."
Alford is a long-time AAU coach, now stationed in Georgia, where two years ago he got his first look at a kid from Nigeria named Babatunde Sowunmi (pronounced: Bobby-TOON-Day). This week, Sowunmi made a verbal commitment to Oakland.
Sowunmi is 6-foot-11 and 248 pounds — "He might be 250," Alford clarified — and is the latest prized recruit landed by new Oakland assistant coach Tony Jones. Jones, hired this offseason by head coach Greg Kampe, also is credited in large part for landing point guard C.J. Gettelfinger as Kampe's first Tennessee recruit (he's Class of 2019), Ohio point guard Braden Norris (Class of 2018), and Novi guard Traveon Maddox (Class of 2018).
Oakland also recently signed guard Karmari Newman, a former Detroit English Village star who is transferring from George Mason. He will have to sit out the 2017-18 season, to comply with NCAA transfer regulations.
But Sowunmi might be the biggest "get" of all, and it happened kind of by accident. Sowunmi was participating in an AAU tournament in Milwaukee in July, when Jones and Alford had a chance run-in at Kopp's Frozen Custard, a popular burger joint just outside of Milwaukee.
They kept in touch, Jones did his research on Sowunmi, and earlier this week, Oakland had its future big man — who should help lessen the blow of Isaiah Brock's sudden and surprising departure after one season at Oakland, following his five-year stint in the U.S. Army. Brock decided to end his basketball career and get on with his life.
"Like I told Tony and Greg, they are getting a special athlete that runs the floor," Alford said. "He's a rebounder, he blocks shots and he can score.
"And he's got post moves."
It was during that tournament in Milwaukee that Sowunmi really opened some eyes. He was matched up against a top-100 — Alford wouldn't give the player's name — in what was to be quite the test for the kid from West Africa.
Yeah, not so much. Sowunmi's matchup finished with two points, while Sowunmi had 14 points, 20 rebounds and eight blocks. The score was 70-16, by Alford's recollection, before the fight was, mercifully, stopped.
Sowunmi plays at Solid Rock Academy, a private, Christian school in Fayetteville, Ga. There, he carries nearly a 4.0 grade-point average, and also plays defensive end for the school's football team.
He has host parents, one of whom is a counselor and teacher at the school.
This has been a critical offseason of recruiting for Kampe and Co., given the team — expected to win the Horizon — will lose a lot of talent after 2017-18, including Kendrick Nunn, Jalen Hayes, Nick Daniels and Martez Walker.
Sowunmi's impact should be immediate.
"Continuing to work on his post moves will just make him better and better," said Alford, noting Sowunmi also had serious interest from Western Carolina, and peripheral interest from Louisville and Auburn — two schools, Alford wasn't shy in pointing out, that are at the center of the college-basketball recruiting scandal. Other than that, he was under the radar, playing at a small school in a small conference.
"With his size and ability, I think he can get to the next level."
■ Michigan senior Kyle Mueller is off to a fine start for the fall season, posting a program-record 7-under 63 in the second round of the Jerry Pate National in Alabama. He went under par again Tuesday and finished 11th overall.
Another highlight of the tournament came in the first round, when junior Nick Carlson drove a 318-yard par 4 and made a 78-foot putt for eagle.
■ Over the weekend, Wayne State men's golf team won its second consecutive tournament, the Division I Bucknell Invitational in Pennsylvania. The Warriors beat the host team by a single stroke. Wayne State sophomore Brendan Seys was medalist after carding rounds of 68 and 67. He won in a playoff.
■ Detroit Mercy cut its baseball program after the 2004 season, but interestingly is hosting a baseball reunion in December. There will be a brunch on campus Dec. 9, then players will be honored at that day's basketball game against Western Michigan, including championship banner-raising.
It'll be interesting to see if this is the start of a dialogue toward eventually bringing the program back. Athletic director Robert Vowels recently told The News he'd love to see it revived, but cost remains an issue.
■ The Detroit Mercy basketball radio show returns Monday, broadcasting from Dino's in Ferndale from 7-8 p.m. Featuring men's coach Bacari Alexander and women's coach Bernard Scott, the show airs on 910-AM.