Golden Grizzlies Control Their Destiny With One Chance

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Dan Champagne

The Oakland University basketball team has experienced about all there is to experience as a successful program over the past three years. The Golden Grizzlies have won a Mid-Continent Conference regular-season title, a number of athletes have received individual accolades and Oakland has posted monumental wins in each season.

Actually the Golden Grizzlies haven’t experienced everything.

Oakland men’s basketball hasn’t had the opportunity to play at the Mid-Con tournament and hasn’t had the chance to play in the NCAA’s March Madness.

That is until this year.

After a four-year transition, the Golden Grizzlies are finally eligible for the Mid-Continent Conference tournament and the automatic berth to the NCAA championship. And that means that the 2001-02 senior class for OU basketball has this one and only chance to reach this next goal.

"One chance," head coach Greg Kampe said when asked what a possible theme was for this season. "These five seniors have one chance.

"These seniors have led us through the Division I transition and through all of the heartaches and all of the joyful times. We’ve had great wins and a league championship, but we’ve always been stymied at the end of the year because we couldn’t go to the tournament. Now these seniors have one chance to do just that."

Goals for the Golden Grizzlies have obviously changed now that Oakland is eligible for postseason play. The OU basketball team’s number one goal is to win the league tournament and have a chance to play in the NCAA tournament.

"The whole season revolves around the three days in March," Kampe said. "Everything we do this year, good or bad, doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters are the three days in March for this group of seniors."

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Head Coach Greg Kampe and
senior Mychal Covington

According to Kampe, three words best describe this basketball team ... experience, hungry and confident. In order for the Golden Grizzlies to accomplish their goal, all three of these words will utilized to the fullest extent.

The experience is a given as the Golden Grizzlies have five seniors, who have 22 years of combined experience at OU, and one junior. Oakland is hungry for the championship and with the five seniors with only one chance, the desire is there. The Golden Grizzlies confidence is evident and will only grow as the season progresses and the team has a chance to gel.

"Most importantly this year we need to stay healthy," Kampe said. "In each of the past two years we’ve lost our scoring leader during the season. We have to stay healthy and improve as the season progresses and play with poise in the tournament. We have to understand that this group has only this one shot and we have to stay healthy and be ready to make the most out of it."

The Golden Grizzlies finished 12-16 overall in 2000-01 and was 8-8 in Mid-Con play. The 2000-01 season marked the final year for OU in the transition and beginning with the 2001-02 year, Oakland basketball will control its own destiny.

The destiny for the 2001-02 program will develop largely in part to the leadership of the five seniors.

"Leadership is a group effort with this squad," Kampe said. "This team is led by a group of guys that have been here forever. There aren’t many programs around that can claim five seniors with so many years of experience. We have one sixth-year senior, two five-year seniors and two four-year starting seniors.

"Because of the injuries over the past couple of years, we actually have seven starters back. We have seven guys that have actually started the majority of the games over their careers."

The experience is a major strength of the 2001-02 OU basketball program, just as shooting continues to be a Golden Grizzly staple.

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Mike Helms

"Our strength again is our experience," Kampe said. "We’ve been there. The only thing we haven’t done is play in the tournament. We’ve been through a lot of battles and we have an experienced team. Now we have that one chance to give these seniors a shot at the Mid-Con tournament championship.

The Golden Grizzlies over the past couple of years have been at the top of the NCAA lists in offensive categories, including individual scoring averages, three-point shooting, free throw shooting, three pointers attempted, shooting percentages, etc. OU can shoot the basketball and that is a continued strength of the program.

Rebounding, on the other hand, continues to be a question mark for Oakland hoops.

"Our weakness is rebounding," Kampe said. "We’ve tried to shore that up every year and I think we’ve made strides every year. For us to get to where we want to go, we have to get there in rebounding."

The Golden Grizzlies return seven players that have started a majority of the games in their careers in Dan Champagne (Sr., F, Linden/Linden HS), Brad Buddenborg (Sr., G, Garden City/Garden City HS), Jason Rozycki (Sr., G, Boyne City/Boyne City HS), Mychal Covington (Sr., G, Pontiac/Northern HS), Kelly Williams (So., F, Detroit/Martin Luther King HS), Mike Helms (So., G, Detroit/Martin Luther King HS) and Jordan Sabourin (So., C, Sarnia, Ontario/Sandwich Secondary HS).

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Ryan Williams

Other returning key role players for the Golden Grizzlies in 2001-02 are Ryan Williams (Sr., G, Toledo, Ohio/Start HS), Tim Fralick (So., G, Troy/Troy HS) and Alex Miller (So., F, Eden Prairie, Minnesota/Eden Prairie HS). The newcomers to the OU roster are redshirt freshman guard Ryan Hoover (Harrison Twp./L’Anse Cruese HS), Rawle Marshall (So., G, Detroit/McKenzie HS), who has to sit out this season due to the NCAA transfer rule, Pierre Dukes (Fr., G, Grand Blanc/Grand Blanc HS) and Adrian Martin (Jr., F, Mexico City, Mexico/Detroit Southwestern HS).

Leading the way for the Golden Grizzlies for the fourth year in a row will be Covington. Covington will be backed up by Rozycki and Helms as the on-the-floor captain.

Covington played in all 28 games for OU last season and started in 26 of them. He led the squad with 155 assists (5.5/g) and was fifth on the team with his 7.0 points per game average. Covington recorded a .406 field goal percentage and his 155 assists ranked him seventh in OU's season record books. Entering his fourth year, he stands at seventh all-time with 316 career assists. Among Mid-Continent Conference players, Covington was second overall in assists at 5.54 per game.

Rozycki and Helms shared the starting duties last year as Helms took over the starting role when Rozycki was injured after 21 games.

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Jason Rozycki

Rozycki was named second team All-Mid-Continent Conference for the second year in a row in 2000-01. He led the team with his 18.3 scoring average and was fourth on the team averaging 3.0 rebounds per game. His 18.3 points per game averaged ranked 73rd among all NCAA Division I athletes. Rozycki led the Golden Grizzlies with his .868 free throw percentage (138-159) and his 138 free throws made ranked him in a tie for 69th in the nation. He set the Oakland individual game records when he sank 18 free throws versus Wright State (12/27/00) and when he attempted 17 three-pointers against UMKC (1/6/01). Entering his final season, Rozycki stands fourth all-time in the career record books with 214 three-pointers made and second overall in the career books with 598 three-point field goals attempted. Rozycki joined the prestigious 1,000-point club during his junior season and stands at 18th in career scoring with 1,182 career points.

Helms earned Mid-Continent Conference Co-Newcomer of the Year honors as a true freshman for the Golden Grizzlies and was named to the Mid-Con All-Newcomer Team. He was fourth on the team with his 11.3 points per game average. Helms finished the season second on the team in field goals attempted (338), three-point field goal percentage (.414) and free throws made (71). In Mid-Con games he was ninth in the conference in scoring (14.2), seventh in field goal percentage (.457) and 10th in free throw percentage (.726).

Primarily manning the perimeter positions will be Buddenborg, Rozycki and Kelly Williams. Also seeing action at the guard positions will be Hoover, Fralick, Dukes, Ryan Williams and Miller.

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Brad Buddenborg

Buddenborg finished the 2000-01 season second on the team with his 15.1 points per game average and was third with 4.6 rebounds per contest. He led the team in field goal attempts with 338 (12.1/g), field goals made with 145 (5.2/g) and with 169 three-point attempts (6.0/g) and 73 three-pointers made (2.6/g). Buddenborg’s 73 threes ranked him in a tie for 84th nationally in three-pointers made. Buddenborg’s 73 three-pointers made ranks him seventh in OU's season record books and entering his fourth season he stands at third place all-time with 217 threes made. He joined the prestigious 1,000 point club during his junior season and stands at 13th in career scoring with 1,316 career points.

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Kelly Williams

Kelly Williams played in all 28 games and started 22 of them for the Golden Grizzlies last year. He led the team in rebounding with 5.7 boards per outing and in blocked shots with 13 throughout the year. Williams averaged 5.6 points per game and finished the season third on the team in three-pointers attempted (2.9/game) and steals (0.9/game). In Mid-Continent games only he ranked seventh in the conference in rebounding with his 6.4 average, in offensive rebounds with his 2.25 average and in defensive rebounds with his 4.19 per game average.

Hoover redshirted the 2000-01 season. He was a standout four-year varsity letterwinner at L’Anse Creuse High School who was named all-league three times and all-district twice. Hoover averaged 18 points, seven rebounds and four assists per game as a senior for the Lancers.

Fralick is a third year sophomore with the OU basketball program. Last year he played in 22 games and averaged 1.5 points and grabbed 0.3 rebounds per contest. Fralick’s top game in 2000-01 was at Western Illinois when he scored four points and grabbed two boards.

Dukes is a 2001 graduate of Grand Blanc High School. He was an three-time honorable mention Michigan Dream Team member and was also tabbed all-league and all-district honors those three years. Dukes averaged 26.1 points per game, 11.4 rebounds per game and three assists per game as a senior.

Ryan Williams is a fifth-year senior for the Golden Grizzlies and has been an instrumental part in the OU transition to Division I basketball. Last year he played in 27 of the 28 games and scored 2.4 points and grabbed 1.6 rebounds per contest. Williams shot 77 percent from the free throw line (24-31), which was fourth on the team. He scored a career-high 14 points against Concordia last season and scored 10 points at Southern Utah. In the Concordia game, Williams also marked a career-high in rebounds with eight.

Miller is a third-year sophomore for OU basketball in 2001-02. He saw action in 10 games last year and averaged 0.7 points and grabbed 0.4 rebounds per game. Miller’s top game was against Valparaiso when he scored three points. Miller averaged 0.8 points and 0.2 rebounds in Mid-Con action.

The inside game for the Golden Grizzlies will see four players battling for playing time. Sixth-year senior Champagne leads the charge and will be followed by Martin, Sabourin and Kelly Williams.

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Jordan Sabourin

Champagne finished his junior season third on the team with his 12.5 points per game average and was second with his 4.9 rebounds per contest. He led the Golden Grizzlies with his .650 field goal percentage after hitting 139-214 from the field. Champagne played in all 28 games and started 23 of the games. His .650 shooting percentage last season ranks him fourth in OU's season record books and entering his final season he stands at ninth place all-time with 549 field goals made. Through the 2000-01 season he stands at first in the career record books with a .622 shooting percentage and his three-year scoring average of 15.4 per game ranks at ninth all time in the career record book. Champagne joined the prestigious 1,000 point club last season and stands 10th all-time at Oakland with 1,356 points scored in his career.

Martin is a junior transfer from Midland College in Midland, Texas. He is a native of Mexico City, Mexico, but played his final high school season at Detroit’s Southwestern High School. At Midland College, he averaged 10 points and eight rebounds per game and was named Best Defender in 2000-01. As a senior at SHS he scored 12 points and grabbed 10 rebounds per game.

Sabourin played his true freshman season last year for the Golden Grizzlies and scored 1.8 points and grabbed 2.8 rebounds per game. His top game was against Concordia when he scored a career-high 11 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Sabourin grabbed a career-high eight rebounds three times -- at UMKC, at Southern Utah and at home against UMKC.

The Golden Grizzlies have tough schedule before them that will prepare the 13 players for the Mid-Continent Conference tournament. Oakland will open the season November 16 with a re-match at the University of Michigan. The Golden Grizzlies recorded a 97-90 victory over the Wolverines in Rochester last year and seek to defend their bragging rights.

OU will also play in two tournaments this season – the University Hoops Classic in Moon Township, PA, November 23-25 and the Boilermaker Invitational in West Lafayette, IN, November 30-December 1. The Golden Grizzlies will open up play at the Hoops Classic against Pittsburgh November 23 and will face Akron November 30 at the Boilermaker Invite. The Hoops Classic also features host Robert Morris, Hofstra, South Florida, UC-Irvine, Illinois State and Kent, while the Boilermaker Invitational will see host Purdue, William & Mary, Akron and Oakland all vying for the tournament title.

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Alex Miller

The Golden Grizzlies will host four non-conference opponents throughout the season in St. Mary’s (11/20), Detroit (12/6), Toledo (12/27) and Western Michigan (12/29). Other road non-conference matchups include a trip to the Air Force Academy (12/8), a re-match with Wright State in Dayton, Ohio (12/11), a game at Ohio (12/15), a matchup at Michigan State (12/19) and a game at IPFW (1/28).

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Tim Fralick

The non-conference games on the schedule will prepare the Golden Grizzlies for the one chance to make a significant showing in the Mid-Con tournament.

"This may be the toughest schedule yet as a Division I program," Kampe said. "For us to accomplish our goal, we have to stay healthy in it and we may surprise some people. I’m looking forward to getting into our schedule and I know that our players are as well."

The Golden Grizzlies are ready. The manpower is in place. The team is experienced. The commitment is there. Now this team has one chance ... one chance.

"There is a closeness within this team and there is a commitment," Kampe said. "This team knows that the individual honors are not important. I think that they as a group understand it is all about what we accomplish as a team and are striving for that.

"This is a one chance thing and now we need to get to the NCAA tournament."

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