During the opening of his sophomore season, Bennie Boatwright made a strong early case as one of the most advanced big men on the West Coast. Colleague Josh Gershon compared him to Austin Daye, and the comparison certainly made sense.
Boatwright experienced a late growth spurt, one reason he retained his ball skills despite growing to 6-7 (and now 6-8) in high school. His first set of offers arrived from Boise State, Connecticut, New Mexico State, Rice, San Diego, U.C. Irvine, USC and Washington.
He opened his 2013 travel season with Cal Supreme on the EYBL circuit, proving to be among the most impressive young frontcourt prospects competing under the Nike umbrella. His 2014 travel season was up and down, but his long ball potency led to additional offers and this past spring he cut his list to 10: UCLA, USC, Arizona, Arizona State, Washington, California, Oregon, Connecticut, Colorado and Cal Poly.
By early summer, he’d set up unofficial visits that included stops to Washington, Cal, Gonzaga and Washington State. But none of those programs could win the him away from USC, which was able to lock up a late summer commitment.
Three-point shooting by far is what has enabled Boatwright to land a spot in the national top 100. The marksman fires away with confidence and great balance from deep, featuring an effortless release with great touch and range.
Boatwright is the kind of shooter who won’t merely take open attempts; the Trojans likely will run plays for him in halfcourt situations when they need a three.
|At the end of a tight game, Boatwright could prove lethal|
And there’s a fairly good chance he’ll deliver. In nine regular season contests with Gamepoint — his 2014 travel squad, playing on the Adidas circuit —Boatwright led the team in scoring by averaging more than 17 points per game. Included in that was a tremendous 46 percent on threes. And given that fired up nearly six triples per contest, that accuracy becomes all the more impressive.
Boatwright is the kind of shooter teams play for that one ability, yet he still gets his production. And if they make the mistake of fouling him, he makes them pay, shooting 86 percent from the foul line.
But he’s not as one dimensional as this evaluation has portrayed him thus far. He pulled down a strong nine rebounds per game thanks to good hands and excellent timing for retrieving rebounds outside of the space directly at the rim. He also blocked one shot per game and didn’t commit many turnovers.
While not explosive (more on that below), Boatwright does possess outstanding hand-eye coordination and keeps his balance when on the move. That’s what enables him to release jump shots quickly off the catch.
Clearly, average quickness, speed and leaping ability affect Boatwright’s game when he’s matched against the wrong opponent. He’s unlikely to create his own shot and not a consistent finisher for those same reasons. Though he shot 46 percent on threes, he shot only 47 percent from the field overall. His return on shooting investment clearly is highest from deep.
Defense is where he’s likely to struggle most. Boatwright doesn’t have a natural position on that end of the court, as he’s not quite long and strong enough for better posts yet not sufficiently quick to guard wings.
The upshot is that, with more strength, he should develop into at least a solid post defender. It’s years from now, when he might need to be a full-time perimeter player, that the issue could surface more severely.
Boatwright’s stroke is college-ready. Most freshmen struggle to fire in perimeter shots, but I believe the combination of his size and touch will translate to the next level immediately.
He also deserves credit for his rebounding. Though not considered a tough guy, Boatwright’s penchant for hauling down rebounds make a strong case that he at times gets unfairly assessed as purely finesse. He is finesse, no question, but if he’ll rebound his position so well, few will be able to legitimately question his toughness.
He projects as a multi-year starter for the Trojans and will give the club a long-distance presence all by himself. USC has struggled out of the gate this season and needs offensive punch, and thus his arrival to the program gives cause for genuine excitement.