2008-09 Oakland Basketball Preview: #136
Overall Rank: #136
Conference Rank: #2 Summit League
2007-08: 17-14, 11-7, 3rd
2007-08 postseason: none
Oakland has slowly been putting together a quality program in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan. Coach Greg Kampe is now in his 25th year leading the team and it is time for the Grizzlies to start consistently competing for championships in the Summit League. Possibly even more important than the influx of talent at Oakland is the fact that perennial Summit powerhouses Oral Roberts and IUPUI are expected to have down years.
Seven of the top eight scorers from last year's 11-7 team are back. The depth up front will take a hit with the departures of Patrick McCloskey and Shane Lawal, both of whom started a handful of games. Seldom used B-Jay Walker and Peter Bunn will also not be returning, but the biggest loss is guard Brandon Cassise. The guard spent most the year coming off the bench where he was a dangerous scoring threat, mostly from beyond the arc.
Oakland's recruiting class is superb, led by Drew Maynard. The 6-7 shooting guard is a great athlete and is a joy to watch in transition. He can also knock down the outside shot with consistency and will never be accused of lacking aggressiveness or toughness. For now Maynard will be a dynamic playmaker and scorer off the bench. Since Maynard will spend most of his time at the three spot, fellow incoming freshman shooting guard Blake Cushingberry could squeeze in a few minutes off the bench this season. He does not lack in talent, but there are some quality players ahead of him on the depth chart for now. Point guard Matt Samuels will be asked to be a backup right away and could end up being the most important of the newcomers. However, Johnny Thames and Ilija Milutinovic step into a frontcourt that could use another weapon or two. Thames is pretty polished for a 6-9, 220 pound freshman and should at least add another defensive presence to the team. Speaking of presence, Milutinovic is 7-0 and 255 pounds. The Serbian is a little rough around the edges, but the potential is enormous.
Who to Watch:
Even if Thames is ready to make a contribution, does the frontcourt have enough weapons to propel the Golden Grizzlies to the top of the conference? The backcourt is going to do a ton of scoring, but the big guys have to improve. Dan Waterstradt started 22 games last season and center Keith Benson earned 20 as a freshman. At 6-10 and 6-11, respectively, those two will be an intimidating duo under the basket against most conference opponents, but neither are prolific scorers. Will Hudson, like Benson, is just a sophomore and that year of experience can do nothing but help.
If the frontcourt struggles, Oakland has proven that the backcourt trio can carry this team to success. Johnathon Jones is a great scoring point guard and tallied 14.9 points and 6.0 assists per game as a sophomore. Erik Kangas is the shooter. He averaged 14.6 points per game in 2007-2008, but Kangas could be even more effective if he drove to the basket a little more. Derick Nelson does it all. He is not a great shooter, but he can hit the outside shot, yet most of his 17.3 points per game came by getting to the rim. The 6-5 Lansing, Michigan product is a great athlete and will get above the rim on the other side of the court as well and led the team with 7.4 rebounds per contest. Add sophomore Tim Williams to the mix and nobody in the Summit League can compete with this backcourt.
Projected Post-season Tournament: none
Projected Starting Five:
Johnathon Jones, Junior, Guard, 14.9 points per game
Erik Kangas, Senior, Guard, 14.6 points per game
Derick Nelson, Senior, Forward, 17.3 points per game
Keith Benson, Sophomore, Center, 5.2 points per game
Dan Waterstradt, Senior, Center, 5.7 points per game