Maryland’s addition of Ivan Bender Jan. 8 was a long time coming, as the Terps have been involved with the Croatian big man since July. In fact, sources suggested he could’ve potentially joined the program before the fall and been eligible to play at the start of the 2014-15 campaign.
However, Bender ended up tearing his ACL in the 2013 World Championships, leaving his status in question. He’s still not completely healthy, but he’s been working out in Croatia, according to reports, and when fully recovered he’ll be eligible to play immediately.
Now, based off what Terrapin Times hoops guru Dan Painter was able to glean, Bender sounds like a classic Euro “four” man, known for his fundamentals and the ability to face up and knock down jumpers. Painter suggested the 6-foot-9, 230-pounder had fairly decent handles, passed the ball well and could make a few moves around the rim. He’ll have to improve his strength and physicality in order to become a banger inside, however.
Bender, who was born in Caplijina, Bosnia and Herzegovina and attended Elektrotehnicka Skola in Split, Croatia, averaged 14.3 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists in the Junior Euroleague, where he played with KK Split. He also was part of the U-18 Croatian National Team and the U-19 Croatian National Team, tearing his ACL during play with the latter.
When Bender does take the floor in College Park, Md., either this winter or next fall, he’ll likely play a limited reserve role. Sophomore Damonte Dodd, freshman Michal Cekovsky and senior Jon Graham are probably all slated ahead of him at this point. Next year, if the Terps add another big like Yankuba Sima (Elev8/Delray Beach, Fla.), who is considered a Maryland lean, then Bender will likely have to compete with him, as well as power forward Rober Carter, for floor time as that third or fourth big in the rotation.
Bender isn’t considered the type of talent his brother, Dragen Bender (a potential NBA lottery pick), is, but he brings length and a solid skill-set to the table. Just like with Cekovsky, it may take Bender a little while to adjust to basketball in the United States, but in time he could be a nice piece off the bench.
Adding Bender to the mix now will allow him time to acclimate himself to the team and the college game, even if he doesn’t see the floor much (if at all). He’ll be able to learn the system and study the likes of a Graham and a Dodd before being ready to contribute at a higher level next season.
As far as Bender’s potential impact on recruiting, it might preclude the Terps from pursuing a 2016 big man, as Painter suggested on the message board. There weren’t too many great options available anyway, except potentially Aric Holman (Owensboro HS/Owensboro, Kent.) or Sedee Keita (22 Feet Academy/Greenville, S.C.), who weren’t considered Terps leans.
Bender’s addition should not effect Maryland’s pursuit of Sima or even a Diamond Stone (Dominican/Whitefish Bay, Wisc.), the five-star center who has UMD, Connecticut and Wisconsin under consideration.
Bring on Bender: Analysis Of The Croatian Big
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