By Matt Winkeljohn | The Good Word -
THE FLATS -- Ben Lammers will soon leave Georgia Tech with many warm memories and a short list of regrets, yet when he closes his career this afternoon in the Reese’s NABC College All-Star Game he’ll be especially happy to close a circle at the same time.
The senior center played 124 games for the Yellow Jackets in 16 states ranging from New York to Florida to California and even played in China.
Not once did he play in his home state of Texas while wearing a Tech uniform and never have his maternal grandparents, Bill and Caroline Tokheim, seen him in person as a collegiate player. That will change when he and 19 other seniors play in the Alamodome in his hometown of San Antonio.
The rock-steady Lammers grew emotional upon learning that he was picked to play.
“It was definitely very exciting,” he said. “They don’t like flying and it’s like… a 16-hour drive from San Antonio, so they’ll be able to see me play college basketball for the first time.”
There will be more family familiarity in Ben’s last college game. His West squad is coached by Boston University’s Joe Jones, the brother of East coach James Jones of Yale.
Beyond that, Lammers will be a teammate of Georgia’s Yante Maten, and the East squad will feature long-time foe Gabe Devoe of Clemson, and UCLA big man Thomas Welsh. When Ben met Welsh in Shanghai in the first game of the season, Lammers went for 24 points and 10 rebounds while Welsh chipped in 10 points and eight boards.
Then, nine days later, Lammers severely wrenched an ankle in a win over Bethune-Cookman, and his swan song season went a bit off-key.
He and the Jackets struggled mightily for the next few months.
“It was obviously frustrating. There were games where I obviously wasn’t able to play at my full potential because I was limited,” Ben said. “At the same time, you couldn’t do anything to change it. I was just trying to do as much as I can.”
Lammers is doing more basketball now than ever, and will be one of 64 seniors in the Portsmouth (Va.) Invitational Tournament on April 11-14. That's a prime scouting spot for NBA officials.
He barely practiced for more than a month after his ankle injury, as head coach Josh Pastner saved him for games, and yet he made the ACC All-Defensive Team for the second season in a row while averaging 11.7 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. He fought through a knee sprain to register a team-high 78 blocked shots and 39 steals.
The mechanical engineering major who was ACC defensive player of the year and second team All-ACC as a junior, when he blocked 125 shots with 43 steals while averaging 14.2 points and 9.2 rebounds, has finished most heavy classroom lifting.
“I can always be an engineer . . . I’ve wrapped a lot of things up school-wise, so I’m focusing on basketball,” he said. “I’m going to be doing a fair amount of traveling because I’m doing the All-Star game . . . . and then I’ll going into the Portsmouth Invitational and then there may be [individual team] workouts before the NBA draft.”
The 6-foot-10 Laminator weighs about 220 pounds now, yet said he won’t be surprised if some NBA teams would prefer him to add bulk.
Ben has landed on the radar of NBA scouts because of his basketball IQ. They remember his junior season, when he was more healthy throughout.
Lammers averaged 14.2 points and 9.2 rebounds, and his 125 blocked shots were four more than all of his teammates combined. He also was third on the team in steals with 43, disrupted countless shots and added 78 assists. Ben has proven himself nimble in the high post as a facilitator and he added range to his jump shot as a senior.
So, while he sees himself one day as a mechanical engineer, the window to play professional basketball will only be open for a relatively short time and he wants in.
“I can’t see the future, but definitely I can see myself coming back and doing something related to that field,” Lammers said. “There’s a lot of chance that I’ll be moving around. If I don’t make it to the NBA, there’s always a chance that I could go to Europe.
“Most college players, especially DI and in the ACC, know that if things go right [in college] that you have a chance to play professionally. If you’re an ACC player, you can pretty much find a place to play.”
Lammers is loosening up.
School’s less taxing during his home stretch, and he recently took the first – and only – true spring break of his college career. As a freshman, he went home soon after the Jackets were eliminated from the ACC Tournament. As a sophomore and a junior, he played in the NIT.
Last week, he and a few friends went to Savannah.
Ben has even taken time to reflect. He knows he’s going to miss the life he’s leaving.
He won’t soon forget the Jackets upsetting eventual national champion North Carolina on New Year’s Eve 2016 to kick off the ACC season. He calls that, “a great, little shocker.”
Ben will take more memories.
“When I came on campus, I kind of felt like I belonged here. There was something about the campus of Georgia Tech that meshed with me very well,” he said. “Having that camaraderie with teammates, that’s something I hope I have again.
“My freshman year, actually my first game ever, was against Georgia and I got a pretty good dunk. I think it was my first points. Maybe my senior night … I had like 13 family members here.”
There’s another memory to come, and it involves family. Grandpa and Grandma will be in the building for the first time this afternoon in the Alamodome and he’ll get to spend an extra two days with them in San Antonio.
They’ll see the culmination of Lammers’ four years of work on the court. But what it all eventually amounts to, he isn’t sure. Whatever it is, “The Laminator” is looking forward.