College notes: OU’s Xavier Hill-Mais a surprising redshirt
Forward Xavier Hill-Mais played in all 34 games for Oakland last season.
He will sit this season out.
Coach Greg Kampe announced Monday night, following the team's final exhibition tuneup against Davenport, that Hill-Mais would use a redshirt for 2017-18.
The move is a bit of a surprise, given the 6-foot-7, 248-pounder from Greensboro, N.C., was one of the Golden Grizzlies weapons off the bench a year ago, but it illustrates just how deep Oakland's roster is this season — with a stable of star fifth-year seniors, including Kendrick Nunn, plus the return of defensive standout Isaiah Brock.
Hill-Mais, essentially, didn't want to "waste" a season playing seven or eight minutes a night, but rather preserve his junior year for when more playing time becomes available, as it will in 2018-19.
"Makes sense," Kampe said.
Hill-Mais backs up star forward Jalen Hayes, a red-shirt senior, who is going to miss the first four games — the opener at home Friday against Fort Wayne, followed by games against New Orleans, Toledo and Syracuse — as he serves a questionable four-game suspension handed down by the NCAA over a grade technicality related to Hayes' major.
Still, Hill-Mais won't play in those games. He's taking the season off, barring any injuries by the Golden Grizzlies, who are considered the class of mid-major basketball this season.
In two seasons, Hill-Mais has averaged 4.1 points and 2.5 rebounds in 11.5 minutes.
James Beck, a 6-8, 210-pound freshman from Grand Rapids, is expected to get the Hill-Mais' playing time.
Speaking of Oakland, it cruised to victory in its three exhibition games, beating Central Michigan, Rochester and Davenport. Nunn, the Illinois transfer, led in scoring all three games, with 40, 20 and 28.
It was obvious this wasn't going to be the easiest season for Western Michigan football, given its tough early-season schedule and the loss of its star quarterback and receiver, plus its coach.
But first-year coach Tim Lester couldn't have anticipated the problems in the health department.
The Broncos, still in bowl contention at 5-4 with three games left, announced this week that star running back Jamauri Bogan (foot) is out for the season, joining a long list of Western Michigan impact players whose seasons have been cut short.
That includes starting quarterback Jon Wassink (collarbone), linebacker Justin Tranquill (ACL) and two of Western Michigan's other top running backs, LeVante Bellamy (ankle) and Davon Tucker (foot).
The Broncos' running back was to be its serious strength this year, and now has lost three backs who have combined for 1,154 yards.
That means redshirt freshman Matt Falcon, a Southfield High standout and former Michigan commitment who missed last season with an ACL injury, should see his first extended workload against Kent State in Kalamazoo on Wednesday night.
The Broncos opened the season with losses at Southern Cal and Michigan State, then suffered close losses in Mid-American Conference play to Akron and Central Michigan, both home games. Wednesday is their final home game of the season, as they close at Northern Illinois and at Toledo.
This and that
Former Grand Valley State and Central Michigan standout Tanisha Johnson has been named the head track-and-field coach for both the men's and women's programs at Oakland. A Macomb native, she comes home after working as an assistant coach at Fort Wayne.
Johnson and her wife, Darcie, have a son, Jaden.
... Despite losing several underclassmen stars to the NHL after last year's NCAA Tournament run, Western Michigan's hockey team is making noise again — having swept defending national champion Denver, 6-5 and 7-4, over the weekend to climb into the national rankings. The Broncos (5-3-1) are No. 15 in USA Today/USA Hockey and No. 18 in the USCHO.com poll.
Northern Michigan is No. 20, the last spot, in the USCHO.com poll. Michigan is just outside both polls.
... Michigan's No. 3-ranked women's field-hockey team starts NCAA Tournament play Saturday, hosting Syracuse at 11:30 a.m. The quarterfinals are at 2 p.m. Sunday, also in Ann Arbor. Northwestern and Louisville also are in the pod.
... In Michigan women's hoops news, senior Katelynn Flaherty is among 20 players on the preseason Nancy Lieberman Award watch list, the honor going to the nation's top point guard. Also, the first 1,000 fans through the gates at Michigan's season opener Friday receive a replace WNIT championship banner.
... Oakland head coach Nick Pumford (No. 9) and Michigan head coach Chris Whitten (No. 14) have been named by Golf Digest as two of the top instructors in the state of Michigan, in voting by their peers.
Some postseason soccer recognition of note:
■ In the Big Ten, Michigan State junior Jimmy Hague was named goalkeeper of the year, and was joined on first-team all-conference by Michigan State senior midfielder Ken Krolicki and senior defenseman Jimmy Fiscus, as well as Michigan sophomore forward Jack Hallahan. Michigan's Chaka Daley, whose team plays Wisconsin on Friday in the Big Ten tournament semifinals, was named coach of the year.
Meanwhile, Michigan's Umar Farouk Osman, Marc Ybarra and Mohammed Zakyi made the all-freshman team.
On the women's side, Michigan's Sarah Stratigakis made the all-freshman team.
■ In the Horizon League, Oakland senior forward Austin Ricci and Detroit Mercy redshirt senior forward Tyler Moorman were named first-team all-league, and Oakland midfield Noah Jensen and Detroit Mercy midfielder/forward Kyle Bandyk made the league's all-freshman team.
Detroit Mercy plays Green Bay on Thursday in the Horizon League semifinals.
On the women's side, Detroit Mercy senior defender Rachel DeLuca made first-team.