With the late signing period in its second week, the Mississippi State basketball coaches went into Kentucky – Rick Stansbury's home state, and more specifically his Alma Mater – and picked up a late commitment to add to the class of 2007. Combo player Riley Benock added his name to the commitment list and will make it all official later this week, and he talks about what led up to his decision.
Growing up in the basketball tradition-rich commonwealth of Kentucky, Benock was familiar with top-notch hoops programs, but last weekend was his first trip into Starkville. He was very impressed with what he saw and all it took was an offer to get him to make the jump.
"The visit went great," he said. "Everything about the campus itself was wonderful. The coaches were all great and I was just blown away by how nice everything was down there. I was expecting a big deal but it was just incredible. Then once I knew I knew I had a scholarship, I think I would have been crazy to pass up that opportunity to play SEC ball."
While an official visit, it was not conducted in the usual manner. It was a Sunday/Monday trip and more emphasis was placed on the coaches and team rather than the other perks added to normal visits, like the night life and campus activities.
"Actually I went around with all the coaches and stuff for most of the time, and there for a little time I was with Billy Begley and Ben Hansbrough too," he explained. "He'll be a sophomore next year."
Benock's coach commented on Tuesday that he felt his star would play wing at MSU and Benock got the same feeling, although nothing was set in stone.
"Especially right now at this point," he said. "I'm not saying that I am going to play next year, but with Jamont Gordon still playing the point - and he's going to be there - nobody is going to take that spot. Then if he is back his senior year he will be in that spot. I'll play wherever they need me to.
"They didn't really talk about position a whole lot. I guess it just kind of depends. I guess my versatility and stuff will help. I won't have to play just one position. The more versatile you are – and I am pretty versatile, playing the point and shooting, passing and stuff like that – that will give me the opportunity of playing more than one."
The Delk twins left the Bulldog team earlier this week leaving two slots open, both areas where Benock can contribute. Did the immediate move up the depth chart influence his decision?
"I didn't really look a whole lot at what was going on with that kind of stuff," he said. "I just kind of went down there and had to concentrate on what they had to offer and everything. I just let the other stuff kind of take care of itself. It's hard to say what will happen so I am just going to wait on the opportunity and start working to prepare for it, to get the chance and just jump at it."
Coach Stansbury is known for his work ethic and when he needed a quick replacement, he had already laid the groundwork himself.
"Actually mainly I talked to coach Stansbury more than anybody," Benock said. "I talked to him quite a bit and coach Cunningham. I spoke with them more than anybody, but mostly coach Stansbury."
Coming from his Alma Mater, did coach Stansbury see a little bit of himself in his newest commitment?
"He grew up here in the same area and it is kind of crazy that something like that could happen, I guess," Benock said. "He doesn't say a whole lot about it. It is kind of business I guess, but it didn't hurt, I don't think.
"He kind of knew the background and stuff, where I'm from and everything, and he kind of went through the same thing here - working around the farm and stuff - so he kind of knew the background and stuff about what I am all about, so it didn't hurt that he did know all that. It is just kind of a coincidence I guess."
While many coaches today hit the AAU circuit looking for their stars of the future, other players – for whatever reasons – don't go that route and are oftentimes hurt in their recruitment. Such was the case with Benock.
"I never did really play AAU," he said. "I always went to baseball right after basketball, so that kind of cut down on what I could do AAU-wise and stuff. Then last summer I was maybe going to try to do some stuff, but I hurt my shoulder in baseball, so that eliminated that opportunity. I had surgery over the off-season, but everything is fine now."
In the day and age of media exposure and pointing fingers at yourself, Benock will have a quiet ceremony on Thursday to seal the deal.
"We are just going to have a little get together at school after school is over, and none of the coaches are allowed to be there but some people around here – some family and friends – and just have a little deal," he said.