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Auburn boy ready for Elks Hoop Shoot National Finals

10-year-old has free throw advice for Dwight Howard
By: Matthew Kimel, Journal sports editor
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Benny May makes it look so simple.

Unfortunately for numerous basketball stars — think Dwight Howard and Shaquille O’Neal — that isn’t always the case.

Benny, a 4-foot, 10-inch fifth-grader who attends St. Joseph Catholic School, has developed the ideal technique to sink foul shots.

The Auburn native’s forte from the foul line has landed him and his family a paid trip to Springfield, Mass., for the upcoming Elks Hoop Shoot National Finals to face the top 10- and 11-year-old boys in the country.

Last fall, Benny joined 2.5 million kids ages 8 to 13 in competing in the 2013 Elks National Hoop Shoot Free Throw Contest. He advanced through the local, district and state levels of competition, sinking the most of 25 free throws in each round. On Feb. 23, with a score of 19 out of 25 (76 percent) at the West Region’s Hoop Shoot round in Las Vegas, Benny secured his spot as one of the 72 national finalists.

So what exactly does Benny do that makes him such a great shooter?

“You just keep your toes pointed toward the basket and keep your elbows straight,” said Benny, who tends to bounce the ball four times before he takes his shot.

Benny’s looking forward to the national contest, and he’s hopeful he can take home another trophy. He’s been playing basketball for four years, and practices his charity shots daily.

The Elks event tips off on April 20. At the contest, the 72 national finalists will compete to see who can drain the most of 25 free throws and claim the title of national champion. One boy and one girl in each of the three age groups will earn the prestigious title. The winners will have their names permanently inscribed in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

The Elks will be paying for most of Benny’s expenses, including flight to Connecticut, hotels and transportation, and providing some spending money. Joining Benny on the trip will be his proud mother, Hayden May, and her parents, aunt and uncle.

Sharon Bettencourt, an Elks representative of the Northeast District, said Benny is the first one from her area to advance to the regional or national round. The district has lodges in Auburn, Alturas, Calpine, Grass Valley, Lake Almanor, Nevada City, Susanville and Quincy.

“We’re pulling for him,” Bettencourt said.

Hayden May is grateful for the opportunity that has been presented to her son.

“I want to thank the Elks,” she said. “They’ve given great support and got him to do hoops after his homework every day. It’s a wonderful program.” 

Benny plays for the St. Joseph basketball team and isn’t afraid to admit he’s one of the better free throw shooters on the squad.

Benny’s favorite basketball player is Kevin Durant. And the Oklahoma City Thunder happen to be his favorite team. He’d like to play in the NBA one day, but the Auburn BallStars baseball player wouldn’t mind ending up in the major leagues either. He’s also involved in Auburn Youth Soccer.

For those who struggle at free throws, Benny has one word of advice:

“Practice.”

Benny said he’d be willing to give somebody like Dwight Howard, who is currently making fewer than 50 percent of his foul shots, some lessons if they came out to Auburn.

Asked whether Howard would start making his shots if he bounced the ball four times before shooting, Benny laughed and said “yeah.”

Reach Matthew Kimel at matthewk@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @matthewkimel