UTICA — Only a small percentage of basketball players will receive an opportunity to play at the NCAA Division I level.
An even smaller percentage will have a chance to play in the NCAA tournament.
Utica Eisenhower graduate and Macomb resident Corey Petros can lay claim to both.
Following his high school career with the Eagles, Petros went on to play for Oakland University, where he recently completed his redshirt junior season.
Some of Petros’ highlights since arriving at Oakland includes being part of a squad that made the NCAA tournament his freshman year, and sweeping the season series against the team’s rival, the University of Detroit Mercy, in what was Oakland’s inaugural campaign in the Horizon League this past season.
The experiences he has had as a student-athlete at Oakland have meant plenty to him.
“It’s been exciting,” he said. “So blessed to be here; great opportunity for me. It’s a game I love, grew up playing and always wanted to do. I used to watch college and NBA games with my dad. It was really a dream come true to be able to play. Been a blessing to me.”
Instead of merely hoping for a chance to play college basketball, Petros took action to help turn his “dream” into reality.
“A lot of hard work,” said Petros when asked about the keys to making it as far as the NCAA Division I level. “I was always in the gym working out or shooting — dedicating my time. I was always playing in AAU, so I was gone every summer, dedicating my time to basketball. Hard work in classes, getting my grades up so I would be eligible to play, and staying dedicated — having a love for the game.”
While there are a lot of things he has learned over the years that have helped him become a better basketball player, some of the lessons Petros has learned as a result of being a student-athlete are ones that he can also apply to his life long after his playing days are over.
“Everything with basketball’s time management and hard work,” said Petros, whose accomplishments at Eisenhower included being selected as the Macomb County Most Valuable Player, as well as being named All-State, All-District and All-Area as a senior. “There’s no cutting corners. That’s one thing I’ve learned through high school and college: can’t cut corners — you get exposed. Work a 110 percent, everything you do.”
Petros said he has had a “great support system” in regards to his family, friends, teammates and coaches. Petros credited Brandon Lemley, who coached him at Eisenhower, for helping to prepare him to play in Division I, saying, “He was a great coach. He’s one of the main reasons I’m here.”
Lemley recalled Petros’ playing days with the Eagles.
“When we got him as a ninth-grader, we could see a lot of potential,” he said. “He had fantastic hands, great court sense. Junior year and senior year, he was MAC Player of the Year in our league both years. He was (Macomb) County Player of the Year. I couldn’t be any prouder of the way he’s developed and what Oakland’s done with him. He was second-team All-Horizon League this year, first in rebounding, 10th in scoring. He’s just developed into a great player.
“But the thing I’m most proud of, he’s just a great person, and he works so hard. He’s doing a great job with his education, going to Oakland, getting his degree. Can’t wait to watch his senior year next year.”
Petros’ coach at Oakland is Greg Kampe, who completed his 30th season as the program’s head coach.
“He’s a great coach,” Petros said. “He’s a very knowledgeable, smart man. He really knows what he’s talking about. He always pushes us to get better. He develops players well. He’s a great guy and a great coach.”
Petros cited sweeping Detroit again, winning the Horizon League and making the NCAA tournament as his goals for next season. Petros has one more season of eligibility remaining with Oakland and has given some thought to his senior campaign with the Golden Grizzlies.
“It’s exciting,” said Petros, whose accomplishments at Oakland include being selected to the Summit League All-Newcomer team for the 2011-12 season and being named as an All-Summit League honorable mention for the 2012-13 season.
“I’ve enjoyed college. They say it’s the best time of your life, and I believe that. It’s bittersweet coming up on my senior season. I’m excited, but it’s bitter because I’ll be leaving all my friends. The atmosphere around here is great. I’m excited to move forward in my life. Excited for senior year — focus on basketball, and hopefully, have a great season.”
Petros is majoring in finance at Oakland.