Keith Benson: A Closer Look

Friday, June 24, 2011
By Jon Newberry

Last night the Hawks picked Keith Benson, a senior center from Oakland University (Mich), with the 48th overall pick of the 2011 Draft. Last night (really, early this morning) we spoke with Larry Drew, Rick Sund and Dave Pendergraft and you can watch those interviews at the Hawks Draft Central.

Today, we want to take a little Closer look…

Height: 6’11 (or 6’10 without shoes)
Add in the fact that he is long, his wingspan is 7’4, and he has the length of a legit center in the NBA.

Weight: 224 lbs
This is according to Benson during a phone interview with Atlanta media last night. He should know since he has probably been weighed and measured upwards of 50 times in the last month. The truth of the matter is that his weight is the biggest area where he needs work. In a league where centers often top 250, it is hard to battle in the paint when you are giving up that much bulk.

College: Oakland University (Michigan)
Notable basketball alumni: Mike Helms (Mid-Con Conference Player of the Year in 2003, has played professionally overseas since 2004)
Other notable alumni: (Just for trivia purposes)
– David Hasselhoff briefly attended Oakland in the early 70’s
– Curtis Armstrong (Best known for his role as “Booger” in the Revenge of the Nerds movies)

High School: Detroit Country Day
Notable basketball alumni: Shane Battier, Chris Webber
(JaVale McGee also attended but transferred before graduating)
Other notable attendees: Robin Williams (actor), Patrick Kane (NHL)

Ties to Atlanta:
Benson’s mother attended Spellman College and his grandfather attended Morehouse. According to WSB Sports Director Zach Klein, Keith is the godson of Monica Pearson, a staple of Atlanta news for over 30 years.

What his coaches have to say:
Kurt Keener, Head Coach at Detroit Country Day:
“Keith was always a kid who was team-first. He’s a pretty laid back individual personality-wise, so as a high schooler, for instance, he’s not a rah-rah guy, but he’s what we would call a low-maintenance kid. He’s just going to have a great work ethic. He’s a bright guy who will pick things up rather quickly.”
Read the full interview with Keener at

Greg Kampe, Head Coach at Oakland University:
(Partially in response to Jay Bilas’ comments on the ESPN broadcast of the draft) “That motivation has been there. He’s been motivated to play in the NBA and turned himself from a guy that averaged five points a game in high school to an NBA player. When they talk about lack of toughness and motor, tell me about that. Atlanta will find out when they get him how good of a player he is.”
Read the full article from the Detroit Free Press

Family Ties in Basketball:
Father: Keith Benson, Sr. played collegiately at Jackson State
Uncle: Emanuel (Manny) Leaks played six seasons in the ABA/NBA (1968-74)
Uncle: Hilton Hale played collegiately at Northwestern at San Diego State

Other background information:
Growth – Benson was a classic late bloomer that may still be catching up with his body in terms of adding bulk. His high school coach said he may have grown five or six inches one year at DCD without adding five pounds. Even at Oakland, Benson says he grew from 6’9 to 6’11.
Education – Benson’s mother, Janice Hale, is an educator, and that has been a point of emphasis in Keith’s life. He graduated this fall with a degree in Integrative Studies.