Team preview: Oakland

Blue Ribbon Illustrated previews the 2004-05 college basketball season, exclusively on Insider.

Updated: October 27, 2004, 5:09 PM ET
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Had a few games to start the Mid-Continent Conference season ended differently, Oakland might have actually been able to live up to its preseason billing as the overwhelming favorite.

But four losses in its first five games (by a combined nine points, including two overtimes) set the table for a downhill spiral.

Oakland would lose two more games before picking up its next victory. By then, a 1-6 conference record had the Golden Grizzlies buried so far down in the standings that first place looked a million miles away.

"We just never recovered from that," said coach Greg Kampe, who returned all of his starters last season. "It was just a bad year."

What made it even worse was that it was the swan song for one of the better players Kampe ever has or will coach: Mike Helms (23.2 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2.4 apg).

The 6-footer earned first-team all-conference honors for the third straight season. Helms, who in 2002-03 became the school's only Division I All-American, wound up as the second all-time leading scorer (2,314 points) in conference and school history.

But what Kampe may miss the most about Helms was his ability to penetrate, draw the foul, and most importantly, convert (as he did in a 39-point outburst against Centenary by mking all but one of his 21 free-throws).

"He would get to the free-throw line a ton," said Kampe about Helms, Oakland's all-time leader in free throws made and attempted. "We're going to miss that, obviously."

Forward Kelly Williams (5.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg) and center Jordan Sabourin (1.7 ppg, 2.2 rpg) were also seniors last year.