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Drew Ellis covers Oakland University basketball for The Oakland Press. His news and notes keep you up to date with Golden Grizzlies men's basketball.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Keith Benson rehabbing after surgery to repair thumb

The right thumb that helped Oakland center Keith Benson become the Summit League player of the year is on its way back to full strength. The 6-foot-11 soon-to-be senior is three weeks into rehab after an early-May surgery to repair a torn outside ligament in Baltimore.
Benson admitted the injury limited him at times during the team’s run to the league tournament championship and subsequent berth in the NCAA tournament. He said his thumb, which he had taped during several games last season, was stiff sometimes, but only affected him during game situations, when making contact.
“It affected my shot a little bit. If I would get hit and go on to the next play, I would feel it. Sometimes, when I would block shots, it would hurt,” he said.
The Grizzlies’ leading scorer and rebounder said he played through the pain for the remainder of the season after initially injuring his thumb on Oakland’s visit to Seattle last December.
Rehab twice a week and at-home exercises are on the agenda for Benson, who has begun lower-body conditioning as part of team activities.
“I’m excited to get back out on the court. Period,” Benson said. “To be able to shoot and do all my basketball-type stuff right now. And on top of that, to get ready for the season.”
Oakland coach Greg Kampe said Benson is wearing the smallest in a series of splints on the thumb, and expects the dominating big man back to full participation in three weeks. Kampe also said he doesn’t think the surgery leaves Benson vulnerable to reinjuring his thumb.


“He had surgery from the best. We expect him to be 100 percent and only improve,” Kampe said.
The surgery was performed by Dr. Thomas Graham, who has worked with Shaquille O’Neal and other stars. After being advised that the ligament will one day require surgery, he opted to have the procedure rather than risk further injury while working out for NBA clubs in advance of the draft. He was forced to withdraw his name from consideration after the thumb injury was discovered during a routine MRI.
“It was pretty disappointing, because I was looking forward to it and I was working out pretty hard. But I wanted to get healthy, so I was happy to get that out of the way, so I could be 100 percent and not have to play hurt,” he said.
Benson did have time to pick up a few things while training for the draft, he said, including working on his footwork and playing away from the basket.
“When I was doing my training for the draft, I was doing post moves thinking they were working for me, but they’re more effective if you just step out farther and focus on the little things you do,” Benson said.
Benson, who now bears a resemblance to NBA star Tim Duncan because of an offseason beard he’s grown, likes the Golden Grizzlies’ chances to repeat the Summit League championship.
“They’re going to pick who they’re going to pick (in the preseason polls). We’re going to have a target on our backs anyway.”
Oakland was the prohibitive preseason favorite to win the league, and didn’t disappoint. The Grizzlies went 17-1, winning the most games in conference history prior to winning the conference tournament and making the school’s first appearance in the NCAA tournament since 2005.

Paul Kampe covers Oakland University basketball for The Oakland Press. E-mail him at paul.kampe@oakpress.com and follow him on Twitter @PaulKampe.

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