Golden Grizzlies Will Be Young, But Talented In 2002-03

In just three short seasons Oakland University has established itself as one of the best men’s basketball programs in the Mid-Continent Conference. With the building blocks firmly set in place, the Golden Grizzlies will be looking to build on that success with another solid campaign in 2002-03. Last season the Golden Grizzlies finished with a 17-13 record, 10-4 in Mid-Con play, in just their fourth season of Division I basketball to set a new school record as a Division I team for wins. OU tied for second in the regular season Mid-Con race after winning the regular season title in 2000-01.

Junior Mike Helms led Oakland in scoring in 2001-02 and was a first team All-Mid-Con selection.

Starting his 19th season at Oakland, head coach Greg Kampe has the most talented basketball team that he has ever had on the Oakland campus. But it is certainly a good news/bad news scenario at the start of the season for Kampe and his staff. The good news is that the Golden Grizzlies return one of the Mid-Con’s premiere players in junior Mike Helms, a first team All-Mid-Con selection last year. The bad news is that he is the only returning starter for OU, with the Nos. 2-5 leading scorers from last season gone. In fact, OU has only six returning players from last year’s roster compared to eight new faces on the team.

Despite the fact that Oakland must replace over 60 percent of its scoring and half of its rebounding from a year ago, Kampe is decidedly upbeat about the Golden Grizzlies chances for 2002-03. “This is the first year that we have had a full Division I team,” said Kampe. “All of the players on the roster were recruited as Division I players. Because of the success we have had as a Division I school so far, we have been able to recruit high quality players. We are very excited about the season and this group of kids that we have. The transition is officially over and we are just like everybody else now. This is a very talented team, we had a great recruiting class this past year.”

Oakland will build its squad around the talented Helms, who does his damage from the shooting guard position. After just two seasons at Oakland, he has already established himself as one of the top players in the conference. The Co-Newcomer of the Year as a freshman and a first team all-conference selection last year, Helms is just 133 points away from the 1,000-point plateau. He led the team in scoring with his 18.4 points per game average (second in the Mid-Con) and finished second on the team in steals (58) and assists (65). Despite standing at 6-0, he has the ability to get the ball to the basket, as evidenced by his going to the free throw line an impressive 217 times last season, where he scored 153 of his points.

Expected to join Helms in the backcourt will be sophomore Rawle Marshall. A transfer from Ball State, Marshall is an athletic player who is skilled with the basketball. He will be given a shot at the point guard position, where his 6-7 size should cause some match up problems with opposing teams. He appeared in 13 games as a freshman at Ball State, averaging 2.4 points a game.

Kyle Chapman is another transfer to the Golden Grizzly program, coming to OU from Division II Lemoyne College. A solid player at the Division II level, Chapman averaged in double figures in scoring in each of his seasons at Lemoyne, pouring in 16 points a game as a sophomore to go along with five rebounds and three assists per game. If he can make the adjustment to the Division I level, he could challenge for playing time right away.

A pair of players returns to the backcourt for the Golden Grizzlies that will give Oakland some solid experience at the guard position. Sophomore Ryan Hoover saw the most playing time of the two last season, seeing action in 12 games, averaging 1.6 points per game. After playing behind a pair of seniors last season, he has the chance to see significant action in 2002-03. Junior Alex Miller has been a role player his first two seasons with the Golden Grizzlies, playing in 10 games in each of his first two years. His experience will add valuable depth to the OU backcourt.

A pair of freshmen will round out the Oakland backcourt, John Floyd and Pierre Dukes. Dukes has already learned the OU system, spending last season at Oakland as a redshirt. A three-time all-state honorable mention pick, he averaged over 26 points, 11 rebounds and three assists as a senior at Grand Blanc High School in Michigan. Floyd is a hard-nosed player that will be looking to find playing time at point guard. A first team all-state player in Ohio, he averaged 18 points and six assists as a senior.

Junior Kelly Williams played in all 30 games last season for Oakland and finished fourth on the squad in total rebounds.

The heir apparent at the No. 3 position is junior Kelly Williams. A two-year letterwinner at OU, Williams played in all 30 games last season and is third among returning players in scoring from that squad, averaging 3.6 points a game. A solid rebounder, he has averaged 4.8 boards a game in his first two years with the Golden Grizzlies. He also has starting experience, having gotten the starting nod in 22 contests as a freshman.

The only senior on the team, Adrian Martin played some valuable minutes last season, playing in 27 games. A solid defender, he is expected to again play a significant role on the squad this season, especially in a leadership role.

A significant change for Oakland this season will be the size that they can put on the floor, especially in the froncourt where the Golden Grizzlies have the potential to field one of the biggest lineups in the Mid-Con. “We have tremendous size, which has always been our Achilles heel,” said Kampe. “We feel that with our size we can now defend and rebound the way we have to to achieve the goals that we want to achieve.”

Leading the way for Oakland in the Golden Grizzlies’ much larger front line is another of the team’s transfers, Cortney Scott. He has brought some high expectations with him from Iowa, where he played in every game as a freshman. He started two games for the Hawkeyes and averaged 2.5 points and 2.1 rebounds. With his 6-6, 260-lb. size he has the potential to be an impact player for the Golden Grizzlies in the frontcourt.

The player with the most experience up front, Jordan Sabourin returns for his junior season after playing in all 30 games last season, getting 14 starts. He enters the 2002-03 campaign as the Golden Grizzlies second leading returning scorer with his 4.0 average from a year ago. He has worked hard in the off season to improve his game and will be expected to shoulder more of the offensive load in 2002-03. Already a solid defensive player, he was among the leaders in Mid-Con with 18 blocked shots.

Junior Jordan Sabourin was among the Mid-Con leaders in blocked shots last season.

Adding to the Oakland size up front is a pair of newcomers to the program. Shawn Hopes comes to the Golden Grizzlies after earning all-state status at Detroit’s Cass Tech High School, where he averaged 20 points and 15 rebounds a game as a senior. Joining him up front is David Ritzema. At 6-10 he adds another large center to the Oakland arsenal. As a senior at Clarkston High School he averaged 15.9 points and 9.8 boards a game and was tabbed by Prep Spotlight as the most improved player in Michigan.

Oakland’s schedule, while not as tough as recent years, still will be a challenge for the Golden Grizzlies. Teams like Illinois, Texas A&M and Bowling Green are among the non-conference foes that will prepare Oakland for its run at a Mid-Con championship. “The schedule is much different than it’s been since we made the move to Division I,” said Kampe. “We have always tried to play as difficult a schedule as we can, but with a young team we have backed down on that a little bit. For the first time we have more home games than road games. I like our schedule, it gives us a chance to get some momentum to get started, which is something we have never had before.”

Despite all the shoes that there are to fill, Oakland’s 2002-03 season has the potential to be something of a breakthrough one for the Golden Grizzlies. It certainly has the coaching staff excited. “I have high expectations for the season,” said Kampe. “I don’t think too many people really know about us because we have so many young players. We have more talent here than I have had in my time at Oakland. We have all the tools in the toolbox, it is just a matter of whether we can build the houses.”

Golden Grizzlies Photo Galleries