The 2016-2017 season is a crucial one for the Northwestern Wildcats and head coach Chris Collins. Collins enters his fourth year, and the general consensus is that his program has to show significant signs of progress in order to reach the ultimate goal of making the NCAA tournament by the target year of 2018, when his first recruiting class will all be seniors. Collins has high expectations of a talented bunch of players, and they’ll need to show his expectations are not unfounded. With that, we run through every player on the roster this season. Next up is a fresh face: Barret Benson, the freshman center out of Hinsdale South High School.
Who he is:
Freshman | 6-foot-10 | 240 pounds | Willowbrook, IL
A three-star recruit from Willowbrook, Benson rebuked offers from DePaul, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas State and Purdue in favor of Northwestern back in November. Benson is listed as the second-ranked recruit in Northwestern’s 2016 class, behind the injured Rapolas Ivanauskas, and the fifth-ranked prospect in the state of Illinois. He has a wide body, soft hands and a knack for finding himself open around the rim, which could all prove essential for a thin Northwestern front court.
Here’s a look at highlights from Benson’s senior year at Hinsdale South:
Benson’s not terribly quick at his size, but he’s well disciplined in his footwork; many of his buckets on the tape are a bi-product of stellar low-post positioning. He also flashed the ability to step out and hit the mid-range jumper (both catch-and-shoot and off the dribble) on occasion. Benson’s greatest strength, though, might be his hands. Often young bigs with the raw physical tools to succeed falter because of a lack of finesse, but Benson exhibits great touch around the rim and in catching entry passes in the reel above. While the ferocity of the blocks shown in the tape is probably overstated given the level of competition he’s up against, he still shows promising shot-blocking instincts in a number of plays.
It’s hard to gather weaknesses from tape where there is heavy emphasis on a player’s strengths, but there’s a few critiques that can be drawn from the reel above. As mentioned before, Benson’s mobility and athleticism are both question marks. While his wide frame and sturdy build will help him on the glass, it’s hard to imagine him galloping back and forth in transition or effortlessly stymying opposing guards when switched on to them defensively. Benson’s strength on the glass and in the post (both defensively and offensively) will be interesting to observe throughout the 2016 campaign, as well. While much credit is owed to Benson for his play throughout high school, it’s hard to deny that many of his baskets came as a result of a lot of his competition simply being half his size.
Benson is the only other center listed on the roster outside of Pardon, so it’s reasonable to expect head coach Chris Collins to call his name in reserve situations fairly often this season. If all goes well, Benson could prove to be a shot-blocking, floor spacing, low-post magician off the bench for NU, but, then again, when has ‘all gone well’ for Northwestern basketball? Let’s wait and see what happens; we’ll have plenty of opportunities to watch him.