A Big Warrior
The Arkansas basketball program's search for a big man has led it to Iowa and that young man's play has led his team to next week's National Junior College Tournament in Hutchinson, Kan.
Indian Hills Community College D.J. Bennett (6-9, 215) and his Warriors (30-3) will face Monroe (NY) College (30-3) Tuesday at noon in its opening round match-up.
"D.J. has been so big for us this year, especially this last month when he has really become a force both offensively and defensively for us," Indian Hills head coach Barret Peery said Thursday. "He has worked really hard in developing his game and that is why Arkansas and so many others are all interested."
Bennett, a Chicago-area native who played for Orland Hills Sanburg, is averaging 15 points 10 rebounds and 4 blocks in his team's last seven games for a squad that has 10 Division I prospects that split time.
That has pushed his overall numbers to around 7 points, 5 rebounds and 2 blocks per outing, which has each Warrior playing about 20 minutes a contest.
He is shooting 72 percent (98 of 137) from the field, 70 percent from the free throw line and has 61 blocks this season.
"This is my first year as a coach here and D.J. was buried on the bench last season and barely played at all under the old coach – who was more of a walk-it-up and slow tempo guy," Peery said.
"D.J. has flourished under our system this season, which is an up-tempo one that allows him to get out and run and use his athleticism," Peery added.
Obviously that sounds like a player that would fit Mike Anderson's style at Arkansas, who signed former Razorback Delvon Johnson out of Indian Hills three seasons ago.
"Arkansas has done a great job recruiting D.J. and I think he would be a really fit in well for the Razorbacks and how they are trying to play," Peery said. "That's the kind of system he needs to be in to get the most out of his skills. He has such a high ceiling."
Bennett is being recruited by Arkansas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Charlotte and Wichita State heading into the national tournament, which begins Tuesday at 10 a.m. and lasts through Saturday.
"Once we are done with the tournament, we'll sit down and figure out which three or four teams – or four or five – that he wants to visit," Peery said.
Bennett had 17 points and 11 rebounds on Tuesday night as Indian Hills thrashed the North Dakota State College of Science in the District 11 championship game.
"He has really become a force down low both offensively and defensively," Peery said. "He is so active around the rim, very aggressive and has really made a huge leap forward with his play this season. That is because of his great work ethic."
Arkansas is also recruiting Indian Hills freshman Jameel McKay (6-8, 210), a former Milwaukee prep star.
McKay is averaging a team-best 14.7 points and 7 rebounds this season.
"Jameel has just had a fabulous freshman season and is really talented," Peery said. "He is really long, very skilled, very active and can really run the floor and finish. He plays at a very high level and will be as good as any player in junior college next season."
Indian Hills – located in Ottumwa – started it season 19-0 and will go into the 16-team national tournament on a six-game winning streak.
"We are playing very well right now, but so are all the other 15 teams that made it to the national tournament," Peery said. "We just have to keep playing smart basketball, play hard and bring the energy that we have been playing with this season."
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