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Inside look at high school and Oakland University sports from Oakland Press sports writer Dave Pemberton.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

OU ready for long road trip

Scheduling nine road games to start the season was never Oakland coach Greg Kampe’s intention, but as they say, ‘When opportunity knocks, you have to answer the door.’

The opportunity in this case was for Kampe to help out a couple of other college programs, while benefiting Oakland at the same time.

The Golden Grizzlies were originally scheduled to host Rochester College to open the season and play at Cleveland State on Dec. 16. But Syracuse asked Oakland to switch its two dates so it could played Cleveland State in December and offered to play Oakland again next season for making the switch. As a result the Golden Grizzlies open up the season at Cleveland State on Nov. 15 and host Rochester College on Dec. 14.

“I didn’t even realize it was nine in a row on the road until somebody said something to me after it was done because we made some changes late in it,” Kampe said at Oakland’s media day. “We were supposed to open at home against a non-DI (opponent), but we did somebody a favor and because we did a favor, we get Syracuse the next two years.

“We are going to make $200,000 playing Syracuse. That makes sense. And our players want to play Syracuse. It’s going to help us in recruiting. I think of all the games we play, the Syracuse game is the one they are excited the most about. Play in the Carrier Dome and play against a national program, and that’s considered one of the best there is.

“All of a sudden you look at that schedule and, ‘Wow, I didn’t realize there was nine in a row.’ But I’m the one that did it. Our non-league schedule for us, is to make us tough. That’s what we are trying to accomplish. We want to be tough because in our league, a one-bid league, it’s three days. And if you’re not tough, you’re not going to win.”

Kampe and his coaching staff always use Oakland’s tough non-conference schedule to help entice them. Potential recruits know if they come to Oakland they will get a chance to play some of the best teams in the country and have a chance to beat them.

Kampe’s current group of players look forward to testing themselves against the best because they can learn more from it than by beating an inferior opponent.

“A nine game road streak, you really find out the character of your team on a trip like that,” Oakland senior Derick Nelson said. “You see where you team is at. Everyone sees where everyone is mentally. Those nine games we will find out where we are at and how strong of a team we are. If we stick together through that, then we will have a good season.”

“Personally, I’m really excited to get out there on the road,” senior Dan Waterstradt said. “I’m tired of beating up on the same guys everyday. It will be fun to get out to Oregon and Cleveland State. It’s nine games in a row. It’s scary, but it’s a lot of fun. It breaks the monotony of everyday and going to class. We can get some pretty good Monopoly games going. I’m looking forward to it.”

Oakland’s non-conference schedule doesn’t get easier after the long road trip to start the season. The Grizzlies play their first two homes games against Toledo and Rochester College before heading to Green Bay on Dec. 18.

Then Oakland tests itself against three intrastate schools, facing off against Michigan at The Palace on Dec. 20, at Eastern Michigan on Dec. 22 and against Michigan State at The Palace on Dec. 27.

The Grizzlies played all three last year, dropping a close one at Michigan State, beating Eastern Michigan at home and suffering what Waterstradt called an “embarrassing” 103-87 loss at Michigan. Oakland is hoping to avenge those losses on a neutral floor this season.

“I think it’s really important to us, especially with what happened last year,” Waterstradt said. “Personally I’m really (ticked) off. We should have beat (Michigan State). We kind of let that slip through our fingers. That should have been the first win over a top 25 team and we should have picked up our second one around Christmas time.
“Even though those games are around Christmas this year, we are going to be extremely focused. Hopefully we can pick up two ‘Ws’ because last year we had a heartbreaker and one that was kind of embarrassing. We went to Michigan and took one on the chin.”

The Grizzlies are 1-4 all-time against Michigan and have never beaten the Spartans in six tries, a fact the Oakland players are well aware of.

“For our program it’s huge. We have never beaten Michigan State,” senior guard Erik Kangas said. “We’ve beaten Michigan and we’ve beaten Texas A&M and those schools. Michigan State is one that we really want.”



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