One on one with Keith Benjamin

SG Keith Benjamin (6-3, 195, Mount Vernon HS) of Mount Vernon, NY has been on the minds of many Pittsburgh basketball fans of late. Myself, wanting to know the truths behind such rumors as his eligibility, I decided to have a one on one discussion with Keith and end the speculation. Here is my exclusive interview with Keith Benjamin available only on PittInsider.com

Bob Lichtenfels: The big question that has been on the minds of many, if not all, Pitt fans is, are you eligible?

Keith Benjamin: There was a big mix-up on whether or not I had all the core classes that I needed to have in order to be eligible. My grades and my test scores are fine. I am cleared by the NCAA Clearinghouse. All I have to do is resubmit my application for enrollment to the University of Pittsburgh and I am fine.

Bob: So, next season Keith Benjamin will be a Pittsburgh Panther?

Keith: Yes, I will be playing for Pittsburgh.

Bob: You were in town recently for the Hoops Classic. How was that for you?

Keith: The experience was great, I was a little nervous at first. I hope I didn't disappoint the fans I'm sure they expected more.

Bob: With your dunking ability, I expected you to win the dunk contest at Connellsville hands down. James Harrison, who happens to hail from Connellsville, upset you. Do you think he had the home court advantage?

Keith: Anyone that knows anything about dunking knows I should've won easily. If the contest were held anywhere else except at his school, I would've won easily.

Bob: When you were in town did you get the star treatment? Did people ask for autographs or anything?

Keith: I signed a few autographs. I got to meet the local media and a lot of good people.

Bob: Did it feel like you were home in the "Burgh"?

Keith: Without a doubt, it was great there.

Bob: You played with Ronald Ramon, who will be your backcourt mate for the next few years. What kind of relationship have you been able to establish with Ronald?

Keith: Ronald and me are real cool. We feel like we need to know each other like the back of our hands. We are expecting to do great things at Pittsburgh. Hopefully, other great players and the rest of the team will follow our lead.

Bob: What do you hope to accomplish at Pittsburgh?

Keith: I think it would be great to be part of the team that gets past the sweet 16 and hopefully we can bring a National Championship to Pittsburgh in the next 3-4 years.

Bob: With the loss of Jaron and JP, there's a possibility that you may start right away. How does that feel?

Keith: I have heard it's a good possibility, but I don't want to have anything handed to me. If I can come in and work hard and earn it, then fine.

Bob: When you watched Pittsburgh in the NCAA Tournament, what were your emotion's like?

Keith: I watched the tournament and I witnessed the struggle. I'm a different player than most. I will sit down and watch the tape and break it down. I watch each player and how they do. Pittsburgh is a great bounce back team. They always come back. That day, Oklahoma State was the better team, that's all. JP played great. I know some of the fans were on him and he had high expectations, but he is one of if not the best defensive guard in the country.

Bob: How close did you follow the contract and the St. Johns talks with Barry Rohrssen?.

Keith: That was a lot to worry about. "Slice" is the one who found me and he made sure I got to my visit. He recruited me to go to Pittsburgh. I still would've gone to Pitt, but "Slice " is the key ingredient to what goes on at Pitt.

Bob: What is it about "Slice" that so many NY players like?

Keith: It's the NYC vibe. You want to be comfortable around people and being with people who come from the same area is important. Pitt has 3 coaches from NY Antigua, Slice, and Dixon.

Bob: Are you playing AAU, or do you intend to?

Keith: I am not playing AAU. Right now, I am just working out. I will play in some Pro-Am games or pick-up type games here and there.

Bob: Have you gotten to meet many of the current players? If so, what kind of relationships have you established with them?

Keith: Carl Krauser came and watched me at the Hoops Classic. He has big expectations for me and I have them of him. I think we will bring out the best in each other. I have become real close with Chevon Troutman, also.

Bob: Mount Vernon beat Lincoln in the State Championship. From everything I have heard and read, you guys were the underdogs. So, how did you pull it out?

Keith: Everyone hears more about Lincoln, but we didn't listen to the hype. We went out and played as a team and beat them handily. All we heard about was Sebastien Telfair and his multi-million dollar shoe deal, but we didn't play into the hype. We just played our game.

Bob: When I watch a game, I can just tell that NYC have a certain toughness about them and the way they play. Can you explain that to me?

Keith: You have to have that swagger. It's tough to play ball in this city. Whether you go to Rucker Park or anywhere, it's a battle every time out. You have to be tough and have the swagger.

Bob: Well, I thank you for your time Keith and I look forward to watching you and the rest of the Panthers next season. Good Luck to you!

Keith: Okay, thanks for the interview.


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