Opinion: Greg Kampe’s rebuild may be further along than we realize

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Oakland Post Archives | Sam Summers

Men’s basketball head coach Greg Kampe.

Matthew Scheidel, Sports Editor

When the Oakland University men’s basketball team started the season 0-9, many people just saw it as the growing pains of a rebuild.

After all, that is how Head Coach Greg Kampe described this season several times throughout the year.

“This was a total rebuild,” Kampe said back in February. “We mucked it all up a year ago, and we completely opened up the roster. We said that when [Braden] Norris and [Jaevin] Cumberland left we tried to put a bandaid on it and it didn’t work, and we tried to put a bandaid on it because we had Xavier [Hill-Mais] and Brad [Brechting] and Tray Maddox and we thought we could still find a way to win.”

Then the Golden Grizzlies won 12 of their last 20 games, going on to reach the Horizon League Championship game, where they fell 80-69 to the Cleveland State Vikings. It was the first time they reached the Horizon League Championship game since joining the conference in 2013.

Had they won, they would have made their first NCAA Tournament since 2011. That’s right, this team, which is considered to be rebuilding, nearly made the big dance.

Not bad considering this team also lost their first nine games. Maybe this rebuild is further along than we realize.

How was Kampe able to do it? Well, arguably the biggest factor in the speed of this rebuild was the transfer portal. For all of the talent this program has lost to the portal over the years, they sure have gained a lot as well.

The first big addition was forward Daniel Oladapo, who transferred to Oakland in the spring of 2019. He played a pivotal role in the team’s Horizon League tournament run.

The next addition was guard Rashad Williams from Cleveland State, who was ruled eligible to play by the NCAA in January 2020. He was and still is known for his shooting ability.

But arguably Kampe’s best find in the transfer portal was point guard Jalen Moore, who was a junior college transfer from Olney Central College. Moore broke out this past season, becoming the point guard Kampe was looking for.

“I have a weird relationship with my point guards,” Kampe said back in January. “I’m very hard on them, but they get the keys to the car. It’s a bumpy road when you’re first in that position and [Moore is] navigating that bumpy road pretty well. There’s still a lot to learn — a lot for him to get better at — and I really firmly believe he will.”

That’s not to mention last year’s recruiting class — Micah Parrish and Trey Townsend both were named Horizon League freshman of the week twice this season. Freshman forward Chris Conway is 6-foot-10. There’s a lot to be excited about.

The craziest part about all of this? Most of this team will be back next year.

The only senior on the team is guard Kevin Kangu, who just entered the transfer portal to take advantage of his extra year of eligibility.

Next year this team will be more experienced and have more chemistry. One year from now, there’s no reason to believe Kampe won’t have this team right back in the same position they were last week.

And who knows, maybe this time, they’ll finish the job.