- Associated Press - Friday, June 24, 2011

ATLANTA (AP) - Center Keith Benson wants to help the Atlanta Hawks boost their scoring and defense on the front line.

The Hawks selected the Oakland University big man with the 48th pick in the second round of Thursday’s NBA draft.

“I’m looking forward to playing with Al Horford,” Benson said. “He’s developed into one of the really good bigs in this league. I’ve always liked watching Joe Johnson. They’re an athletic team. I think I can contribute to that.”

Benson was the Hawks‘ first selection after general manager Rick Sund traded a first-rounder to Washington in February for a package that included veteran point guard Kirk Hinrich.


Benson averaged 14.1 points and 8.2 rebounds in four seasons with Oakland. The 6-foot-11, 224-pound Benson knows the Hawks want him to add muscle and bulk.

“I think I have the frame to put on a lot of weight, and my game will really increase once I put on that weight and some strength and things like that,” Benson said. “I think I can put on 20 or more pounds.”

Atlanta, which is coming off a second-round playoff loss to Chicago, was seeking low-post offense to take some of the front-line scoring responsibilities off Horford.

Sund declined to say whether he tried to trade forward Josh Smith in an effort to move high into the first round.

Smith, a talented but inconsistent power forward, was the subject of speculation in an allegedly proposed deal to Minnesota for the No. 2 overall pick.

Benson was named the 2011 Summit League top player and defensive player of the year. His senior of 17.9 points and 10.1 rebounds helped his Rochester, Mich.-based school play well enough to advance to the NCAA tournament.

Oakland lost to Texas in the first round.

Benson spoke with Hawks coach Larry Drew when he was drafted. Drew told him to report for a mini-camp Monday in Atlanta and get ready to work on his defense.

“Going into the draft and looking at the free agency market, certainly if we’re going to be one of the top teams in the East, we’ve got to get better defensively,” Drew said. “What better way to get better than to bring in a shot blocker? He has the length and he has the awareness to block shots, so we’re very happy with the selection.”