Basketball kicks off with breakfast

Annual Tip-Off Breakfast welcomes season

Sam Schlenner, Sports Editor

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A three-year, six-figure deal with Campus Den to be the official merchandise provider of Golden Grizzly Athletics was one of the topics applauded at the annual men’s and women’s basketball Tip-Off Breakfast in the O’rena the morning of Thursday, Oct. 27.

The gathering took the form of a television talk show, with Neal Ruhl, voice of the Golden Grizzlies, as host.

Jeff Konya, director of athletics, said there were two parts to his mic time: the “brag” part and the “swag” part.

“Our men’s basketball GPA last year was in the top 10 in the country,” Konya said. “In the entire student-athlete population, we’ve had 20 [straight-]semesters of our student athletes being over a 3.0 GPA.”

The success wasn’t just academic, with Oakland teams winning 13 Horizon League championships out of 40 total in the last two years of competition, according to Konya. The Golden Grizzlies have been runner-up seven of those 40 times.

“Half of our teams are competing for championships in any given time in the Horizon League,” Konya said. “We should be at 10 percent; we’re at 50 percent.”

So to celebrate the trophies, the Nov. 14 men’s basketball game vs. Western Michigan will commemorate the champions.

The “swag” part of his talk was the deal with Campus Den.

“They want to expand to close to 40 stores within the next two to three years,” Konya said. “They are opening a brand-new Campus Den with a Oakland-prominent section over in the Village of Rochester Hills.”

The store will be open within two weeks. The online store at GoldenGrizzlies.com is expected to be revamped within 45 days, according to a Golden Grizzlies press release.

“We also have a sister company that’s a manufacturer, so we’re able to do a lot of unique design concepts for the team,” said John Damoth, co-owner of Campus Den. “In a nutshell, it just kind of fell in place for both parties.”

Ruhl reminded the attendants that the O’rena will nationally televise five men’s basketball home games on ESPN2 and ESPNU, which start with the Jan. 6 game against Valparaiso. There will be 18 home games in total for men’s basketball, the most ever in a season. Konya made it seem like this was hard to swing.

“For this to work, for us to be able to accomplish this in the future, we better have full attendance for each one of those games,” Konya said. “And if there’s not full attendance, I can surely tell this group and anybody who wants to quarrel with me, this will never happen again at Oakland University.”

Oakland head coach Greg Kampe — who started at Oakland in 1984, when he said 33 people came to his first basketball game — said the 18 home games and the deal with Campus Den is “huge.”

For the Nov. 11 game against Bowling Green, Team 1 — the first Oakland men’s basketball team — will be brought out and honored on the court the same evening that Team 50 will make its regular-season debut.

“Going back and seeing where it started and hearing those stories . . . I think that’ll be one of those ah-ha moments,” Konya said. “In the next 50 years, when we’re celebrating Team 100, I can’t imagine what this place is going to look like.”

Kampe said he wants to pay tribute to the legacy — more than half of which he has spent as head coach — but that he isn’t confronted with the years past every time he walks into the O’rena.

“It all kind of runs together because you’re so focused on the here and now and moving forward,” Kampe said. “But there’ll be a day that I sit back and I think about it.”

Jeff Tungate, head coach of women’s basketball, said he’s got a fun team this year.

“From a coaching standpoint, I’ve been able to be a lot more laid-back at practice this year,” he said.

Sophomore guard Taylor Jones agreed.

“It’s a different atmosphere and what not, but I’m excited,” she said.

Tungate said the season is full of individual aspirations.

“The pressure is to make sure our team accomplishes what they want,” he said. “We have such a special group of players, and I want to make sure that they accomplish their goals and their dreams. If we can do that, then everybody that’s here at the breakfast is going to benefit from that as well.”

Tungate, who took over the head coaching position for the 2013-2014 season, is getting into the groove.

“It’s been a real learning process,” Tungate said. “This team is kind of what I envisioned when I took over the program.”

Konya doesn’t have much doubt.

“We’re excited,” Konya said. “We think we’re going to have a really competitive women’s basketball program this year.”

The women’s team kicks off the regular season at home vs. Michigan at 6:30 p.m. ET on Friday, Nov. 11. The men play an exhibition game against Grand Valley at 7 p.m. ET on Monday, Nov. 7.