Oakland turns to freshman point guard as Brailen Neely leaves program
Oakland figured its starting point guard's initials this season would be "B.N."
Turns out, that stands for freshman Braden Norris — and not junior Brailen Neely, who left the program Monday, the university confirmed.
Neely, a 5-foot-9, 154-pounder from Detroit Western, started the first three games of the season, but hadn't played in any of the last four, including three games over the weekend in a holiday showcase at the O'Rena.
Norris was the starting point guard for those three games, and had an epic run, including a double-double (18 [points, 10 assists) in Sunday's 92-72 loss at Northern Illinois.
Norris is 14-for-16 from 3-pointers in the last four games, including 5-for-5 on Sunday.
"Brailen came to me last Tuesday and told me that his knee was hurting and would like some time off. Today he decided that he would not return. We wish him the best in whatever he decides to do," Oakland coach Greg Kampe said in a statement Monday.
Neely averaged 6.0 points and 5.7 assists through three games this season. The fourth game, against Defiance, Neely was among several Oakland players who were benched for the entire game because they didn't meet their weekly mandatory study-hall hours.
He averaged 4.0 points in 21.3 minutes lsat season, and 3.1 points in 16.4 minutes as a freshman. His name was removed from the team roster earlier Monday, before the university confirmed his departure.
Neely was expected to be a key cog for Oakland, a player who knew Kampe's system among a large group of new faces. In the preseason team photograph, Neely is positioned dead center, holding the basketball.
At Detroit Western, Neely, 21, won a state championship in 2015, and won the Mr. PSL award in 2016. The Detroit News ranked him all-state.
Norris is a 6-foot, 180-pounder from Hilliard, Ohio, whom the Golden Grizzlies (3-4) found on the recruiting trail while they were scouting his AAU teammate, Foster Loyer, who's now a freshman at Michigan State. Norris played 33 minutes total through three games, then logged 36, 32, 40 and 39 in the last four. Norris has just six turnovers, compared to 30 assists.