Texas Tech picked up a preferred walk-on commitment from Arkansas shooting guard Avery Benson earlier this month after he visited the campus.
InsideTheRedRaiders.com caught up with the 6-foot-3, 177-pound lefty for the lowdown on his recruitment by Chris Beard and Benson's decision to join Red Raider basketball.
Inside The Red Raiders: First off, congrats on the commitment.
Benson: That you very much. I'm very excited.
ITRR: Yeah, break it down for me. How long has Beard been recruiting you?
Benson: Yes, sir. Well, Chris Beard's actually been recruiting me for probably a little over three years now. I was the first one he offered when he was Arkansas Little Rock and so I got to know him very well and build a great relationship when he was in Little Rock. My parents and I only live two and a half hours away from Little Rock so we were able to build a good relationship with coach Beard and get to know him very well.
ITRR: How did the preferred walk-on offer go down, what was your reaction to it and what was your decision process?
Benson: When I went down to Lubbock I had a great time. I loved the campus, it was beautiful, massive. I didn't know that, but Texas Tech is huge. I got down there and was blown away by all the people, the area was beautiful and all the facilities, the educational buildings were beautiful and everything going on there. I got to meet the team, hang out with the team a little bit and they are a great set of guys. There wasn't a punk in the mix of them and treated me like I was already on the team. I felt like I had been there already for six months. I loved the whole coaching staff. They are a great group of guys. I've known coach Beard and coach (Brian) Burg for a long time now. When the visit was over, we were on the way home I told my parents, I said 'hey, we can tell all the other schools that there's no need for them to waste their time or the money coming and scouting me. I'm going to Texas Tech next year.' That's just kind of how the whole deal went down from there.
ITRR: Do you feel you're under recruited?
Benson: Yes, sir. Well I was, but now I'm going to Texas Tech so I feel happy.
ITRR: Help me out with this. When I look at your game, your accomplishments, your size, athleticism--the whole package--honestly I'm surprised they were able to get you as a preferred walk-on. Can you discuss your recruitment and who all has been recruiting you?
Benson: You know, I'm not real flashy. That's what I say. I'm a get down and get dirty guy. I can't do a 10-dribble combo move and three behind the back passes. It's not what I do. I hate 1-on-1. It's a team game. I'm a team guy and I get on the floor so I do a lot of the stuff most people kind of overlook. I work hard on and off the court. I'm not super athletic, granted for my size and what I got I'm athletic, exceptionally, but you know I'm not Malik Monk, who came out of Bentonville, Arkansas touching his chin on the rim, but I can hold my own. I definitely think it was just because I wasn't a real flashy guy with the ball and all that nonsense.
ITRR: Who else was recruiting you?
Benson: At the time I committed to Tech there was only one other school seriously interested and that was UNC-Charlotte. We already knew the situation at Tech, that I was going to have to walk on my first semester or my first year, but it was between Tech and UNC-Charlotte.
ITRR: Is there a feeling you can earn a scholarship perhaps after that first semester? Is that the idea?
Benson: Oh, yes sir. I'm a small town, country white boy going to Texas Tech. It's a dream all in itself so I mean definitely earning a scholarship is believable and I'm definitely going to, day in and day out, going to put my best foot forward to make it come true.
ITRR: Avery, I was looking when you visited a couple weeks ago, looking you up and just want to make sure I have this right. You were at Har-Ber before, but then you ended up transferring to Southwest Christian. Is that correct?
Benson: I was at Siloam Springs, Arkansas my freshman year. I was at Springdale Har-Ber my sophomore and junior years and yes, I transferred to (Little Rock) Southwest Christian my senior year.
ITRR: In researching your time in high school I watched a video which Southwest Christian Academy sounded like a really interesting experience for you with all the international kids. What was that like for you and how were you able to mix together and obviously have a lot of success (national championship)?
Benson: Let me start off by saying that in our senior class if all of us graduated there's 18 of us.
Benson: So it was a lot different than coming from Springdale Har-Ber, who in our grade had something close to 600 kids. It was a big change from the school standpoint, but I was the only American on the team until about midway through January when another Arkansas kid moved in. He's a sophomore, he's younger and is on the prep team. I was the only American, I was the minority let's say so I had to definitely adapt, learn some words, some European (language). The Bosnians and Serbians speak the same language. It was really difficult in the beginning, but most of them speak really good English, but when they're messing around I have to kind of catch a few words and make sure they're not talking about me.
ITRR: (laughs). Right? Give me your favorite clean foreign word you picked up from them?
Benson: Our big man, Mladen (Armus), he's a goofball and so every time I wear my khakis and boots he says, 'Avery Benson Smeka' which means like real clean-cut and cleaned up, good-looking guy.
ITRR: (laughs) Alright.
Benson: He's always messing around with me about that so we definitely have a good time.
ITRR: Are you sure that's what smeka means? That he wasn't saying something else? (laughs)
Benson: (laughs) That's what he told me, so that's what I have believed this whole time.
ITRR: That's awesome. Because that's a lot, that's a whole lot of words that equal 'smeka'.
Benson: (laughs) I know. Yeah.
ITRR: That's greatness. Well, you said you really enjoyed the fellas on the team. Who did you hang out with the most and are there any details you can give me about that visit?
Benson: I definitely ran into Zach Smith a lot. Keenan Evans, I watched him work out and then we played together that evening. So those two guys, really I was with a lot and they're great, super guys and freak basketball players so it was definitely a great day.
ITRR: So you actually played with them?
Benson: Yes, sir.
ITRR: That's cool. So obviously you felt like you fit in, your skills, your game fit in with what they were doing?
Benson: Oh yes sir. I felt like if I could gain a few pounds and get stronger through their weight system I could definitely play with them a lot better.
ITRR: Coach (John) Reilly is no joke. I'm assuming you met him.
Benson: Oh my goodness! The dude, his level is on 10 all hours of the day, which I love it. As a workout coach you got to be that way day in and day out. He's definitely a high energy guy.
ITRR: You said you definitely want to gain some weigh. How tall are you and how much do you currently weigh?
Benson: I'm 6-3 and 177.
ITRR: Do you have a target weight?
Benson: I want to try and get 195 before season. That was a goal they set for me and that I've set. They said if you can play at 190 because you'll lose about five pounds in water weight throughout the season. So if I can play at 190 I would definitely be satisfied and they said it would help me out a lot.
ITRR: I know coach Beard doesn't like to say you play a 1, 2 or 3, but do you see yourself as a shooting guard, a 2 or 3 or where do you think you fit in?
Benson: Yes, sir. I'm definitely a shooting guard, that's what I love to do, that's my favorite and that's what I've always been. I know he doesn't do that stuff, but if I were to say what I was it would definitely be a shooting guard.
ITRR: I've watched a lot of your highlights and Tech fans are really excited, everybody I have shared them with are excited about your game. I know you told me you're a dive on the floor, junkyard dog kind of guy, but as far as your game overall, break it down for me beyond the junkyard dog stuff.
Benson: My dad actually is the deadliest shooter I know on Earth. Ever since I was young we were always in the driveway and obviously when I got older we went to the gym. I can shoot the ball and I hang my hat on hard defense. You ask most of my basketball buddies, I take a lot of charges and they always hated it because it was a turnover for them and kind of made them look bad. I take a lot of charges. I'm not scared of anybody. I don't care who I'm playing against. Everybody puts their pants on in the morning the same way so that's just kind of the player I am.
ITRR: You mentioned your dad, and correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought I saw somewhere that both your dad and your grandad played college ball. Is that right?
Benson: Yes, sir. My dad played college basketball at John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. That's where he met my mom and where I have lived a lot of my life. He also played one year at Arkansas State. He transferred out his sophomore year and finished at John Brown. Then my grandpa played baseball and basketball in college.
ITRR: Alright, Avery congrats once again on your commitment and I look forward to covering your career at Texas Tech. Is there anything you'd like to add or anything I'm missing?
Benson: Nope, that's about it. That's me.
ITRR: (laughs) Hey, thank you so much for your time.
Benson: Alright, thank you.