Oakland Golden Grizzlies 2022-23 Season Preview

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Back in July, we put out a prequel to the Oakland 2022-2023 season. If you didn’t read it then (Oh come on, just do it! It’s right here: https://horizoneroundtable.com/2022/07/20/have-to-win-the-portal/ ) the Oakland season this year will come down to one main point: Did they win the portal?

Oakland will be relying on a slew of transfers this season that they will need to pick up not only minutes, but production that will be missing with the departures of Jamal Cain to the NBA and Micah Parrish to San Diego State University. To fill those spots, Greg Kampe and staff went back to a formula that has worked well in the past including last year with Cain. He is bringing in high major players that are ready to come “home.” With a focus on players he has built a previous connection with, he is looking to fill the holes around Jalen Moore and bring a long overdue Horizon League Tournament to the Golden Grizzly faithful.

There will be one big question mark going into this season that Kampe was not able to answer: Who is going to be in the middle and grab rebounds for this team?

With the departure of the double digit rebounder Cain and a lack of size on the roster, this will be an area teams are going to look to exploit. For the coaching staff, this is no secret. Their tallest player is Chris Conway at 6’9″ who started last year but averaged only 7 minutes per game. He has shown an offensive skillset around the basket, but through two seasons has not shown to be a strong rebounder and has been a defensive liability in the paint. This has combined into low minutes and Oakland often playing small in the paint. Last year Cain and 3rd year sophmore Trey Townsend were able to help overcome some of the lack of size with their athleticism but the departure of Cain leaves a very big hole.

The biggest way Oakland will look to overcome the expected height difference in matchups? They are going to look to outrun their opponents in a style Oakland was known for for many years. If the other team’s bigs can’t keep up with Oakland’s speed, they’re going to have to match up with them with smaller, quicker players.

Joining senior standout point guard Jalen Moore on the blacktop in the backcourt this season in their return “home” will be Rocket Watts, transferring from Mississippi State by way of Michigan State and originally from Detroit, as well as Lorne Bowman who enters the Orena having previously been at Wisconsin as a freshman, a product of nearby Pontiac. The two additional high major guards bring experience and talent to the backcourt. They also bring a level of depth that Oakland does not often have. While Moore will still likely play 30-35 minutes a game, there’s a real chance this year to give him a break and still have the ball in capable hands. Moore has been out for a chunk of the summer with an injury to his right hand/wrist that has put him in a cast meaning there has likely been some additional time for someone not Moore to run the point a bit while he heals. While you never want to see your star injured, it was as good of a time as any and hopefully a blessing in disguise to further push Oakland’s guard depth for the season.

Along with those three, Oakland continues to have a bit of a logjam in the backcourt adding in sophomore Osei Price who had a very solid freshman campaign along with fourth-year junior Blake Lampman. You can expect that those two will see the floor a lot and compete for minutes. Lampman is a player that cannot be left open behind the 3-point line but may be the poison team’s pick, while Price showed great defensive energy along with the ability to score efficiently when asked. With an increased role, he could continue to put up increased numbers.

While still not much bigger than the guards, you can look for graduate transfer Keaton Hervey and transfer Chuol Deng to join Townsend, Conway and sophomore Will Shepard to try and fill the paint and grab some rebounds. Although only 6-6 and originally projected as a wing, Townsend will likely spend a lot of time trying to out athlete the opposing team’s big. Hervey is another excellent athlete coming to Oakland out of the Missouri Valley Conference. Kampe had tried to recruit him a few years ago but he chose Missouri State at the time. Deng is a bit of an unknown still, a Junior College transfer originally from South Sudan. With Oakland looking to run, a steady diet of all of them may be the key to overcoming the height disadvantage.

Oakland has won in the past with this recipe. They have shown the last few years a quirky zone defense that has had some success but slowed down the offense. Looking to push it now and get games back into the 90s will be entertaining at the least, and possibly wildly successful. Kampe has been around for a long time and is a known tactician. He will find ways to make this roster work. With one of the top point guards in the entire country teaming up with firepower from all spots on the floor, this is a team you will want to take the over if you’re into gambling. They’re going to fly around the court and put the ball in the hoop a lot. Will they be able to keep anyone from doing the same to them? That’s what the season will come down to. In an 89-90 game, up one with 3 seconds left and the ball in the opponents hands, can they make a stop?

Lineup

Jalen Moore – A Horizon League Player of the Year candidate. Look for him to lead the nation in assists this year with the added firepower and uptempo offense. His return for one more year was a big moment for Oakland. Will need to show he is healthy and can stay healthy before taking a very nice payday professionally next year.

Rocket Watts – Is home to prove he is every bit of the 4 star recruit and 33rd player in the ESPN top 100 class of 2019. He is a prolific scorer that is now going to be in an offense that asks him to display that skill and get his. Coming off hip surgery last year, needs a couple years of being healthy and showing his skills to get to the professional career expected.

Keaton Hervey – With one more year of college basketball eligibility, Hervey is looking to follow in the footsteps of Jamal Cain. Can he put together a year at Oakland to get scouts to notice him? Oakland has many pros overseas and Hervey is here to prove he can make money playing this game.

Trey Townsend – Nobody signifies Oakland University more than Townsend. With two parents who are a product of the Oakland basketball programs and brother on the soccer team, he is everything you want in someone to represent the school. Last year after the shooting in his hometown of Oxford, Trey was well spoken and composed when asked to address the crowd before the Michigan State game. He is a leader on and off the floor for this team and will be a factor in the heart and competitive spirit the team shows.

Chris Conway – The player Oakland most needs to make a big jump forward in their development. If he can show more on the defensive side of the ball as well as a tenacity for rebounds, this Oakland team will be set up for success. If he is still the player we have seen in his first two seasons, it will leave Oakland lacking size in the paint. While he will start, it will be a question of how much he stays on the floor.

Key Reserves

Blake Lampman – A leader of this team, expect Blake to have the green light from 3. When teams focus on keeping Jalen Moore and Rocket Watts from getting to the bucket, look for him to be left with a solid look. Shooters make shots. If Lampman is the shooter in a game that he consistently shows the ability to be in practice, he can put up 20 points a game and help spread the floor.

Osei Price – Price showed that he can do a little of everything as a freshman. Look for an increased role offensively while being asked to guard the other teams best guard or wing. If Oakland uses the zone defense he will often be at the top of it. Price may not fill the stat sheet every night but he is capable of it when asked to and does a little bit of everything for OU.

Will Shepard – Was the freshmen you just couldn’t help but root for last year. Was a bit of a chicken with his head cut off at times as he adjusted to the speed of the college game, you can expect a well adjusted player on the court this year. A second year with the team will show him spending more time in the paint as they need him to but also bringing consistent shooting from 3, helping to keep the paint open for the guards to drive.

Lorne Bowman – Bowman played in 22 games for Wisconsin last year before ending his season to transfer. While he didn’t fill the stat sheet in that time, he also wasn’t asked to. A very capable player, you can expect him to help take some of the pressure off Jalen Moore at the point as well as knock down shots when the two of them are on the floor together. Likely the future PG, he will have a year to develop and get comfortable in the Oakland system without all the pressure all the time.

Darius Sherman – Will Sherman make an impact on Oakland’s season this year? Probably not. Will he get some minutes this season? Hopefully. Is he worth getting to games early to see his pregame dunk work? ABSOLUTELY. This guy is worth the price of admission as he puts on a show as he flies through the air. Only hope we get a chance to see his work in an actual game at some point.

Outlook

This Oakland team, like every season for them since joining the Horizon League, will be competitive. They are going to challenge themselves in the non-conference games including Oklahoma State at home after beating them last year in Stillwater and a slew of tough games on the road including Michigan State and Syracuse. When they get to the league slate, they will know who they are and how they want to attack the league. They have more depth than usual, but Kampe has not been known to play very deep in the past. Will they find the combination of skill, size and game plan? They had specific pieces they went looking for in the portal and got all but a big. Will that be enough?

Look for Oakland in the top 3 of the league and don’t be shocked if this is the year they put it all together. And please, if you’re into responsible gambling, take the over.

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