Casey Benson (190-PG-1995, college: GCU) is a 27 year old 190cm guard from Tempe, Arizona playing his fifth professional season and first in Germany with the wiha Panthers. He has extensive professional experience having played parts of 3 seasons in Slovenia and also played in Finland, Bulgaria and Belgium. He began his basketball career at Corona del Sol High School and then played 3 years at the University Of Oregon reaching the NCAA final and Elite 8. He then ventured to paly his senior year at Grand Canyon State University (NCAA) averaging 9.7ppg, 4.2rpg, 4.4apg, FGP: 39.7%, 3PT: 34.8%, FT: 75.8%. He spoke to germanhoops.com about his basketball.
Casey thanks for talking to germanhoops.com . Where are you at the moment and how is basketball life treating you at the moment?
Life is great! I’ve been back in Arizona enjoying time with my family. Staying in shape and focusing on getting better this off-season.
Your 27 years old and after playing in Slovenia, Finland, Bulgaria and Belgium, you will play the 2022-2023 season in Germany. Do you classify yourself as a basketball globetrotter?
I’ve never really thought of myself with that label because whenever I think about ‘globetrotters’ I think about the group that does tricks and fun entertainment. But in this case, I would classify as one since I’ve traveled the world playing basketball.
You have signed with the wiha Panthers Schwenningen. What do you know in general about the country Germany and it’s basketball. Did you ever get to visit in your time in Belgium last season?
I follow a lot of leagues around the world so I obviously know Germany has very respected basketball leagues. It’s a very high level so I am excited to have the opportunity! I know it’s a beautiful country so I am looking forward to exploring it when I have time. I wasn’t able to visit during my season in Belgium but I went to Munich a couple years ago which was awesome!
You have signed with the ambitious Pro A team Wiha Panthers. How were the talks with head coach Alen Velcic? Often his extreme love of the game and wanting success is what players remember most. How was it for you?
The talks with Coach Velcic were great! He was the main reason I chose to sign with Schwenningen because he was honest with me from the beginning and made it clear that he believed in me. I know he has great passion and a strong desire to win so I am very excited for the opportunity to learn from him!
Alen Velcic sells his product very well. What was the deciding factor where you knew that this was the correct opportunity for you?
Coach Velcic has huge fire and passion that you want to be around. The biggest thing was how I know he believes in me. He was very open and honest about everything which really meant a lot. We talked about building trust and I feel that we have done that and will continue to build on it!
Let’s talk about your game. You’re a 190cm point guard. If you had to compare your game to an NBA player who would best fit the description?
Growing up, I always tried to model my game after Steve Nash. And now I would say Goran Dragic as well. We are both lefties and have a similar type of play style.
You always put up very high assist stats in Slovenia, but showed in Finland that you can score the ball. Would you classify yourself as a classic pass first point guard or a player that can adjust as a playmaker in any way needed in a coaches system?
Definitely. I would classify myself as a PG that does whatever is needed to win. Whether that is assisting, scoring, defending, etc I just want to impact the game in a lot of ways to help our team win.
You seem to be a very versatile guard. What other strengths does your game have that will help make an impact in the German Pro A?
In addition to assisting and scoring, I focus on being a very good rebounding and defending guard as well. I also want to bring leadership to the team too. As a PG, I want to be an extension of the coach on the floor and make sure the team sticks together.
Talk a little about what kind of defender you are and is your three pointer still a work in progress?
I believe I am very solid defender. There is always room to get better and grow but that is something I have really focused on improving the last few seasons. My 3 pointer is always a work in progress. I shot 40% from 3 this last season but I want to continue to improve on that every season. As a competitor, you always want to get better and so every part of my game can always improve.
Last season you split time with Terme Olimia Podcetrtek (Slovenia-Liga Nova KBM,) averaging 14.7ppg, 5.1rpg, 7.6apg, 1.7spg, 2FGP: 46.9%, 3FGP: 40.0%, FT: 56.3%, and in Nov.’21 moved to Hubo Limburg United (Belgium-Pro Basketball League) averaging 4.0ppg, 3.2rpg, 3.4apg. This was the second time in a season where you split time with 2 clubs. You had good stats in Slovenia and then played a smaller role in Belgium. How do you summarize that season? You did win a cup final in your third try.
I really enjoyed the season. Both Slovenia and Belgium are great places and I had a lot of fun. We were able to win the cup in Belgium so that was awesome! I’d lost in the final in 2 seasons before so to be able to win one was a blast.
You couldn’t have been more blessed to have been able to call veteran and ultimate team player Cliff Hammonds your teammate. I’m sure you were able to soak something up from his defense.
Cliff is my guy! We got to be really close and I tried to learn as much as I could from him. He’s had an incredible career and so it was awesome being able to play against him in practice every day.
In the 20-21 season you played for Zlatorog Lasko (Slovenia-Liga Nova KBM) averaging 12.5ppg, 4.5rpg, 5.8apg, FGP: 45.3%, 3PT: 31.2%, FT: 60.6%. You had an excellent 34/5/11 game in a win against Triglav hitting 7 three’s. Was that one of your best individual performances as a pro?
Definitely my best individual performance as a pro. I’ve had some other good ones but this one was the best. Especially because I impacted the game in every way with efficiency and we won the game! Wouldn’t have mattered if we had lost.
In 2019-2020 you split time between UU-Korihait Uusikaupunki (Finland-Korisliiga) averaging 12.7ppg, 5.5rpg, 3.5apg, 1.1spg, 2FGP: 52.8%, 3FGP: 34.5%, FT: 55.6%, and in Jan.’20 moved to Balkan Botevgrad (Bulgaria-NBL) averaging 6.5ppg, 2.3rpg, 2.8apg, FGP: 57.9%, 3PT: 30.8%, FT: 71.4%. You seemed to have a solid season in Finland, but in Bulgaria Covid got into the way. What memories do you have of this season?
That was also a fun season! We were in 1st place with Balkan but then the season got cancelled so we weren’t able to finish unfortunately. But I really enjoyed both places and still talk to guys from both Finland and Bulgaria!
In Finland you were teammates with one of my favorite guys Richaud Pack. He continues to move up the ladder. Was his chip on his shoulder visible from day 1?
Absolutely. Ricky can really score and I’m happy to see him continuing to further his career and play so well! He was a great dude and I enjoyed playing with him.
You played your rookie season with Hopsi Polzela (Slovenia-Liga Nova KBM) averaging.3ppg, 4.4rpg, Assists-3 (5.6apg), FGP: 45.1%, 3PT: 33.9%, FT: 69.6%. What do you remember being your wake up call to being a rookie overseas where you knew that you were far away from home?
I think preseason was a wake up call. It was different than anything I’d ever experienced in college and so it didn’t take long for my eyes to open. Every season has its ups and downs but that was the furthest I’d ever lived from home obviously so that was an adjustment.
How tough was it losing that last playoff game against Helios Suns 80-78? How much did your 4 turnovers frustrate you after the game?
Very tough. We had such a great season and had beaten them 3 or 4 times in the regular season so to lose to them in the playoffs was hard. Especially when I feel like we didn’t play our best in that playoff series. I typically don’t turn the ball over so that was frustrating to have those TOs. You learn from it and move forward though.
You played at Oregon (NCAA) from 2014-2017 and reached a NCAA final and Elite 8 something most players never would. You played good minutes as a sophomore. How would you classify your 3 years there. How did your game benefit most?
My time at Oregon was a blast. To be able to play in the Final 4 was a dream come true and something I still look back on. We had a great group of guys and won a lot of games throughout those years which was a ton of fun. I’d say my game benefited because I played with other great players so it really pushed me to be the best I could be every day.
You were surrounded by incredible guard players with Joe Young, Tyler Dorsey and Payton Prtichard. What one of those guys do you feel had the biggest impact on you?
They all had an impact in different ways. All great players and are still playing at a very high level. One thing I respected about each of them was how hard they worked on their game to grow and improve each day.
At the 2016 NCAA tournament you had a solid 11/4/8 stat game in the massive win over Duke showing you could match up against guys like Brandon Ingram and Grayson Allen. What do you remember enjoying most about that victory?
That was a top 3 memory I have from my college career. Duke is such a historic program and so to play well and beat them in the NCAA tournament was pretty special. I remember just the feeling of elation after beating them because there was so much build up to that game.
Was the 77-76 loss to North Carolina one that you will definitely never forget? A little trivia for you. Tar Heel Nate Britt played for the wiha Panthers 2 years ago.
For sure. That was a very tough loss when we had opportunities to win it. It was still an incredible to season but in the moment it was hard to lose obviously. I did see that Britt played for Wiha a couple seasons ago and had a great season!
Who won a 1-1 in practice you or Payton Pritchard?
We went back and forth. Payton is a big time competitor and so we really pushed each other every day.
You then finished at Grand Canyon (NCAA) averaging 9.7ppg, 4.2rpg, 4.4apg, FGP: 39.7%, 3PT: 34.8%, FT: 75.8%. Do you ever wonder how your career may have gone had you finished at Oregon (NCAA)?
No, not really. I transferred to GCU because my brother was an assistant coach there and it was 20 minutes away from where I grew up. Playing for him in my last college season and having my family there to watch every game was very special and something I wouldn’t trade!
How did head coach Dan Majerle groom and prepare you best for a professional career?
Coach Majerle played at the highest level for a lot of years and so he knew what it took to be successful. He demanded a lot from us and so it prepared me mentally and physically. I tried to learn as much as I could from him in my season there.
Who was the toughest player that you battled in the NCAA that reached the NBA?
I would say Brandon Ingram and Frank Mason were the 2 toughest. Aaron Holiday was really tough as well.
Please name your 5 best teammates of all-time?
Man, that’s a hard one. I don’t think I could name 5 because I’ve had too many good ones. From high school, college, to professional I’ve really been around great guys and am super grateful for all the relationships I’ve built!
Please name your personal NBA Mount Rushmore of past or present heads?
MJ, Kobe, Lebron, Kareem
What is your personal opinion of the neverending debate of who is the greatest of all-time Jordan or Lebron?
My personal opinion is Jordan will always be the greatest. And I would take Kobe 2nd with Lebron 3rd.
Did you see the sequel to the classic Coming To America? Shouldn’t they have left it alone?
I haven’t seen it yet but I’m assuming it’s not even comparable to the first!
Thanks Casey for the chat.