All Eyes Still on Bennett

Article excerpt

Byline: Chase Goodbread, Times-Union sports writer

Twelve months from now, when Jason Bennett's closely scrutinized high school career comes to an end, Arlington Country Day basketball coach Rex Morgan has no doubt his 7-foot-3 center will be a markedly better player than he is today.

But for fans looking for Bennett to suddenly light up the scoreboard as a senior after what has been a relatively pedestrian offensive career, Morgan has a word of caution.

"People wonder why he doesn't average 30 points and 20 rebounds at his size, but none of the top centers in the country are doing that," Morgan said. "It's just not the way the game is played anymore with the 3-point line and the way double-teams come down on the good centers."

For now, Bennett's defense remains the most impressive part of his game. He blocked six shots in ACD's state championship win over Tallahassee Maclay and keys the Apaches' entire defense with his presence in the paint. Bennett could impact a Division-I college game right now with his defense.

But after five years under Morgan's tutelage, opinions of Bennett's offensive development and Morgan's skills as a coach may be inseparably linked when ACD's big man takes the floor for his final prep season in November.

"I'm way too old to worry about that stuff," Morgan said. "I just know this kid still has all the potential in the world, and the basketball people I trust all agree."

Morgan said Bennett should be able to bump his scoring average from 11 as a junior to 15 or more, conservatively, as a senior. Guard Josue Soto is ACD's only returning player who averaged more points (17) than Bennett, but Morgan said Bennett's point production remains only part of his development.

"With Jason, he needs to get at least four or five offensive rebounds per game," Morgan said. "He averaged 11, but to get more on the offensive end he's got to move a little more and stand a little less. But he'll get there."

And all eyes will be watching. …