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Is beating Steve Hawkins more than just a win for Greg Kampe and Oakland?

The Grizzlies knocked off Steve Hawkins and Western Michigan. That’s worked before.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan State at Oakland
Martez Walker has done his best to replace Kay Felder.
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Greg Kampe beat Steve Hawkins last Monday night.

He had beaten him before, at another time and another life for Kampe and his program.

“It was probably the single most important victory in Oakland history. Our administration at that time completely changed their opinion of basketball,” Kampe said during his post-game press conference following the 77-60 win over Western Michigan. “It changed the path of Oakland basketball.”

The game Kampe was talking about took place on March 8, 1994. That day, he and the Grizzlies grabbed a 105-98 win at Quincy University in the first round of the 1993-94 Division II tournament.

Hawkins was on the other side, and to Kampe, the win - and the attention that it created - sent Oakland basketball on its way to Division I.

It’s a smaller scale, without the benefit of 22 years of hindsight, but Kampe’s latest win against Hawkins may be another signal of good things to come for the program.

Oakland moved to 2-0 on the season, with both wins coming against MAC competition. Western Michigan and Bowling Green, which the Grizzlies beat last Friday night, were both projected toward the bottom of their respective divisions, so this his hasn’t necessarily been a statement stretch.

But it’s the first time Oakland has started the season with consecutive wins since 2006-07. And glancing around the Horizon League, no other team can claim a similarly successful week (though Youngstown State did beat a solid Akron team).

The question has and will continue to be how Oakland fills Kay Felder’s small-but-incredibly-large shoes in the backcourt.

Martez Walker has flourished in an increased role, averaging 21.5 points over both games. Oklahoma State transfer Stevie Clark has also showed promise in his first action since 2013-14, averaging 10.0 points and knocking down 4-of-7 three’s.

The offense likely won’t resemble last year’s dynamic squad. But Kampe sees potential elsewhere with an athletic group that returns all but one contributor - Sherron Dorsey-Walker - next season. This includes preseason first-team All-Horizon forward Jalen Hayes, who’s just a junior.

“We’re long and athletic and can really guard the ball with multiple players. So that’s going to slow games down,” he said in the presser. “We’re still fumbling around and finding our way. And then into next year with everyone back I think you’ll see this group of kids be a 90 [points] a game team.”

That’s not where the Grizzlies are now, and that may be fine. Their KenPom defensive efficiency - albeit in an incredibly small sample size - has been 22 spots better than last year according.

Alec Peters and Valparaiso haven’t done anything to shed doubt on how good they can be, and despite an underwhelming loss to Pacific (on the West Coast, in the middle of the night), Green Bay is very much still in the picture (along with the rest of the league, of course).

Oakland’s first two games have shown it can’t be forgotten either, especially if there’s any magic in those wins over Hawkins.