ACD's Bennett Standing Tall

Florida prep star Jason Bennett is used to all the attention that goes with being a 7-3, 245-pound junior prospect and helps get his team off to a good start at this year's Holiday Hoops.

When you are a 7-3, 245-pound junior basketball player, you're going to get plenty of attention whether you are on the court or not.

Of course, Jacksonville (Fla.) Arlington Country Day's Jason Bennett is used to that seeing as how he was 6-11 when he first started playing high school ball - in the seventh grade.

"I'm used to the attention," Bennett said. "I know I am being looked at for my strengths and my flaws and somebody is always sizing something up."

Bennett had 13 points, 9 rebounds and 5 blocks on Thursday afternoon as he and the Apaches opened up the Holiday Hoops tournament at Fayetteville's Bud Walton Arena by downing Camden Fairview 63-47.

"I think I have gotten a whole lot stronger," said Bennett, who was 7-2, 228 pounds at this event last season when his team finished as the runner-up. "I've tried to lift weights and my post game has gotten stronger. "

It was a second strong outing for Bennett, who was matched up against Poplar Bluff and North Carolina signee Tyler Hansbrough in the Marshall County Hoopfest at Benton, Kentucky.

ACD (6-0) won that by 8 points before a crowd of 6,200 fans as Bennett, who no longer has the full beard he sported this summer, played a key role.

"The kid they have Hansbrough is a very good player, but Jason and Sammie (Hernandez) did a very good job against him," Morgan said. "He got the line on us 16 times. It is hard to keep a kid like that that is so active off the line. But they battled him."

Bennett, who attended this summer's Nike All-America Camp, matched up in this tournament last season with current 7-0 Arkansas freshman Steven Hill. Morgan thinks both have gotten better.

"I think you guys are seeing that here with Steven Hill," Morgan said. "He is a lot stronger than when he was when he played here the last tournament. We played against (NBA top draft pick) Dwight Howard last year when he was 240 and now he's 260. Hansbrough this summer is not nearly the man he is now. With the strength comes confidence with big guys. He is picking up more confidence when he takes it up."

Bennett took it hard on the rack on Thursday when given the opportunity, but didn't get a lot of entry passes from ACD's great perimeter shooters. He finished 5-of-8 from the field with three dunks.

"None of us are 7-3 so we don't know what it is like to be in his shoes," Morgan said. "But if he takes it up and a 6-4 kid blocks it and everybody in the gym laughs and stuff like that, then maybe he doesn't go up. But once he gets the strength - and feels like he did tonight - he just kept taking it at them and had probably three or four dunks tonight. Last year he would have been putting it off the glass.

"His footwork and all the stuff we have been working on, he couldn't do until he got the lower body strength," Morgan continued. "He is stronger with the upper body than he is the lower body."

Arkansas is one of the many schools recruiting Bennett.

"I really like the arena and the coaches here," Bennett said. "They are definitely in my top three along with Florida and Florida State right now."

Morgan says the recruiting attention has been coming from many schools.

"We are kind of in a situation where there are about 10 schools," Morgan said. "Florida, Cincinnati, Florida State, Arkansas is one of them, Georgia Tech is one of them. He has been offered by about everybody in the country."

Arkansas has had one previous ACD player in its program in Berry Jordan, who was encourage to transfer when Arkansas head coach Stan Heath took over for former coach Nolan Richardson.

That left some hard feelings, but Heath and assistant Rob Flaska have soothed those over and Jordan has bounced around a few places and is now at Division II Columbus State.

"Coach Heath has done an excellent job of kind of mending fences with us after what happened with the Jordan kid that left," Morgan said. "I wasn't sure at that time if any of our kids would ever go to Arkansas again. But Coach Heath and Coach Flaska have kind of opened the doors back up. They are welcome on our campus any day."

Arlington Country Day will return to action Friday night at 6:30 when it plays Memphis Hamilton (9-1).


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