HoopsHype.com Interviews

Lee Benson: "I try not to think too much about what-ifs"
by Jorge Sierra / December 4, 2003

- Attended the Dayton Dunbar HS.
- Highly recruited after earning MVP honors at the Dayton city league.
- Spent eight years in jail on drug charges.
- Played college ball at Brown Mackie JC in 2001-02.
- Declared for the NBA Draft in 2002.
- Played in the USBL, Greece, China and Venezuela in 2002-03.
- Signed with APOEL Nicosia (Cyprus) in 2003-04.
- A movie based on his life will be made in 2004.

First of all, how's your fiancé? I know he had an accident while you were at practice with your team in Cyprus. [His fiancé fell from the third floor of their house, according to Lee Benson's agency].

Lee Benson: She's OK now.

The accident happened just a few weeks ago. Have you been able to focus on basketball after that?

LB: Well, it was not just a few weeks ago. It was right before the season began, but everything is OK now.

You've had a lot of drama in your life. Don't you ask yourself sometimes 'Why me?'

LB: You finally get used to it. Now I just go with the flow.

Do you think much about what-ifs?

LB: Sometimes I think about it. I think that I might be playing in the NBA now. But I try not to think too much about that.

How is playing organized basketball as opposed to playing basketball in prison?

LB: It's not as physical. The feel for the game is totally different. It took me like six months to make the transition. In jail, there were no referees and you couldn't really use all your skills. It was totally different there.

Did you have any other distractions apart from basketball while you were in the Warren Correctional?

LB: Reading (laughs). You read books or any other thing to stay busy. I wrote letters, too. I did anything to stay busy. If you don't stay busy and think too much when you are there, you go crazy.

What do you think when people say jails are not tough enough?

LB: It's a mix of emotions. You have to care about yourself. You just have to become a better person and not get mad about what people do or say.

There was a lot of buzz about you before the 2002 Draft. Were you disappointed that you didn't get drafted?

LB: I knew in the back of my mind that I wouldn't get drafted. NBA teams didn't have much information about my background. NBA scouts wanted me to stay in college another year, so they had more information. They thought I could be a first-round pick with another year in college. But I chose to enter the draft. Maybe it was a little bit premature, but things have not gone bad for me.

Don't you regret not staying another year in college, then?

LB: Yeah, a little bit. But not much (laughs). I'm fine now.

What do you think was the main reason why they didn't give you a chance: your age, not having played much organized ball or off-the-court issues?

LB: I think it was mainly not having much experience playing organized basketball. I don't think my age was that big of an issue. My body is fresh. NBA teams knew that for my workouts. They had me running sprints with younger guys and I was right there with the best. If you look at my pre-draft stats, everything was fine.

How did you end up playing in Cyprus?

LB: My agent wanted me to come here. I just want to play the full year on my team and get the money, you know. The league is a little bit more physical than the Greek league, but it's not that big of a challenge for me. And the referees are not good here. Local teams get away with a lot of calls. Refs make crazy decisions sometimes.

How's living there? Is it a good place to live?

LB: (Laughs) Any place is a good place for me now. Yeah, I can say I'm happy here.

You were with the Raptors just a few days last summer. What happened there? It's not like they had a lot of talent in the frontcourt.

LB: I left the team early to go to China. There were people mad at me for doing that. But, you know, they pay $300 for a week – or every three days – to play in the summer league and I had a better option. They were upset with me for leaving, but I had to make the decision that was best for me. I don't want to be in my forties and living in my parents' house.

Are you going to give the NBA a try again?

LB: Most definitely. When I finish the season here, I'm going to continue working out. I'm going to be in the best shape of my life for next season when I give it another try.

How many more years do you plan on playing?

LB: I think I can play 10 more years. But probably I'm going to play just five more. I think I can play till 40-42, but I will probably stop at 35-36. We'll see. Now I'm just listening to my body.

There were rumors that they were going to make a movie based on your life. Is the project going forward?

LB: Yeah, but they are still writing the script. They are working on that and when it's done, they are going to present it to HBO. They will probably start filming in March or April.

Would you like to play a role in the movie?

LB: They want me to play a role in the movie. They want me to work on my acting skills, but I don't really feel like taking acting classes at this point.

Darius Miles was given a role in a movie they filmed last year and he didn't take any acting classes.

LB: Yes, but they want me to do that. The HBO casting crew wants to take a look at me. But I don't really want to take acting classes. I just want to focus on basketball right now.

Who would you like to play your role in the movie?

LB: I know they are looking at Kevin Garnett.


LB: Yeah. They are talking about Kevin Garnett or Lamar Odom. I know all the details will be known for Christmas. But most definitely there will be a movie about my life.

Jorge Sierra is the editor of HoopsHype.com

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