Oakland basketball's early-season expectations tempered by nearly 3-week shutdown

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Oakland University basketball has seven nonconference games to get ready for Horizon League play. Asked what would be an acceptable result in those seven games, coach Greg Kampe was blunt.

"0-7," he said.

Rashad Williams averaged 19.5 points in 15 games last season for Oakland.

In a year unlike any other, it's been especially out-of-whack for Oakland, which recently had a nearly three-week shutdown of practice because of a COVID-19 outbreak. The Golden Grizzlies began practicing again Friday, after at least nine players and five staff members — including Kampe and assistant coach Jeff Smith — tested positive for the coronavirus.

Oakland begins play with a multi-team event (MTE) at Xavier, playing the first game of the college basketball season at noon Wednesday against the host.

The rest of Oakland's nonconference slate includes Toledo and Bradley at the MTE, the Michigan, Purdue, Oklahoma State and Michigan State.

Oakland's prep for the season has barely gone further than basic offensive and defensive sets. There's been no time to install the sideline sets or more complexity on offense or defense. There's been little time for evaluation of personnel. Kampe said the team used its layoff to focus mostly on academics, rather than a whole lot of basketball. There were a handful of Zoom sessions to go over practice film, but not much. Almost the entire roster was quarantined in dorm rooms and apartments, having food delivered by the school that they couldn't even pick out.

"I don't think that going and playing the schedule that we're gonna play with a 21-day pause is going to allow us to evaluate our basketball team until we get to the Michigan State game (Dec. 13), and then how do you evaluate against Michigan State," Kampe said. "It's like a summer tour in Europe, where you don't have a lot of stuff in play, and you learn about your players and figure out who should play.

"The Michigan quarterback situation might be a great example of it. They didn't get their spring.

"There's gonna be some movement in personnel in finding the right combinations."

Oakland is coming off a 14-19 season and its worst showing ever (sixth place) in the Horizon League. And it lost three of its top five scorers in forward Xavier Hill-Mais and center Brad Brechting to graduation, and guard Tray Maddox Jr. to transfer.

The Golden Grizzlies will now get a full season out of junior guard and Detroit native Rashad Williams, who sat out the first half of last season after transferring from Cleveland State. Williams certainly made up for lost time, averaging 19.5 points in 15 games. He suffered an injury to his shooting shoulder early in practice, and is just now returning — but probably is looking at surgery after the season.

That's another hurdle for early in the season, keeping him healthy and fresh.

"I'm looking at coaching these four games in five days like a hockey coach running kids in and out in shifts, three-minute shifts here, two-minute shifts there," Kampe said. "I've never done that before."

Big additions include point guard Jalen Moore from Illinois' Olney Central College, where he earned JUCO All-America honors last season, and junior guard Zion Young, a transfer from Western Illinois.

Young was cleared by the NCAA last week to be immediately eligible.

Moore gives Oakland the point guard it was missing last season. That was supposed to be CJ Gettelfinger, a prized prospect from Tennessee, but that didn't work out, and he transferred home to Tennessee Tech,.

With Moore and junior forward Daniel Oladapo, who previously played at Chipola College in Florida, Kampe will have two former JUCO players in his starting lineup for the first time in his nearly four-decade tenure.

"It feels good to be back in a situation where we have not only a point guard," said Kampe, "but a good one."


Twitter: @tonypaul1984