The first professional basketball contract for Northside High graduate Dwayne Benjamin feels anything like a job.
“It’s like the best paid vacation ever,” he said.
Benjamin, a valuable member of Oregon’s Elite Eight team last season, signed a one-year deal earlier this week with the Bakken Bears of Aarhus, Denmark in the Danish Basketball League.
Benjamin said he reports Aug. 8 for the start of training camp.
“A few teams talked to my agent and we just felt career- wise and money-wise, this was one of the more respected leagues in Europe,” Benjamin said. “It’s up there competition- wise. It’s well respected by the NBA. All those things worked together.”
Bakken’s style of play was another major selling point, something similar to the role the 6-foot-7, 215-pound Benjamin played at Oregon, which featured an up-tempo, fast break approach.
“They watched my highlight tape and felt that I could sit in for them,” he said. “Their coach said he watched a lot of Oregon games and we were pretty good. They talked to my agent and it worked out.”
The events of this week, with Benjamin’s signature on a professional contract, continued a distinct path that’s carried him from Northside High in Lafayette where he played for coach Devan Clark to Mt. San Jacinto (Calif.) Junior College to Oregon.
However, this wasn’t always the intended goal for Benjamin, who was an aspiring wide receiver for the Vikings with scholarship offers to Louisiana-Lafayette and Texas-El Paso. When he failed to meet NCAA freshman academic entrance requirements, Benjamin headed west to Mt. San Jacinto and never returned home.
“I knew I could do something,” he said. “Growing up I always thought I would be a football player. I had some offers out of high school but wasn’t able to take them because I didn’t do well in high school. I went to junior college, continued to work, continued to get better and believed in myself to get to Oregon.”
Benjamin averaged 15.8 and 21.1 points in his two seasons at Mt. San Jacinto in California, catching the eye of Oregon coach Dana Aultman, who extended a scholarship and a visit.
The official visit to Oregon was Benjamin’s first and last. He committed immediately after listening to the coaching staff’s pitch for assembling an athletic team that could take advantage of the 3-point shot.
Benjamin, who is two classes shy of his degree in social sciences, was hooked and signed with the Ducks, who went 57-17 during his two seasons.
“Growing up you have these certain schools you’d play for,” Benjamin said. “I always thought I’d play football at LSU or Oregon, but it so happened that the sports switched. The coaches at Oregon said we would win and be good and everything went the way we planned it to happen.”
Benjamin took an unselfish approach to a role he was previously unaccustomed with.
While he started 13 of 34 games during his junior season, Benjamin found more of a niche coming off Oregon’s bench where he averaged 8.4 points and 5.8 rebounds in 23 minutes a game.
During one of the greatest seasons in school history, Benjamin witnessed a slight dip in his production, which was of little consequence to him.
Benjamin started twice in 38 games in a season when the Ducks went 31-7 and reached the West Regional final against Oklahoma. He averaged 7.8 points and 3.0 rebounds, but improved his field goal percentage to 40 percent and 3-point shooting (45 of 142) to 32 percent.
“I may not have had the best career personally I thought I would have, but I won, had fun and had a lot of great experiences,” Benjamin said. “That helped me to be what I’ve always wanted to be, and that’s to get paid to play a sport.”