A video of Max Hooper, Oakland University’s 3-point ace, hugging his dad went viral last week when ESPN filmed the touching moment following Oakland University’s senior-night victory over rival University of Detroit.
— Oakland Basketball (@OaklandMBB) March 7, 2016
Hooper’s father, Chip, a well-known executive in the music industry, had been battling cancer in California while the younger Hooper gained national attention for his machine-like 3-point shooting in Michigan.
A week later — less than 48 hours before the Golden Grizzlies were set to play in the semifinals of the Horizon League Tournament in Detroit — Oakland head basketball coach Greg Kampe tweeted the news that Max’s father had died.
Max got on a plane Sunday morning and flew to California to be with his family. He needed to begin the grieving process, but he also made it known that he wanted to play on Monday night.
Oakland posted a video Monday morning with the entire team, minus Hooper, dedicating the rest of their season to Chip. Teammate Nick Daniels came up with the hashtag #Play4Chip.
Hooper flew back to Detroit Monday afternoon and Kampe left the decision up to Max if he wanted to play.
“I’ve never been through something like this … I went about it the way I thought was the best thing to do. It’s all about the student athlete first,” Kampe told reporters.
When the Golden Grizzlies came out on the Joe Louis Arena floor Monday night, Max was with them.
Oakland star point guard Kahlil Felder had Play4Chip written on his shoe.
Felder said Max’s return was expected.
“We knew he was coming back. We wanted to play for his dad. We knew what he was going through. We all sent him texts to uplift him. He didn’t really say much, he didn’t have to,” Felder said.
Kampe sent Hooper into the game with 15:50 left in the first half to the delight of Oakland fans and Max nailed a three on his first touch.
The crowd of more than 6,000 erupted.
Max finished the first half 2 for 3 from beyond the arc.
In the second half, Hooper sank another 3 and finished the game 3 for 6 against a tough Wright State defense that upset No. 2 seeded Oakland, 59-55.
“It was a tough last few days. I can’t give Max enough credit for how he played tonight and what he did. I love the kid, man, you just want to hug him. I feel terrible right now. I feel terrible for a lot different reasons than the other coaches,” Kampe said.
The Raiders were able to hold off Oakland’s second-half runs and advanced to the Horizon League championship against Wisconsin-Green Bay Tuesday night.
“I know how badly he wanted to win and get to the (NCAA) tournament and win for his dad,” Kampe said after the loss.
The game marks the end of an up-and-down season for this Golden Grizzly (21-11) squad. Hooper and fellow senior, Percy Gibson, will likely get to play in a post-season tournament but not the NCAA dance.
“I’m very proud of my team. I really really enjoyed this team. You feel bad, and you feel bad when you lose in this situation,” Kampe said.
Above: Max Hooper’s return to the court inspired the crowd, but Oakland was upset, 59-55, in the Horizon League tournament. (Courtesy Jose Juarez/Oakland University Athletics)