NBA draft next for OU’s Benson

When Keith Benson was first being recruited by the Oakland Basketball program, head coach Greg Kampe saw a work in progress and a familiarity.

“We had a player in the NBA named Rawle Marshall at the time we were recruiting (Benson). Rawle was a long, athletic 6′-7″, could guard and had the prototype NBA body. Well, we looked at Keith as a senior in high school and he was weak, but he had that long, athletic body,” Kampe said.

“One of the things they love about him in this draft is his wingspan. He’s grown to 6-11 and he’s got a 7-4 wingspan, so we saw that. Was he real good at that time? No, but we just had all that success with Marshall and we liked his body, so that’s the real reason we recruited him.”

Kampe’s work-in-progress is now considered one of Oakland University’s basketball greats, a late first, early second round prospect in the NBA Draft on June 23 and Benson is ready to prove he’s worthy.

“I don’t agree with the second round part,” Benson said. “I think I have the talent to be a first round type of player. I think the type of competition we played, playing a lot of the better schools, I got a lot of individual attention there and they put a lot of focus on me. That got me ready for this.”

Kampe agreed with Benson’s projections.

“From what I’ve heard he’s going to go anywhere from 15, 16 to 35, somewhere in there. You never know what’s going to happen in the draft, you never know how it’s going to turn,” Kampe said.

“We’ve watched guys that we thought were going to be in the top five end up in the second round. So you never know how it’s going to go, but based on the interest and what I’m hearing, I think somewhere between 15 and 35.”

Since declaring for the draft, Benson has been enjoying working out for many NBA teams, showcasing his talents to scouts, management and coaches.

“I like the opportunity to get to be around the upper management for the teams and sometimes the head coach comes and the GM,” Benson said, “so I like getting a work out in front of them.”

Although Benson hopes to be drafted in the first round, he said “it would mean a lot” to get a chance to play for the Detroit Pistons who hold the 33rd pick in the second round.

“I think they’ve had an opportunity to see me a lot since I’ve been playing these four years,” Benson said. “I’ve always followed the Pistons and it’s always been a dream of mine to play on the Pistons. That would mean a lot to me to get a chance to play for them.”

During his career at Oakland, Benson began grabbing national attention for his performances against ranked teams, most notably his game-high 28 points and nine rebounds against No. 18 Pittsburgh and his 15 point, 11 rebound performace against No. 16 Texas in the NCAA Tournament in 2010 and 2011, respectively.

Benson went on to claim back-to-back Summit League Player of the Year awards in 2010 and 2011, among other awards, and developed into a scoring threat who could also defend the paint.

“He was a great one,” Kampe said. “He led us to 91 wins in his four years here. All the accolades, he was conference player of the year, he scored 1,500 points, had a 1,000 rebounds, had 5-600 blocked shots, his numbers are off the charts.

“He was a quiet kid who never caused you any trouble. He was a hard worker, he never missed a practice, never missed a game with injury. Tough kid, that was a winner.”

Benson doesn’t have set plans for the NBA Draft and may attend the event.

For now he is continuing to focus on his work outs for the NBA teams, trying to prove himself to general managers around the league.

“They’ll get an athletic player who can run the floor,” Benson said. “I can be a scoring option in the post or a pick-and-pop scorer, a person who can protect the paint. I think I’m a versatile player that can get better every year.”

What was a work-in-progress, will soon be a NBA player, and Kampe believes Benson will make an impact where ever he ends up as he continues to develop his game.

“I think he’s going to succeed in the NBA, there’s no question in my mind,” Kampe said. “He’s going to be in that league for 10-12 years probably. Will he be an all-star? I don’t know, that will depend on his body development. The biggest thing he has right now is getting physically bigger from the hips down.”

The draft will be on June 23 at 7 p.m. on ESPN.