Multiple media outlets reported last week that former Illinois guard Kendrick Nunn will finish his collegiate career at Oakland. After averaging 15.5 points and 5.0 rebounds per game as a junior, for a Fighting Illini team that finished near the bottom of the Big Ten, Nunn will have to sit out next season and will have one year of eligibility remaining. The talented two-guard also shot 39% from three-point range, and nearly 80% from the free throw line. Coming out of the legendary high school basketball program of Chicago’s Simeon Career Academy, Nunn was a consensus 4 star recruit, with ESPN ranking him 61st overall in their Class of 2013.
Speaking of the Class of 2013, point guard transfer Stevie Clark (ranked 68th overall in those same rankings), will be eligible this upcoming season and can play for the Golden Grizzlies for two years. The one time Oklahoma State Cowboy transferred to Oakland from Arkansas Baptist Junior College, where he averaged 14.1 points per game.
After starting his career at Texas, Martez Walker had an up-and-down, but still positive first year with the Golden Grizzlies last season. He averaged 10.5 points per game, while shooting over 46% from the field. With the departure of Kay Felder to the NBA, it is likely that Walker will consistently be the team’s number one or two offensive option in his redshirt junior year next season.
In the 2017-18 season, the three aforementioned players will all be redshirt seniors. So will all-Horizon League Second Team selection Jalen Hayes, and sharpshooting guard Nick Daniels, both of whom have only played for Oakland. With these five players, coupled with improving big men Xavier Hill-Mais and Brad Brechting, Oakland has the potential to have a special 2017-18 campaign.
The key word in the above sentence is potential. Nunn was dismissed from Illinois in May of this year, after pleading guilty to misdemeanor battery. Clark was kicked off of Oklahoma State’s team before his freshman season was even over. Walker left Texas after facing misdemeanor assault charges. With so many past problems, it is reasonable to wonder if these three transfers will still be on the team for the 2017-18 season. If they are, will the players be able to come together and play unselfish basketball? This is a legitimate point, as each player will want to have a strong senior season in order to translate to the best possible professional opportunities. If Greg Kampe can get them to play as a cohesive unit, it will be one of his best coaching jobs.
On paper, this potential 2017-18 squad is better than Oakland’s memorable 2004-05 team of destiny with Courtney Scott and NBA player Rawle Marshall. It is better than Oakland’s underachieving team from last season that finished second in the Horizon League and nearly won the inaugural Vegas 16. It should even be better than the back-to-back NCAA Tournament teams of 2009-10 and 2010-11, that were led by Keith Benson and dominated Summit League play.
But games are not played on paper. They are played on the court. Many people do not get second chances in life. But these three transfers did. Nobody is doubting their abilities on the court. But it is their actions off the court that will dictate whether they can showcase their talents on it. It is not up to Coach Kampe to keep them out of trouble. It is simply up to each one of them.