Updated:None - ATLANTA- Keith Benson, the 48th overall pick of the 2011 NBA Draft, made his first appearance as a member of the Atlanta Hawks this morning. Benson was joined by several free agents for the first morning of a three day minicamp that the Hawks are hosting at Philips Arena.
Benson, a 6'11" AP All-America Honorable Mention pick as a junior and senior at Oakland University wore the number 13 and according to team personnel, performed at a high level all morning. The team did not permit camera's to shoot while Benson took part in a game simulated scrimmage, but he was the last to leave the gym after working with Hawks Assistant Tyrone Hill on a few individual drills.
Head Coach Larry Drew watched closely from the sidelines as the two-time Summit League Player of the Year practiced his low-post moves and defensive foot work.
Coach Drew said of Benson, "He's wiry, but he's stronger than what he looks. He is one of the top shot blockers in the country. He has a 7'4" wing span and he just has a knack for blocking shots and that could help any team."
The Hawks are a team in desperate need of help in the shot blocking category. They finished the 2010-2011 season averaging 4.2 blocks per game, which was 28th out of 30 teams (Washington lead the league swatting 6.1 shots per contest). Of those 4.2 blocks per game, Josh Smith was responsible for exactly half of them, at 2.1 per game last year. The Oakland University standout and career blocked shots leader could earn some time on the court if he can immediately help the Hawks (mainly Josh Smith) deter more shots.
Drew added that Benson ,"gives us versatility. I think we can move him around. I think he has the speed and the quickness to play some forward and I think he'll be able to play some five (center). Drafting this kid and bringing him in here gives us that chance to be versatile."
Keith Benson's connections* to the city of Atlanta have been well documented since he was selected in the second round last Thursday. He told reporters that having family in town has allowed him to be "comfortable with everything right now," and that it will really pay off when he has time to settle in, once mini-camp is over.
"I was happy to hear my name called. It's a good playoff team and everything so I was happy about that. It's pretty amazing, the chance that I ended up here and ended up falling to this team. My family goes way back with this state."
With more work and possibly an extra 15-20 pounds on his frame, the Hawks hope that next season, opponents shots will be going way back as well…into the seats at a sold-out Philips Arena.
His family has collegiate ties to the Atlanta area, as his mother attended Spelman College and his grandfather attended Morehouse University. Benson is also the godson of Channel 2 news anchor, Monica Pearson.
Atlanta Hawks 2011-12 lower level season tickets are available now starting at less than $23 per game. For more information please call 1-866-715-1500 or visit www.hawksseasontickets.com.