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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.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

UPDATED: Former Grizzlies: Mike Helms named captain; Keith Benson traded to Erie BayHawks

Former Oakland guard and Detroit native Mike Helms was named captain of the Windsor Express Thursday and then proceeded to score 25 points and seven assists in the team's franchise debut Friday night.
The Express introduced Helms at Oakland's media day last month, where the former high-scoring guard was very grateful for the opportunity given to him by Oakland coach Greg Kampe.
Mike Helms sits next to mentor Greg Kampe
"Coming out of high school, there weren't a lot of believers in my game because I wasn't the prototypical guard," Helms said. "He always saw it in me and he gave me the opportunity. For that, I'm forever grateful because without Oakland University, it would have been a rough ride. He still looks out for me and I definitely appreciate what he's done for me.
"It's always bittersweet coming back here knowing I didn't put a banner up there."
Kampe noted Helms played his first season when Oakland wasn't eligible for the NCAA tournament due to its transition to Division I competition. The Grizzlies finished second two of Helms' first three seasons, before a disappointing 13-17 finish and seventh-place conference standing his senior year.
"To make the jump to Division I and play who we play, to finish second in this league twice, is quite a feat. ... He was our first All-American in Division I. He had a storied career here. It's interesting to hear him come back as an older man and regret not getting a banner. The reality of that is, who goes from DII to DI and hangs banners?"
Helms was the third-leading scorer in the nation in 2002-03 with 26.9 points per game, an average a half-point better than Reggie Hamilton's nation-leading 26.2 this past season. The mark is still the single-season Mid-Con Summit League standard. Helms was also named Mid-Con player of the year in 2003. 
Helms even recalled a loss to Ferris State just days after the Golden Grizzlies had beaten Michigan.
The 29-year-old has played in Argentina, Australia, Singapore, Israel and Mexico in his professional career. Helms has been out of professional basketball since the end of the 2010-11 season. He got married and the couple had their first child during the hiatus and Helms appreciates that family and friends can now make the short trip across the border to watch him play.
"People sometimes say 'You should have been in the NBA,' " Helms said. "Maybe that wasn't my path. Maybe it was my path to tell you what to do or not to do.
"I wouldn't regret anything I've done because I've learned a lot from it."
The National Basketball League of Canada expansion franchise was looking for veteran leadership when it signed Helms late this summer.

"He's learned the value of leadership as he's grown up," Kampe said, praising Helms in return for his well-documented scoring ability.
"You're getting a young man who can score the ball any way he wants it," Kampe said to Express management. "As many times as he got knocked to the ground, he never got injured."
"He's a highlight waiting to happen." 
UPDATE: The Windsor Star reports Helms is fourth in scoring in the NBL of Canada with 24 points per game. 

Also: The Sioux Falls Skyforce of the NBA Developmental league released its training camp roster this week, and former Golden Grizzlies center Keith Benson was on it. He was one of five returning players listed on the call sheet.The only problem is, Benson had already been traded to the Erie BayHawks in a pre-draft deal pulled off by new Erie GM and former Detroit Piston Allan Houston.
Benson's new coach, Gene Cross, told Benson could've been a top-three pick if he had been in this season's NBADL draft crop.
BayHawks training camp starts Saturday (Nov. 9).
Benson played 20 games for the SkyForce last season, averaging 15.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game, before being called up by the Golden State Warriors, where he played on a 10-day contract before being released. He opted not to return to Sioux Falls for the few remaining games of the season.
Benson was cut last month by the Atlanta Haws, despite a noteworthy performance in the NBA Summer League.

The Hawks drafted Benson 48th overall in the 2011 NBA draft, making him the first Oakland player taken in the draft. The Hawks cut Benson during a training camp shortened by last season's NBA lockout nearly a year ago.


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