Grizz Madness brings excitement for basketball season

Michael Pearce, Editor-In-Chief

The Grizz Gang will be charged with energy as Athletics will hold the annual Grizz Madness event on Friday, Oct. 5 at 8 p.m. Grizz Madness takes place just weeks before the start of basketball season, where the men’s and women’s teams will be vying for the Horizon League title once again.

“It’s always a cool event whenever the students come out,” Greg Kampe, head coach of men’s basketball said. “All of our teams come out and get introduced. It’s kind of focused on the beginning of basketball season, but all the teams come out. I’m looking forward to it.”

Men’s basketball

The season begins on Wednesday, Oct. 24 for the men against Hillsdale College in the O’Rena. The men’s team is coming off a season where they placed fourth in the Horizon League and lost in the tournament semifinals to Cleveland State University, 44-43.

This team is going to be on the younger side, as they saw four key players—Kendrick Nunn, Jalen Hayes, Martez Walker and Nick Daniels—graduate last year. Those four made up a vast majority of the team’s offense, so it will be interesting to see where the points come from this season without those big scorers being present anymore.

“We know we have a lot of good players,” Kampe said. “There are a lot of good players who have to take off the ‘Robin Cape’ and put on the ‘Batman Cape,’ and we have a lot of really good young players.”

Point guard Brailen Neely is the only player to return who received consistent minutes last season, as center Isaiah Brock transferred to Grand Valley State University over the summer. Neely started in 15 games before missing the final quarter of the season due to injury. Despite missing the end of the season, Neely recorded the most assists of any player on the team.

The men’s team kicks off Horizon League play on Friday, Dec. 28 against the team that ended their 2017-18 season, the Cleveland State Vikings.

Women’s basketball

The women begin their season a few weeks after the men, on Tuesday, Nov. 6 against Grace Christian University. They have multiple matchups against Big 10 teams this season, as they host University of Indiana, Michigan State University and the University of Michigan.

“It’s exciting to have those teams come to our place,” said Jeff Tungate, head coach of women’s basketball. “We’re hoping the students and fans are excited and want to support those types of matchups. If we get good crowds for those games, we want to continue to play those games every year.”

Last season was tough for the women, finishing 15-16 overall and 7-11 in the Horizon League. They entered the Horizon League tournament as the 7th seed and advanced to the quarterfinals where they lost to Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

Key losses for the women include multiple starters, just like the men’s team lost. The women retain Chloe Guingrich and Taylor Jones, who logged solid minutes last year, but lost their scoring, rebounding and assists leaders from the 2017-18 season.

Losing players like Taylor Gleason, Leah Somerfield and Sha’Keya Graves leaves opportunity for Guingrich and Jones to step up and become leaders.

“Taylor Jones has done a really good job in leading this summer,” Tungate said. “With her being a senior we need her to step up and take on a leadership role for us, and so far she has done a really good job of that.”

After losing many starters across both teams, the men’s and women’s basketball teams will be much different than last year, where seniors led the way. Combined, both of these teams only have four seniors and one graduate student. It will be an interesting season for the basketball programs at Oakland, as fans will be getting to know many new faces.