Before the 2011 NBA Draft, I put together a two round mock draft, and had Keith Benson going to the Atlanta Hawks with their only pick that year, 48th overall in the second round. I figured, the days of having Jason Collins, Etan Thomas, Josh Powell and the like backing up Zaza Pachulia had to end at some point. I can direct you to the evidence on NBADraft.net if you don’t believe me. This exact prediction came to fruition (although many of my others did not). Of course, the NBA was staring into the face of a serious lockout that threatened the possibility of a season, so many teams were selecting a great number of international and high-upside players with the thought that the lost season could help them transition into the NBA with greater ease.
It’s not often you call a four-year college player a big potential, high risk type of player. Many of those are of the low-upside but NBA-ready variety. Keith “Kito” Benson had an impressive college career at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, 30 minutes outside of Detroit. He averaged a double-double his junior and senior season with 17+ PPG, 10+ RPG, 3+ BPG and over 53% field goal percentage in those two years. He left as his school’s all time shot blocker (371). In fact, he holds that record for the entire Summit League. He was also the Summit League’s two-time player of the year, earning defensive player of the year in his senior season as well.
He stands at 6’11” and 230 lbs, which is extremely slight for an NBA center. His height and 7’4” wingspan helps him rebound and block shots at a high rate, something that will certainly translate to the NBA. His offensive game mostly consists of a face-up midrange jumper as opposed to a refined post game. However, he’ll need a little while to bulk up to be able to contribute to an NBA team and not get pushed around in the paint. Unfortunately, that NBA team will most likely not be the Atlanta Hawks, as they have waived him for the second time in two years.
A full year in the NBA Developmental League will do him good. Last year, he played 20 games for the Sioux Falls Skyforce of the D League and averaged 15.2 PPG on 50% shooting in 30.6 MPG. He also threw in 7.8 RPG and 1.5 BPG which suggests his length could certainly play with someone in the NBA down the line and flourish. Hopefully it’s with the Atlanta Hawks at some point, but the man they call Kito has too much talent for him not to make a team somewhere.