Titanic: men’s basketball squares away for massive Friday home game against UDM

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Titanic: men’s basketball squares away for massive Friday home game against UDM

Oakland preps for massive Friday home game against UDM at 9 p.m.

Oakland preps for massive Friday home game against UDM at 9 p.m.

Oakland preps for massive Friday home game against UDM at 9 p.m.

Oakland preps for massive Friday home game against UDM at 9 p.m.

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Their practice uniforms were cast in black and white, no gold to be found. On this particular Wednesday, Oakland men’s basketball scampered on the Blacktop at the O’rena with gusto.

Martez Walker propelled out of bounds with such force he might have continued right out the southeast exit. Femi Olujobi found himself on the floor twice.

The Golden Grizzlies kept quiet on a water break, letting the hum of ventilation nearly take over the high-ceilinged soundscape, which then filled with frantic shouts as Team 49 ran plays. Brad Brechting commanded the ear with his easily audible rasp.

Head coach Greg Kampe walked among the players, who towered over him. Without 3,000 voices and the pep band to beat, and apparently losing his voice, he spoke softly. Smiled with a strain. Free from the bursting passion of game time, he’d shrunk.

The scene looked quaint for what follows on Friday: There will be war in the O’rena at 9 p.m.

If the Golden Grizzlies win, they clinch the No. 2 seed in the Horizon League Tournament (which runs March 5-8), netting a double bye, a trip straight to the semifinals. If they lose and Wright State wins on Thursday, Feb. 25, Oakland will have to play four in a row to win the league tournament.

Up to 16 NBA scouts and assistant general managers will attend Friday’s game. The O’rena has received so many media requests that the usual press seating is filled, necessitating a couple of extra tables.

Plus, Detroit is coming to town. The Metro Series adds a little heat.

Percy Gibson is a senior and Friday is senior night, his and Max Hooper’s final game in the O’rena.

Gibson, a transfer from Iowa State, has only been an eligible Golden Grizzly for one year, but that doesn’t necessarily negate the pain of departure. He’s from Detroit, went to Southeastern High. He knows some fans, who’ve watched him play throughout the years. Some even checked up on him at Iowa State.

Oakland won a close one on Sunday at Univeristy of Illinois at Chicago, but this Friday, Gibson wants Oakland to dominate, to “make a statement.”

“We’re definitely ready to play,” he said.

Max Hooper seems to share that sentiment.

“I’d rather have a lot on the line, rather than having the seedings already established,” he said. “I want it to be a heated game. It is, every time we play Detroit. It’ll be a packed house. … If you can’t get hyped for this game, then you really are not built for college basketball.”

Hooper said Kampe considers Metro Series games important regardless of what else is at stake. And of course, there is a bit.

“I’m excited to play every game,” Hooper said. “I’m just going to play the way I’ve played the whole season.” That is, shooting 44 percent behind the arc.

But he reflected a question of his personal legacy with this:

“I want Team 49 to be the best Oakland team in history, which we still have a chance to do. … That’s how I want to be remembered. And I want to be the team that after this drought of four years that got Oakland back to the tournament. That’s how I want to be remembered.”

Oakland plays its final game of the regular season (with their potential No. 2 seed at the Horizon League Tournament on the line) against Detroit at 9 p.m. ET on Friday, Feb. 26 in the O’rena. It’s a Gold Out with free gold poms and shirts, and also senior night for the basketball players. Watch on ESPNU or ESPN3 and listen on WDFN-AM (1130).