Blake Cushingberry bounces back

When he took his first shot 18 seconds into the game against Spring Arbor, junior Blake Cushingberry didn’t expect to miss that bad.

“The first shot was not the shot I had hoped for,” said Cushingberry, Oakland University men’s basketball guard. “It kind of looked like an airball.”

Less than a minute later, Cushingberry redeemed himself and nailed a three point shot, helping the team torch Spring Arbor 94-55.

“The first game back was a lot of excitement and jitters,” he said. “It felt kind of like being a freshman again — coming back after a year — but as a freshman, if I had taken that shot before, I would have not came back and stepped up and knocked down the next three. It felt good to be back on the floor and playing again with my teammates.”

After missing a year due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament, located in the knee, which he suffered last year during practice, Cushingberry is looking to add another piece to Oakland’s team as they make a run towards another Summit League Championship and NCAA Tournament bid.

Cushingberry, a 6-foot-3 guard, was a key part of the Oakland championship team in 2010 when he played in all 35 games and stepped up in the Summitt League tournament.

“We lost a veteran who had been part of a championship team, that had been under the gun late in games, (who) knew what it was like to make a mistake, knew what he had to do to compete,” Greg Kampe, Oakland head coach said of Cushingberry. “So we lost that piece of the ingredient, that leadership piece that you need when things get tough.”

Kampe expects Cushingberry to step into a bigger role for the team this year as a leader.

“He’s a kid who we expect to play major minutes for us and he needs to bring all the

qualities back that he has that we (have) lost,” Kampe said. “We need the ability to make a big play at crunch time, the ability to understand the game and keep it in slow motion so you can make big plays when it counts, the been-there-done-that type of attitude.”

Cushingberry began his rehabilitation and spent a full year building back strength in the surrounding muscles of his knee.

“Every day before I’d come out to practice, it was a 45 minute run in the pool,” he said. “I’d sit and do rubberband resistance with our head trainer and then after that, I’d come out and do a lot of things to build my muscle mass back up in my quad, like leg extensions and leg holds.”

As he continues to work back to 100 percent, Cushingberry has high expectations for the upcoming season.

“I will not settle for anything less than what we did last year,” he said.

Cushingberry and Oakland men’s basketball team will continue their four-game road trip Wednesday at Arkansas at 8 p.m.