Overall Rank: #113
Conference Rank: #1 Summit League
2008-09: 23-13, 13-5
2008-09 postseason: CIT
Coach: Greg Kampe (419-314 at Oakland, 419-314 overall)
Oakland had everything they needed to win the Summit League last year…a dynamic scoring point guard, one of the best shooters nobody has heard of and a dominating presence in the paint. Unfortunately, the Grizzlies fell short in the Summit League Conference Tournament at the hands of a more talented North Dakota State team. Instead, the team went to the CBI where they beat Kent State and then should have beaten Bradley, but were sent home due to bad luck or bad officiating, depending on your opinion, on a last second shot.
Key Losses: G Erik Kangas, C Dan Waterstradt
The only departure of that trio is the shooter, Erik Kangas. Kangas knocked down nearly four three-pointers and averaged 18.9 points per game. Replacing that will not be easy, but fortunately Coach Greg Kampe will not have to rely on an unproven freshman to fill the void. Two years ago Anthony Wright started ten games for St. John’s and ranked third on the team in scoring with 9.1 per contest. He may not be the shooter that Kangas was, but he is a pure scorer who will fit in nicely. Among the group of incoming freshmen, it is small forward Drew Valentine that could make the biggest impact this year, especially on the defensive end.
Wright will not be alone in attempting to replace Kangas’ scoring output. Drew Maynard started 20 games last year and Blake Cushingberry started 14. Maynard is the more consistent three-pointer shooter and scorer and, at 6-7, is a tough match-up for most guards in the Summit League. He was just a freshman last year and a year in the program, and an offseason in the weight room, could turn him into a dynamic scorer. Maynard spent most of his time hanging around the perimeter, but if he can start using his size to get to the basket, he could easily score ten points per game and help out more on the glass.
The starting frontcourt is in good hands with the return of Keith Benson and Will Hudson. Benson is the dominating big man in the paint and averaged 14.3 points and a team high 7.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks, and all of that was as an underclassman. If Benson keeps improving, Oakland could dominate the conference. Will Hudson will not put up big numbers day in and day out like Benson, but at 6-9 and 225 pounds, he is a nice complimentary player. The key for the frontcourt will be finding somebody who can replace center Dan Waterstradt. Ilija Milutinovic barely played at all as a freshman last year and Jay Thames redshirted and somebody has to play some quality minutes off the bench
Who to Watch:
It was difficult to tell who the leader of the team was during the 2008-2009 campaign. Kangas was grabbing a lot of headlines, but Johnathon Jones was the most dynamic player on the team. The 5-11 point guard not only dished out an amazing 8.1 assists per game, but he only turned the ball over 3.4 times. He is a solid defender too, but he even averaged 13.3 points per game. His ability to get to the basket and either finish or find his teammates is a joy to watch and his senior season should be his best yet.
If Derick Nelson can play like he did two years ago, Oakland will be nearly unstoppable. The 6-5 senior was fifth in scoring and third in rebounding in the entire conference back then, but missed out on the 2008-2009 campaign. The fact that the Grizzlies did so well without who they thought would be their superstar is quite impressive and if Nelson can put up numbers like he did in 2007-2008, the 6-5 forward will be an all-conference player and Coach Kampe will be dancing again.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Johnathon Jones, Senior, Guard, 13.3 points per game
Larry Wright, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Derick Nelson, Senior, Guard, DNP last season
Will Hudson, Junior, Forward, 7.4 points per game
Keith Benson, Junior, Center, 14.3 points per game