With a flick of his wrist, he speeds the ball into what usually is the land of net, the 9-year-old’s preferred destination.
Benham, a Euharlee Elementary fourth-grader, certainly knows how to shoot that ball and how a young shooter can get better and better.
“I keep on practicing. Practice makes perfect,” Benham said, explaining his success as a basketball shooter participating in the Elks Club Annual Hoop Shoot Contest.
The Bartow basketball sharpshooter is uncommonly good in that competition, having won a regional contest against foes from several states, and he is poised to compete against the six other regional winners in the national championship April 20 in Springfield, Mass. He earlier won the Bartow County hoop shoot, the North Georgia contest and the state of Georgia competition.
He also will be representing the Cartersville Elks Lodge and Georgia in Springfield and a victory will earn him recognition as the nation’s best hoop shooter and his name will be inscribed in the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Braxton said he has not been shooting competitively long.
“About three years ago, my brother [Brandon] and I were watching basketball on TV, and now we have a basketball goal up.”
He practices at that goal but also goes to BCPRD gyms. “I go mostly to Houston Suggs Gym, probably at least two times a week to prepare.”
Braxton said practicing helps him. His mother said since he began advancing in the hoop shoot, Braxton shoots about an hour a day.
Braxton said he learns from anyone. “I watch a lot of NBA. I watch everybody.”
He credits one of his early coaches with helping him develop his shot.
“Once I release, I follow through,” he said. “My coach [Tim Eller] said it’s like reaching your hand in a cookie jar. That’s how I think of it most times, when I’m doing good.”
He said he also practices with his dad as well.
Braxton admits he — like his mom — has been surprised by his success. “I wasn’t expecting to go this far but it happened,” he said.
Greg Hight said the BCPRD hosts the hoop shoot locally. “We’ve never had a youngster go as far as Braxton’s gone,” Hight said.
Hight said Braxton’s best shooting mark so far has been 22 out of 25 shots.
Hight praises the program and the Elks.
“The Elks do a good job working with these kids,” he said. “They help the winners compete, putting them up in motels, helping them with their expenses.”
He said Gary Robinette has been to virtually every event, smoothing the way for Bartow County’s competitors.
Hight said the recreation authority is proud of Bartow County’s winner, too.
“It’s a pretty big deal to have a kid come out of our program and be able to do what he’s done,” Hight said.
He said Braxton is a good representative for the county. “He’s the kind of kid you want to represent you because of his demeanor, his personality, who he is.”
Hight said Braxton also played basketball with the recreation department, although not all the competitors in the hoop shoot have.
“Braxton is one of our starters on the 8U All-Stars team and he plays soccer.”
He stopped far short of taking any credit for Braxton’s performance.
“We don’t take credit for that,” Hight said. “It’s like in baseball, if you’re batting .500, who am I to mess with your swing? We don’t take any credit, but we are proud of his success.”
He said Braxton simply has a knack for hitting shots.
“I think he picked it up on his own, from his brother, his dad, his mom or someone.”
Hight said the hoop shoot is a good fit for the youngsters.
“It's something our kids can take pride in,” he said. “A lot of kids who come out don’t play basketball. It gives our kids a chance for individual achievement in something that’s a team sport.”
Braxton isn’t the only state winner from Bartow. Carter Hedden is the state champion for boys 12-13. Lauren McElhaney came close, too, placing third in the state in girls 10-11.
Braxton’s mom, Heather, has been pleased with the hoop shoot but admits she had no idea how many people it involved until she started taking her son to the contests as he progressed in the competition.
She said last year he was the runner-up in the county hoop shoot and began playing organized basketball.
“It’s just something he has enjoyed and was able to take off with,” she said.
She said he’d been around basketball but not so organized as the recreation department program.
She said even though he was Bartow County runner-up in his age group, she didn’t realize how far the program reached across the country.
“We weren’t aware it was national,” she said, adding her son won locally, then in North Georgia and at the state level.
He next competed at the district level, bringing him into competition with youths from Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, South Carolina and Georgia.
The final step will be this month when he competes in Springfield, Mass., for national honors.
She admitted she also has been surprised at his success at such a high level, but added the event has been fun.
“Braxton’s enjoying himself,” she said. “He’s made a lot of friends. He’s very social. He’s having a good time.”