Grant Benzinger is a 22 year old 190cm guard from Cincinnati, Ohio that is playing his rookie season with the Uni Baskets Paderborn. The American started his career with Archbishop Moeller High School and then played at Wright State from 2014-2018 playing a total of 130 games and as a senior played 34 games averaging 14.5ppg, 5.4rpg, 1.1apg, FGP: 41.7%, 3PT: 38.2%, FT: 88.3%. He spoke to germanhoops.com earlier in the summer about basketball.
Hi Grant thanks for talking to germanhoops.com. Where are you at the moment and how is your summer going?
I am currently in Dayton, Ohio. My summer has been great so far.
Congrats on signing your first professional contract with the Uni Baskets Paderborn. How did you experience your first summer transfer period? Did you have ample offers?
I treated this Summer just like every other Summer in my college career. The goal was to get better at the game of basketball, and get stronger in the weight room. I had multiple offers, but Coach Uli really sold me on the potential of this team in Paderborn.
What do you know in general about the country Germany and it’s basketball? Did some of the ex Wright State players like Vaughn Duggins, or Vance Hall give you extra advice or did you only talk to Matt Vest?
I knew Germany was passionate about the game of basketball and that made me want to play there at some point in my career. I only talked to Matt Vest, because he has played for Paderborn for two seasons. He had the most valuable insight for me.
Uni Baskets head coach Uli Naechster is really high on your game and believes you will have a good start to your professional rookie season. What was the deciding factor that made you want to sign with this German Pro A team?
Coach Uli’s expectations for this year is what sold me. He believes in my game and believes in this team. There is nothing better than having a coach that believes in you.
30 years ago your dad Todd who was a rookie with my home town team Boston Red Sox gave me nice childhood memories being an important performer in the Boston Red Sox run to the playoffs. Are there any negatives about having a famous dad athlete or has it all been positives?
It has mostly been positive, but there is a negative side to it. I’ve always been known as ‘Todd’s son’ and one day I will break that.
How important was your dad in your early development as an athlete? Was it easy for him to accept you going the basketball route instead of using a glove and baseball?
He loved basketball. He used to coach a Women’s high school team while I was growing up so I had a basketball in my hands a lot more than a glove. He pushed me towards working hard at anything I did.
Let’s talk about your game. You’re a 190cm guard that can score and rebound well. Coach Naechster raves about your game and especially likes your hustle and always giving 100%. Is this something that you learned at home early on from your dad or is this something that you developed further at Wright State?
I would say Moeller basketball (my high school) instilled it into me. Anybody can score the basketball, but not everyone has the guts to dive face first for a loose ball or take a knee to chest for a charge. I take pride in executing the toughness plays.
Your best known for shooting out the lights and diving on to the floor as if it was the most natural thing. Even though German Wimbledon winner Boris Becker’s hip is a mess and wouldn’t ever dive again for anything, do you feel you would do well had he challenged you for a dive off duel when his body was still working properly?
I would beat him in a dive off duel.
In your four year career at Wright State, your body saw almost everything from being kicked in the head, your lip being split by an elbow and had bursitis in both elbows and a knee from all that diving. Where can you attribute this warrior mentality coming from at such an early stage in your basketball career?
When I was younger, I was obsessed with the movies Gladiator, 300, Rocky, and Fight Club. All these movies were mainly about toughness and overcoming insurmountable odds. They played a huge role in my development.
Head coach Uli Naechster also likes your dynamic play. You have an all around nice game for a guard and if you had to compare your game to a NBA player who would best fit the way you play?
I wouldn’t really compare my game to any NBA player in particular, but one day I would like to be compared to CJ McCollum after I develop my game more.
You’re a very good rebounder for your size and drastically improved your rebound stats in your last two seasons at Wright State. Do you feel like you can continue to be an effective rebounder as a professional or was Wright State a special system that allowed you to showcase your rebounding more?
I think I can continue to be an effective rebounder at the professional level. The art of rebounding is not predicated on size or athleticism. It certainly plays a part, but a lot of rebounding is about grit and the desire to go get the ball no matter what.
You’re a guy that can fill the stat sheet at ease, but what do you feel is a hidden strength in your game that still doesn’t get noticed as much on the court the way it should?
I believe my playmaking abilities as a ball handler has not been fully showcased.
You shot once over 40% at Wright State from downtown. You have that shooters mentality of when a shot doesn’t fall you always have the confidence that the next one will fall. How do you see continuing to develop as a shooter now as you enter the professional ranks?
I will shoot over 40% this year from downtown. I will improve from my college shooting.
You played at Wright State from 2014-2018. Was winning the Horizon League and playing in the NCAA tournament in your last few weeks as a senior your fondest memories on the court?
It is by far the best memory I have playing at Wright State.
How tough was losing your last NCAA game to Tennessee 73-47 and shooting 2/16 which is totally untypical of you. Was this shooting disaster a huge motivation this summer to keep working religiously on your shooting consistency?
It was great for motivation purposes. I had my worst game on the worst possible day to have it. It made me hungry to make sure something like that never happens again.
You had some huge games scoring 30 plus points against Georgia State and Oakland, but did beat N Kentucky with 31 points. What was your most memorable scoring game besides the win against Cleveland State?
I had a 3 game stretch my freshman year where I scored 22, 26, and 31. That was my favorite scoring performance of my career. I was a freshman in college basketball, so to score 31 was a huge deal to me.
What memories do you have of the 78-63 loss to top NCAA school Kentucky in your sophomore season where you steered home 19 points? How good did it feel being able to hold your own against future NBA players like Jamaal Murray and Tyler Ulis? Did you feel then that there was so much difference between your skills and theirs?
That was a huge game for my confidence as a player. They had a bunch of NBA guys, ranked #2 in the nation at the time, so to score all those points against them gave me a ton of confidence in my ability. Our skill levels aren’t much different, but they’re a little bit more athletic than me.
You played for two coaches at Wright State with Billy Donlon and Scott Nagy. How did these two coaches help groom and prepare you best for a professional basketball career?
Both coaches instilled into me the importance of defense, basketball IQ, and being the best leader on the team. They gave me so much information on what it took to be the best possible version of myself and I am grateful for that.
Who won a one on one in practice you or Mark Hughes?
You played against so many talented players in the NCAA, but who was your toughest opponent that reached the NBA or is in Europe?
The best player I ever played against was D’Angelo Russell.
How does a summer work out plan look like for you in 2018? Have you switched up things from 2-3 years ago about how you approach getting ready for the upcoming season?
This Summer was all about improving my ball handling, making plays off the dribble, and expanding my range. It has changed a lot from 2-3 years ago, because I was still mastering the fundamentals then.
If you had to construct your very own NBA Rushmore which 4 heads would you pick old or new?
Curry, Bird, Kobe, MJ
What is your personal opinion of the never ending debate about who is better Lebron or Jordan?
Tracy Mcgrady said that the Boston Celtics will be the Golden State Warriors of the future. Do you see that happening?
I don’t see it happening, because I don’t think they can beat the Warriors or Rockets in a 7 game series.
Deandre Ayton was the #1 NBA draft pick in 2018. Do you feel that from sheer talent and experience that Luca Doncic should have been the real #1 draft pick?
I wanted Luca to be the number 1 pick. I watched a lot of his games and was super impressed with him. The level of basketball he was playing at is so much better than college basketball.
How did you follow the 2018 NBA Draft? How cool is it having two Germans being drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers?
I did not follow it closely, but two Germans being picked by them is great.
Lebron James makes amazing passes in every game, but really showcased it in a game this season against the Los Angeles Lakers. He already is like a point guard, but if he played just point guard and concentrated only on playmaking how many assists do you feel would he average per game?
If Lebron James did what Wilt Chamberlain did back in the day and only focused on leading the league in assists, he could. So whatever number of assists the leader has, Lebron would have 1 and a half more than him.
Thanks Grant for the chat.