The Atlanta Hawks made a modest splash in the second round of the NBA draft, selecting Oakland University C/F Keith Benson with the No. 48 overall pick on Thursday night. The move was generally met with indifference among the pro-New York Knicks and New Jersey Nets crowd at the Prudential Center in Newark.
The selection of the Cleveland, Ohio-native came as a mild upset, especially since Kansas G Josh Selby was still lingering around in the middle of the second round. The Houston Rockets nabbed Selby with the next pick.
Benson has some Atlanta roots. His mom attended Spellman College. His grandfather went to Morehouse and was friends with Reverend Martin Luther King. Also, according to this tweet by WSB Sports Director Zach Klein, long-time Channel 2 anchor Monica Pearson is his godmother.
Benson became the first draftee from Oakland University. Contrary to popular belief, Oakland University is not in California. Instead, it is in Oakland County, Michigan. Auburn Hills, Michigan to be exact -- the same town that the Detroit Pistons play in.
The 6-foot-11, 224-pound Benson was an AP All-America Honorable Mention pick in his junior and senior seasons for the Golden Grizzlies, where he averaged 14.1 points per game, 8.2 rebounds per game and 2.7 blocks per game over four collegiate seasons.
As is typical with four-year student athletes, Benson's best season was his senior year, where he averaged nearly 18 points and grabbed a little bit over two rebounds a game to go along with an average 3.6 blocks per contest en route to notching his second straight Summit League Player of the Year award. He also garnered Defensive Player of the Year Honors.
"Keith brings height, length, and the ability to score the ball and defend," Hawks Assistant General Manager Dave Pendergraft said. "We like his potential and had him projected to go early in the second round. He has good anticipation and is an exceptional shot-blocker, with wiry strength."
Of course, wiry strength is code for Benson needs to add some weight. The folks on ESPN were also saying that Benson needed to establish a post move. But if Benson had a near-perfect game, he would have been a lottery pick.
And when your first pick is in the mid-second round, you're looking for a player with potential.
"I'm very happy with the pick, Keith certainly has a tremendous upside to his game," said Hawks Head Coach Larry Drew. "He's a shot-blocker with tremendous length. As a team, we hope to improve defensively next season and what better way to do that than to draft one of the top shot-blockers in college basketball."
Benson, of course, is saying the right things about joining an Atlanta Hawks team that, for now, seems to have a set rotation.
"I'm looking forward to playing with Al Horford," Benson told the AJC. "He's developed into the really good ‘bigs' in this league. I like watching Joe Johnson. They are an athletic team and I think I can contribute to that. They have some youth and like to get up and down. I watched them a lot this year."
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