Benson brought OU respect, recruiting

He put up 1,903 points, grabbed 1,103 rebounds, surpassed 300 blocked shots, was named two-time Summit Player of the Year and finally, helped bring home back-to-back Summit League Championships.

Keith Benson did it all for the Oakland University basketball program.

But there’s been nothing bigger than what he accomplished on June 23 by being drafted by the Atlanta Hawks and becoming the first Golden Grizzly to ever be drafted in the NBA Draft for Oakland University.

He put Oakland basketball on the sport’s world map.

Let’s be honest, before Keith Benson, the sports world hardly had an idea Oakland University existed.

Sure, they were a Cinderella team in the 2005 NCAA Tournament, and had Rawle Marshall, who went undrafted and eventually played in the NBA for a couple seasons, but nobody really remembers that team, except for people from around here in the Oakland area.

Benson solidified Oakland as a legitimate contender, someone who could hang with the big boys, and he showed that almost every time he stepped out in the spotlight.

As a junior, Benson took center stage in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament against No. 18 Pittsburgh, leading all scorers with 28 points and nine rebounds.

He solidified his dominance as a senior earning a double-double against then No. 7 Michigan State and then No. 7 Tennessee.

So what does this mean for Oakland now? Recognition and recruiting.

With the performances of Benson and the rest of the Oakland basketball program, people around the country now recognize Oakland as more than just a Cinderella squad.

By pushing Pittsburgh in the first half of the 2010 Tournament, upsetting Tennessee and nearly upsetting Michigan State in the regular season, and lastly Texas in the 2011 NCAA Tournament, Oakland received national attention.

With this attention, brings recruiting, not only locally, but around the country as well.

People see how Coach Kampe and the Oakland basketball staff molded Benson and the other Grizzly players and know they’re going to get that same type of coaching and recognition from NBA scouts if they continue to make NCAA tournaments.

Keith Benson did a lot more than just bring hardware to the hallways at the O’Rena. He helped develop what could be continuous legitimacy for the basketball program for years to come and hopefully many more future NBA draft picks to Oakland University basketball.