A look ahead at the Golden Grizzlies

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Photo courtesy of Oakland Athletics

With the portal closed, and the roster seemingly full, it is time to put another eventful spring for Oakland behind us, and look ahead at the roster built for the 2023-2024 season. In addition to the graduations of perennial All-League point guard Jalen Moore and double-digit scorer Keaton Hervey, the Golden Grizzlies also saw a few departures through the portal. Reserves Will Shepherd, Chuol Deng and Brody Parker were the most notable portal entries.

With those players seeing minimal playing time last season, the focus was on replacing Moore and Hervey, as well as adding more talent at all spots on the floor. When breaking down the roster by position group, it is clear that the Golden Grizzlies adding depth, shooting and size for next season was the overall focus. Here is the breakdown:

Point Guards: Tone Hunter, Michael Rogers

With the departure of Moore, there is an argument that this was priority number one for Oakland. The hole in the roster was quickly addressed early in the offseason, when Oakland snatched up Tone Hunter, a transfer from Long Beach State. Hunter averaged 7.3 points per game(ppg), 2.7 assists per game(apg) and 2.3 rebounds per game(rpg) in his only season out west, which included a 7 assist and 6 steal performance against Oakland back in November. The Las Vegas native is a product of Garden City Community College, a place where Oakland heavily recruited him out of, before going back out west. With a high turnover rate, and a 21% clip from three, there are some flaws to be figured out, but Hunter certainly appears to have the ability step in and play an effective point guard. Rogers recently commited out of Phoenix College, and will have two years left. Listed at 6’3 and 220 pounds, he will bring a level of size and physicality that Oakland hasn’t had at the position in a while. Combine those traits with his football background, the 23 year-old Harlem native may be an exciting watch on the Blacktop in the future.

Guards/Wings: Blake Lampman, Osei Price, Rocket Watts, Jack Gholke, Isaiah Jones, DQ Cole

The Golden Grizzlies ended last year with the worst 3-point percentage in the league, shooting only 29% in conference games from long range. This revamped roster will look to turn the shooting woes of the past few seasons around, and they may just have the talent. Blake Lampman enters his 5th season at Oakland, and will look to build off of his career year, when he averaged 10ppg while adding 1.9 steals per game. He ended the year shooting only 31.5% from three, but should be able to up that this year as he was clearly hampered by a knee injury down the stretch. He should be able to return at 100% next year.

Osei Price and Rocket Watts return next year as well. It was a bit of a dissapointing campaign for both last year, and they will look to step up next year. Watts, the former highly-touted recruit who made an All-Freshman team in the Big Ten, can hopefully find a little more efficiency next year, while continuing his defensive prowess. Price will look to take the step up that he was hoping for from his freshman year, where he shot 40% from three.

As for the newcomers, it is clear their shooting is what brought them to Rochester Hills. Jack Gholke is a 5th year guy who is transferring from D2 Hillsdale, where he averaged 14.2ppg and shot 40% from long range on over 8 attempts per game. Gholke is smart, and is able to get off threes in a mulitude of different ways, which should excite Golden Grizzly fans.

Another guy to watch is DQ Cole, a juco product from local Henry Ford College. He was an All-American at the D2 level, and shot 39% from three on almost 9 attempts per game. Listed at 6’5, he has great size for his position, and also is equipped with ability to shoot some long range threes. The lefty should be an exciting player to watch.

Isaiah Jones is a portal addition, who made headlines for transferring from Oakland arch rival Detroit-Mercy. Jones ended his freshman campaign averaging 2.3ppg. The 6’8 Nashville native provides really good size, and has traits that would excite alot of mid major programs. He showed his potential in December of last season where had a 17 point performance at Cleveland State. Jones was 5-10 from three that game.

Wings/Bigs: Trey Townsend, Chris Conway, Buru Naivalurua, Aundre Polk, Cooper Craggs

Depth as a whole has been an issue for recent Oakland teams, and the frontcourt has been no exception. However, the stars on the frontline have shone bright, and Trey Townsend promises to have another huge year. Heading into his fourth year, Townsend is coming off of a 2nd team All-League campaign where he averaged 16.5ppg and 7.6rpg, had seven double doubles and three 30 point performances. Townsend is a good bet to be penciled onto the preseason 1st team in the league, and should have a monster season.

Along with Townsend, Chris Conway also returns for his fourth season. The 6’9 big man has started 31 games over the past two seasons, but has always had somewhat of a limited role. During stretches last season, Conway looked like a real factor, scoring in double-digits four times in conference play. He could be primed for more of a consistent leap heading into next year.

Buru Naivalurua and Aundre Polk arrive from Garden City Community College as highly touted juco prospects. Naivalurua was a 2nd team D1 All-American, and should provide plenty of highlight plays with his athleticism at 6’8. Polk began his college career at Central Michigan before going Juco, and made the All-Freshman team in the Mac. Injuries are apart of the story however, and it will be interesting to see if the 6’11 big guy can stay healthy enough to be a force for the Golden Grizzlies.

Cooper Craggs, a redshirt on last years team, returns this year looking to make an impact. The Detroit Catholic Central great is looking for a big offseason that leads to a spot in the rotation.

Walk-Ons: Evan Solomon, Zavier Banks

Evan Solomon is back after redshirting last year. The guard will look to grind out a role in practice in preparation for his first game action next year. Zavier Banks is the only Freshman on the roster currently, coming way of U-D Jesuit High School. Banks has good length at 6’6, and will look to follow the path of the two veterans on the roster by following the walk-on to starter path.

The roster as a whole features tons of experience, likely in hopes of more depth to get through the year. The shooting additions, as well as greater contributions by some of the bench could lead to big things for the Golden Grizzlies next season, and it will be exciting to watch it play out. Bring on November!

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