There were many who questioned New Mexico head coach Ritchie McKay's ability to recruit top notch basketball talent. Well those critics might be silenced, at least for the time being, with the news coming out of Houston, Texas Friday night. Justin Benson, a 6-foot, 7-inch, 240-pound forward from Gulf Shores Academy in Houston, gave McKay a verbal commitment to attend the University of New Mexico on a men's basketball scholarship. Benson is rated as a 4-Star talent according to Rivals.com and is also ranked as the No. 13 player in the nation according to RivalsHoops rankings for power forwards. In the top-100 class for 2003, also by RivalsHoops, Benson is rated as the 46th-best player overall.
Last season Benson averaged 31 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks per game this past season at Gulf Shores Academy. One of the fastest rising players in the Class of 2003, Benson is a fifth-year senior at Gulf Shores Academy. He spent his first three years of high school at Worthing H.S. in Houston, and is entering his second year at Gulf Shores.
The one thing that sets Benson apart from other big men is his ability to shoot both around the basket and facing the basket. He'll even head out to three point land. He also uses his wide body effectively to rebound inside the paint. The one thing he isn't is very athletic, but the bottom line is that he produces throughout the course of a game.
Benson played with the Houston Hoops program this summer, and displayed excellent shooting touch for a power forward. At the Nike Peach Jam Tournament he averaged 13.8 points and 5.8 rebounds in five pool games. was very impressive to RivalsHoops.com this summer. Benson recently concluded his play at the National AAU tournament in July, and he was extremely solid at the Super Showcase. He showed he is one of the few big men in the class of 2003 that can step out and shoot the basketball proficiently.
Benson narrowed his list to six schools including Houston, DePaul, Pepperdine, Kent State, New Mexico and St. Louis in late-September. Benson made his decision to attend New Mexico despite the fact that he hasn't taken an official visit to the school. Benson has yet to take his SAT, which he plans to do on Oct. 12. Once he posts a score, he will be eligible to take an official visit. He did have a visit scheduled at Pepperdine next weekend. The only visit he has planned now is one to New Mexico, which he'll probably take late this month or in early-November.
His expanded list early in the recruiting process included St. Mary's (Calif.), Texas Southern, UTEP, Baylor, Providence, North Carolina, Kent State, Colorado State, Tulane, McNeese State, Charleston Southern and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.