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Northwestern basketball player previews: C Barret Benson

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Benson is the heir apparent to Dererk Pardon, but still improving his game.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Northwestern vs Vanderbilt Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Basketball season is just around the corner. To get ready for the season, we will bring you in-depth player previews for every scholarship member of the 2017-18 Northwestern Wildcats. Today, we’ve got Barret Benson, last year’s main backup to Dererk Pardon.

Who he is:

Sophomore, 6-foot-10, 240 pounds from Willowbrook, Illinois

The numbers:

8.0 minutes per game (32 games), 2 points per game, 26-of-44 from two, 19 blocks, 12 assists

2016-17 recap:

As a freshman, Benson performed ably last season. He started eight games when Dererk Pardon suffered a hand injury (remember when that was going to derail the season?) and Northwestern won all of those games except for a tough matchup at Michigan State. Benson did just about all the basic things you expect a freshman college center to do. He made layups and dunks, rebounded to the best of his ability and missed a lot of free throws. Pardon was very effective last season, leaving Benson with scarce minutes once the sophomore returned from injury. Benson also split time with Gavin Skelly at times when Northwestern went even smaller.

Strengths:

Benson is a solid rim protector. He’s listed as two inches taller than Pardon, and he definitely could improve to be a solid defensive center, even better than Pardon. Benson had the highest block percentage on the team last season, and he already sets up to be Northwestern’s defensive anchor in the paint when those lineups are necessary. Benson is also a decent passer for a center, and he can finish effectively at the basket.

Weaknesses:

While Benson can finish well at the rim, his jumpshot is major weakness. Benson rarely took shots from beyond three feet last season, but he’s definitely been working on that jumper in the offseason. Benson is not quite as agile and athletic as Pardon yet, so he’ll need to improve his footwork to compete in the Big Ten. His rebounding abilities are still a work in progress, as you’d expect from a freshman. His offensive and defensive rebounding percentage were both much lower than Pardon’s. Benson also turned the ball over a bit too often, which probably contributed to his lack of minutes down the stretch and in the more important games of the season.

Expectations:

Dererk Pardon is still the best center on the team by a significant margin. However, Benson could definitely work his way into more minutes if he improves his offensive output and rebounding. Collins talked about playing more two-big men lineups with Pardon and Benson.

“Sometimes Dererk and I play on the same team [in open gym], trying things like that,” Benson said.

A two-big lineup could be an interesting wrinkle for Northwestern, as Benson is already on his way to being a solid defensive force in the paint. As long as he learns to position his feet and expand his range, Benson should blossom into a solid rotation piece for the Wildcats. For this season, you’d expect a slight uptick in minutes, but not much more than that with Pardon still on the team and performing effectively. However, Benson will provide critical depth if Pardon gets injured. For a backup center, Benson already has a lot of promise, and is a huge part of Northwestern’s bench.

Previous player previews

Jordan Ash

Gavin Skelly