Women’s basketball comes home Nov. 13

The team that lost in the first round of the Horizon League Tournament last season has big plans to go further this year.

This will be Jeff Tungate’s third season as head coach of the women’s basketball team and 10th season total coaching at Oakland.

“I think this year we have a lot more depth than we’ve had in years past and our skill level has improved each year,” Tungate said.

Green Bay has won a league title 17 years in a row and they are the team to beat, according to Tungate

The Golden Grizzlies lost graduates Zakiya Minifee, Peyton Apsey and Amy Carlton this season, although Carlton will return as a graduate manager. 

Leading Oakland will be captains redshirt junior Sinclair Russell and senior Elena Popkey.

“I’ll always go the extra mile. I always believed that actions speak louder than words,” Popkey said.

Also returning for the Grizzlies is Olivia Nash, who was the team’s top-scoring player and was one point shy of hitting the 1,000 career points mark last season.

“I think she will get there pretty quick, which will be a great honor for her because she really deserves it,” Tungate said.

 Russell was the only player last season to make an all-league team. Tungate thinks she has the potential to be an all-conference player again this year.

“She’s one of the best defenders in the league,” he said. 

The team welcomed seven new players this season — three freshmen and four transfers. 

Taylor Jones, Nikita Telesford and Jessica Rotzoll are the freshmen members of the team and each is notable for various reasons. 

Jones is a player that has the tools to be a freshman of the year candidate in the Horizon League, according to Tungate.

He added that this year’s transfers are going to fit in very well with the team.

Sha’keya Graves came to Oakland this season from DePaul University where she played in 34 games over two seasons. 

She will sit out this season because of transfer rules.

“She played for one of the best coaches in the country, so she knows what it takes to compete at a high level and what it takes to win championships,” Tungate said.

Hannah Little, another transfer from St. Bonaventure, was named Atlantic 10 Sixth Woman of the Year during her sophomore campaign. She also set single-season record for rebounds with 328. She too will be sitting.

Tungate mentioned that Little is one of the best rebounders he has ever seen.

Gleason, a transfer from Illinois, was runner-up for Miss Basketball in 2013 and the No. 2 ranked player in the state coming out of high school. 

As of now she will be sitting, but Tungate is filing an appeal with the NCAA to see if there’s a possibility of getting her a chance to play immediately.

The fourth transfer is Nicole Dodd from Vincennes University, who was an NJCAA All-American second team selection in 2015. 

Dodd averaged 16.6 points and 5.5 rebounds per game in her final season and ranked top in the NJCAA in free-throw percentage and 23rd in 3-point field goal percentage. 

Her 2014-15 jersey was hung in the women’s basketball hall of fame at Vincennes University. 

Dodd is the only transfer who will play at the start of the season. 

“She can shoot the basketball. She’s here for one reason and that’s to shoot the 3-point shot,” Tungate said.

Other returners for Oakland are Korrin Taylor, Nola Anderson, Leah Somerfield  and Beth Mahurin. Redshirt freshmanf, Rio Dudgeon and Sidney Santos will also be coming back.

“Our team is really unified this year. It’s a joy being in the gym together  working hard on our goals,” Popkey said. 

“My number one goal is to get Sidney Santos an assist. She’s been injured for awhile and deserves to get a couple minutes in.”

The Golden Grizzlies will host Michigan State Dec. 13 at home for the first time since 2012. 

“It will be good for our fans to have a chance to see a school like that here. It will probably be one of our largest crowds of the season,” Tungate said.

Nov. 11 is the home opener against UM-Dearborn. Two thousand local elementary school kids will be in attendance for kid’s day, the first of the 11 themed games.

“It should be very loud and a great way to start the season.”