Oakland Grizzlies 2010 NCAA Mens Basketball Preview

By Joel Welser


<?xml:namespace prefix = st1 />Oakland Grizzlies

Summit League


2009-10: 26-9, 17-1

2009-10 postseason: NCAA

Coach: Greg Kampe (192-175 at Oakland, 192-175 overall)


Oakland cruised through the Summit League with an impressive 17-1 record. Things may not be as easy this time around without point guard Johnathon Jones and athletic forward Derek Nelson, but Coach Greg Kampe returns enough talent to repeat as conference champions.


Key Losses: G Johnathon Jones, F Derek Nelson


Key Newcomers:

Reggie Hamilton spent the better part of two seasons at Summit League rival UMKC before transferring to Oakland. During his sophomore campaign Hamilton averaged 12.0 points and 3.4 assists before opting to leave the Kangaroos. Hamilton is not really a true point guard since he can be such a prolific scorer, but that is exactly what Oakland lost in Jones. Incoming freshman Ryan Bass could also spend a little time at the point and redshirt freshman Travis Bader will add even more depth on the perimeter. The frontcourt hopes Kyle Sikora and Corey Petros can develop into productive post players, but neither should be asked to contribute much this season.



Without Jones and Nelson, the returning players in the backcourt need to step up their scoring production. Larry Wright is the obvious candidate after starting 34 games last season. Wright averaged 11.0 points per game last year and is a solid all-around scorer. If his outside shot starts falling a little more consistently, he could easily average 15 to 18 points per contest. If Wright is not hitting the outside shot, Blake Cushingberry better be. Cushingberry has mostly been used as a shooter off the bench, but the 6-3 senior could crack the starting lineup. Ledrick Eackles and Drew Maynard will be vying for a starting gig as well. Eackles, a 6-1 sophomore, was a very productive sixth man during his freshman campaign and ranked fifth on the squad with 6.1 points per game. Maynard has more starting experience, but until his shot starts falling he may see his minutes decrease.



It is in the frontcourt where Oakland will really shine. Keith Benson has developed into a superstar center and led the Grizzlies with 17.3 points, 10.5 rebounds and 3.3 blocks during his junior campaign. The opposition will almost always clog the paint and try to stop Benson, but there is not much that most defenses can do. While Benson gets the glory, fellow senior Will Hudson does the dirty work in the paint. Hudson does his best work on the offensive glass and that is where most of his scoring comes from. But as long as Hudson is distracting the defense enough to allow Benson to score 20 points per game, he is doing more than enough for Oakland.


Who to Watch:

The key to this team may end up being the depth in the frontcourt. Last season Nelson could spend some time at the four spot, but somebody has to give Benson and Hudson a break. Drew Valentine is too undersized to play the four spot and he only averaged 7.2 minutes per game last season anyway. That leaves Ilija Milutinovic. The seven foot senior averaged even less playing time than Valentine, but at least he has the size to eat up some fouls and grab some rebounds.


Final Projection:

The good news about the depth in the frontcourt is the fact that Benson rarely gets into foul trouble. He averaged over 31 minutes per game last year and that is quite impressive for a 6-11, 225 pound center. But Benson and Hudson cannot be on the floor all the time and the newcomers better be ready to contribute a few minutes here and there. That should not be much of a problem and Oakland could be dancing again as long as Hamilton is ready to run the point and find the scorers on the wings and under the basket.


Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA


Projected Starting Five:

Reggie Hamilton, Junior, Guard, DNP last season

Larry Wright, Senior, Guard, 11.0 ppg

Blake Cushingberry, Junior, Guard, 4.7 ppg

Will Hudson, Senior, Forward, 6.0 ppg

Keith Benson, Senior, Center, 17.3 ppg