Scouting the Oakland Grizzlies

Joel Welser breaks down Michigan's opponent tonight, the Oakland Grizzlies. Coach Greg Kampe's squad can score in bunches and it came up just short in an upset attempt of the Michigan State Spartans earlier thise season (a game which they lost 75-71).

Oakland Grizzlies
Conference: Summit
2006-07: 19-14, 10-4, 2nd
2006-07 postseason: none

Led by long time coach Greg Kampe, Oakland has quietly developed into a contender in the newly named Summit League (formerly Mid-Con). With Oral Roberts ready to give up their reign as conference dominators, the Grizzlies will be in the mix. However, the new frontcourt will need to grow up quickly if Oakland wants to earn the first ever Summit League championship.

Who’s Out:
Vova Severovas led the team with 14.3 points and frontcourt mate Shawn Hopes added 12.3 per contest. It is not just the scoring that will be missed, but the duo combined for 10.8 rebounds per game during the 2006-2007 season. Guard Rick Billings, a former transfer from Ohio State, wrapped up his collegiate career with a disappointing senior campaign, averaging just 5.5 points per game. Keith MacKenzie has opted to transfer after seeing limited action last year.

Who’s In:
There is a lot of talent on this list and the Grizzlies will need the big men to step up in order to compliment the talented returning backcourt. Dan Waterstradt is eligible after playing two years at Rutgers. The 6-10 junior averaged 2.4 points and 2.5 rebounds as a freshman for the Scarlet Knights before seeing less playing time as a sophomore. Finding another big guy to work next to Waterstradt is the bigger concern. At 6-10, redshirt freshman Keith Benson would provide some more size, but he does not have much of an offensive game at this point in his career. Incoming freshman Will Hudson will end up being a recruiting steal, but it may be asking a little too much for him to make a big impact from day one. The wings will find plenty of depth with incoming freshmen Jon Tassin and Tim Williams and sophomore B-Jay Walker, who missed last year with an injury. Williams is the player to keep an eye on and the 6-4 Pontiac, Michigan product could develop into a star in a couple of years. Freshman Peter Bunn will fill the backup point guard void that caused some problems last season.

Who to Watch:
Johnathon Jones earned his fair share of All-Freshmen honors after averaging 9.4 points and 3.6 assists during his first season at Oakland. The 6-0 Okemos, Michigan native started every game at point guard, and that is quite impressive for a freshman. With his steadying force, the Grizzlies are in good hands for the next three years. Keeping the turnovers down is something that needs to be worked on, but it should not be a long term problem. Three-point specialist Erik Kangas will join Jones in the backcourt. Kangas showed promise as a freshman, but once he was given the chance to consistently play last year as a sophomore, he exploded into one of the best long range shooters nobody has heard of. Kangas drained 3.3 shot from beyond the arc per game, making 43.1 percent of his attempts.

Final Projection:
The key is getting some quality production from the frontcourt. Small Forward Derick Nelson was the best rebounder on the team last season and can at least help out in that department if the big guys are having troubles. Senior Patrick McCloskey will not be an offensive threat, but the 6-8, 225 pounder will hit the glass and could battle for a starting spot if the freshmen are not ready. This is a really young team and 2008-2009 is when the Oakland fans will be really excited, but there is enough talent, and a wide open enough Summit race, for the Grizzlies to win the conference right now.

Projected Post-season Tournament: none

Record: 4-5 (1-1)
November 9 at Wisconsin-Green Bay L 76-75
November 11 Adrian College W 86-46
November 17 Eastern Michigan W 86-71
November 20 Duquesne L 92-77
November 24 at No. 11 Michigan State L 75-71
November 28 at No. 25 Xavier L 93-68
December 1 Bowling Green W 90-80
December 6 UMKC W 114-105
December 8 Southern Utah L 82-73

Starting Five:
Johnathon Jones, Sophomore, Guard, 14.3 points per game
Brandon Cassise, Senior, Guard, 11.4 points per game
Erik Kangas, Junior, Forward, 14.6 points per game
Derick Nelson, Junior, Forward, 18.6 points per game
Shane Lawal, Junior, Center, 5.7 points per game

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