Oakland forward Tommy McCune could have quit on basketball a number of different times over the course of his life, but the former West Virginia transfer has remained tough through all of the battles as he goes into this season with a particularly heavy heart.
In a tremendous read from Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press, McCune goes through the relationship he had with his mother, who passed away this offseason after a battle with cancer. McCune dealt with a lot of hardship during his childhood in Saginaw, Michigan and relied a lot on his mother to guide him through the difficult times.
But as Snyder details in the story, McCune is moving on and finding success despite the loss of the person that meant the most to him. Without spoiling too much of the story, I encourage you to give this a read and see how strong McCune is as a person by staying in school and with the Oakland program.
Oakland landed another high-major transfer late this week when former Iowa State big man Percy Gibson opted to transfer to the Grizzlies, according to his Twitter.
A native of Detroit, Gibson is moving closer to home as the rising-senior played in 14 games in 2013-14 and averaged 1.2 points and 1.4 rebounds. The forward played his high school ball at Detroit Southeastern High School.
The 6-foot-9, 255-pound forward averaged double-figure minutes during his freshman and sophomore seasons in Ames, but saw his minutes decline last season as he looks to finish out his career in the Horizon League.
Oakland struggled to a 13-20 season and 7-9 finish in the Horizon League last season as Greg Kampe’s ballclub didn’t make a major impact in their new league despite having college basketball’s all-time leading three-point shooter in Travis Bader.
Bader has graduated and moved on and now Kampe will need to figure out a new go-to scorer for next season.
Can you feel it in the air? I know Marquette can. They lost one of the wilder games you’ll ever see, dropping a double-overtime game to Providence that featured clutch shots, dumb fouls and a 75-foot buzzer-beater that didn’t actually beat any buzzers.
That wasn’t the wackiest finish of the night, however.
Lipscomb and East Tennessee State went to double-overtime as well. Khion Sankey, who forced the second extra frame with a three with 17 seconds left, put the Bisons up 88-86, but ETSU tied it up on two free throws by Lester Wilson. That’s when things got wild:
That’s Josh Williams, a freshman guard from Lipscomb, fouling A.J. Merriweather with 1.5 seconds left in a tie game. Brutal. Did I mention that game was in the opening round of the Atlantic Sun tournament?
That’s not the only foul call that changed a game, either.
In the Horizon League tournament, the No. 6 seed Oakland Grizzlies survived and advanced past Youngstown State, but it took a little bit of magic. Travis Bader scored five of his 39 points in the final three seconds of regulation to force the extra frame. After a Kendrick Perry free throw put the Penguins up 80-76, Bader hit a three to cut the lead to one. Oakland fouled Ryan Weber with 0.6 seconds left, and Weber missed the first and hit the second, setting up this final play (jump ahead to the 1:57 mark):
I’ve seen that play run hundreds, if not thousands of times. I’ve never once seen the player setting the screen get the call. Kampe’s gotten it before, working his magic against Oral Roberts in one of their Summit League clashes, because he warned the refs about what he was having his player do.
“I go, ‘You got to call it now if he runs him over,'” Kampe told reporters after the game. “He goes, ‘If he runs him over, Bader goes down and he goes down on top of him, I’ll call it.'”
Playing without Gary Harris and Matt Costello and playing with Keith Appling and Adreian Payne at less than 100%, the Spartans shook off a slow start to knock off Oakland, 67-63.
Branden Dawson, who may be the only person in East Lansing that isn’t dealing with some kind of nagging injury, led the way with 21 points, 13 boards, three assists, three blocks and two steals.
There really isn’t all that much more to say here. Michigan State is a team that thrives on toughness and effort and putting enough talent on the floor that all they need to do to win is to simply play harder. But when that talent is hampered with a high-ankle sprained or plantar fasciitis or a sprained wrist, it gets difficult. Think about it like this: four of Michigan State’s five starters were either sitting out or playing at well below 100%.
Oakland is better than their 2-9 record. They’ve played a ridiculous schedule, one that will make it really easy to overlook the fact that they have Travis Bader, Duke Mondy and Corey Petros on their roster. This performance was not as bad as it would look on paper, but a loss would have been a major ding on their tournament resume.
They avoided that. They got the win. And they got Gary Harris one step closer to being back to 100%.
I’m not sure just how much more you could have asked for.
Which only made the discovery of Bader’s nickname that much more awesome.
“The first practice he did something and I couldn’t remember his name,” Oakland head coach Greg Kampe told Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press. “I looked at him, and I go, ‘McLovin, get over here.’ And the players just started laughing, and so that’s what they called him all year and I called him that a few times myself. But he looked like he was 12 years old.”
All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.
To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. To see the rest of the Conference Previews we’ve published, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.
Green Bay and Wright State enter the 2013-14 season as the top two competitors in the Horizon League. The two were separated by a single point in the preseason Horizon League poll — with Green Bay coming out on top — but thanks to its experience from last season going from a predicted last place to conference tournament title game, Wright State gets the slight edge as the No. 1 team in NBCSports.com’s Horizon League preseason rankings.
Led by nine of their top 10 returning from last season’s team — plus the inclusion of Butler transfer Chrishawn Hopkins — the Raiders are deep and experienced and led by senior forward Cole Darling.
Green Bay, led by the talented duo of point guard Keifer Sykes and center Alec Brown, have arguably the deepest mid-major frontline in the country with the 7-foot-1 Brown, sophomore Jordan Fouse, junior Greg Mays and Eastern Illinois transfer Alfonzo McKinnie. All four can rebound and block shots and McKinnie is even versatile enough to play a bit on the wing.
Oakland could be in-line for a good year as the newcomer to the Horizon League. The Summit is typically more wide-open, but the Golden Grizzlies are battle-tested and led by one of college basketball’s premier shooters in senior Travis Bader. Bader averages 22 points a game and is 101 three-pointers short of J.J. Redick’s career record after knocking in 139 last season. Defense will be the big concern for Oakland, but they’ll score in bunches.
Cleveland State and Youngstown State both have pieces to compete in the fourth and fifth spots of the Horizon League. Vikings sophomores Anton Grady and Bryn Forbes as a formidable inside-outside attack while Preseason Player of the Year Kendrick Perry can do a bit of everything for Youngstown State.
UIC and Valparaiso lose a lot of experience from postseason teams while Milwaukee and Detroit are in rebuilding mode.