Wright State may not have made it to the Final Four, but Grant Benzinger did.
The senior guard accepted an invitation to take part in the inaugural Dos Equis 3X3U National Championship, a three-on-three tournament for seniors from each of the NCAA’s Division I conferences.
Benzinger, who will team with Oakland’s Jalen Hayes and Kendrick Nunn and Northern Kentucky’s Lavone Holland II this weekend in San Antonio, said he jumped at the chance to be a part of it.
›› ARCHDEACON: Benzinger goes all out — as always — in final game
“It was a no-brainer,” he said. “I’m not ever going to get this opportunity again because it’s only for college seniors. I don’t know if I’ll get invited to any NBA workouts, but there’s no point passing this up. I just rested my body for a week and a half, and I want to get back into it.”
Benzinger tore another hole in his hip late in Wright State’s 73-47 loss to Tennessee in the first round of the NCAA tournament March 15.
Doctors removed the stitches Monday, and WSU trainer Jason Franklin gave him a protective pad to wear on his hip for the three-on-three tournament.
Benzinger said he’ll likely need it.
“If there’s a loose ball, I’m probably going to dive for it,” he said. “It’s just in my DNA.”
The tournament begins Friday and runs through Sunday at St. Mary’s University’s Bill Greehey Arena, which is a short drive from the Alamodome, where the Final Four is being held.
Benzinger, who leaves Wednesday, said he wasn’t sure if the Wright State coaches, who will be in town for the Final Four, would make it over to watch him because they “might not be interested in that brand of basketball.”
But WSU coach Scott Nagy said he wouldn’t miss it.
“We’re anxious to get down there and watch him play,” he said. “It will be interesting to see how quickly the four of them come together to develop chemistry. They certainly have a team that can shoot it. I just wonder if they can guard anybody inside.”
The tournament is set up with eight pools of four teams. The other three conferences in the pool with the Horizon League are the American Athletic, the Ohio Valley and the West Coast.
Games are to 21 or 10 minutes, whichever comes first. Shots inside the 3-point arc are worth one point, while shots beyond are worth two.
Pool play and the single-elimination quarterfinals will air live on Twitter from Friday-Sunday, while ESPN2 will broadcast the semifinals and championship Sunday afternoon.
›› PHOTO GALLERY: See pictures from Wright State’s NCAA tournament game
Teams will win $1,000 ($250 per person) for each pool victory, with a grand prize of $50,000 going to the overall champion.
“I really like our team,” Benzinger said. “Three of us are left-handed players (Benzinger, Nunn, Hayes), so that’s unusual. It might be difficult for other teams to get used to guarding that.”
The team will practice Thursday before playing its first game at 11:15 p.m. Ohio time Friday.
Benzinger said he’s excited to be on the same team with Nunn, who finished second in the country in scoring (25.9) and first in 3-pointers per game (4.47).
“If he wants to shoot every time, I’m cool with that,” he said. “I’ll try to chase down the rebound. I’m just really excited about the chance to play more basketball.”