Injured Bennerman "Bothered" By What He Sees

NC State junior Cameron Bennerman is strugging with having to sit out with an elbow injury and watching his teammates lose crucial games.

Junior Cameron Bennerman, the Pack's second-leading scorer, sat out his second straight game with a sprained elbow last night. He's admittedly having a tough time dealing with being a spectator, and he certainly didn't like what he saw in the 70-64 home loss to Florida State.

"I think our preparation was there but our concentration level wasn't there," said Bennerman. "And I think the main thing, even going back to the Maryland game -- a game that we won, a game that we played well -- every game, like I told the fellas, is going to be the same. Today, we kept shooting threes and kept shooting threes and we were hoping for something to fall, and it just wasn't one of those nights. The game didn't go that way.

"Every game is different and you've got to do different things. We needed some drives to the basket. Both teams were in the bonus and we didn't take advantage of that. So I just think, as a spectator, our energy level was not there. There was a time when the guys kind of seemed like they weren't confident in the fact that we were going to win the game or we had a chance of winning the game. And that really bothered me; that's one thing that I did notice."

The Wolfpack's 13-of-23 effort from the charity stripe doomed NC State in the close contest. Bennerman said that missing seven of the last nine free throws down the stretch is a sign of a lack of focus. He cited freshman Gavin Grant breaking his routine while misfiring twice with 1:44 remaining.

"That's concentration," Bennerman said. "Guys are getting better at shooting free throws, but I go back to Gavin, that last term when he went to the line. He wasn't concentrating. I told him, ‘You're wiping your face, you're looking in the crowd.' He said he had something in his eye, but I said, ‘Even if you did have something in your eye, reset yourself. Refocus on the free throw.'

"I knew he was going to miss it before he even shot it. I didn't think he was going to miss both of them, but I knew he was going to miss that first one."

The fiery Bennerman is finding himself in a different position these days on the sidelines, but he's working hard to turn the injury into a positive. His talk with Grant is evidence that Bennerman is continuing to develop into a crucial leader for the Wolfpack.

"Every day I sit out of practice, and this is the second game I sat out, I think about it," said Bennerman. "I feel like I am a leader on the team. Nobody has really said anything about it and they don't have to, because it's something that I know and it's a role that I take on by myself to prove to people, just my teammates, that I am a leader. And that even though I'm out with an injury, I'm still in the film sessions with them, I'm still in practice with them, I'm still around and I still want to contribute as much as I can.

"And it's very frustrating not being able to be out there and going through this. It's very frustrating not to be able to do something about it."

In the midst of a stretch where the Pack has lost six of eight games, Bennerman knows there aren't any easy answers. However, he feels that State has to recognize earlier in the games what is working and what isn't.

"Our preparation has always been there," Bennerman said. "We just have to concentrate and we have to know that we can win the game. I think your better teams in the country and the conference, every game they play, they know they're going to win. It's a swagger they have, a confidence that they have, it's the way that they play, the adjustments that they make. They're able to make adjustments.

"Tonight, we did not make the adjustments. The adjustment was to stop shooting threes and get some drives to the basket. That was the adjustment and we're not very good at making adjustments. And I think, with myself out, I am a slasher, and I am able to do those kinds of things. But guys right now are going to have to figure out how to kind of spread it. One person doesn't have to do it all; everybody has to just gradually pick up the pieces and get the job done, whatever way that is."

Bennerman feels he can return in a minimum of two weeks, though he has been told it could be as long as a month or even six weeks. When he returns, he'll be looking to make up for lost time quickly.

"It's a very frustrating time," Bennerman said. "I've never lost this many games in a season, even in high school, middle school, never. Never. I don't think any of these guys have. We're all winners and we're not used to this. It doesn't feel good, but you have to do something about it. You've got to. You can't just say, ‘To hell with it.' You can't do that. You've got to want it. But it's a very weird feeling.

"I sat out some at the beginning of the season last year with a broken hand. I'm able to gain an edge from that because I'm able to see what I do bring. When I'm not out there, I see what we're lacking and when I come back, I'm able to provide that. We're lacking energy at all times, we're lacking somewhat of another vocal leader. Jules tonight, he wasn't really in it tonight, and I think with me being out there, kind of make him focus more and bring him on back in.

"I don't know … maybe it's just my presence. I don't know what it is, but I'm realizing every day that I am a key part of this team. As long as I keep that kind of mindset when I do come back, I think everything should be fine."

The injuries to Bennerman and redshirt junior Tony Bethel has hurt the Pack big-time in the backcourt. Sophomore Engin Atsur had to play 38 minutes against Florida State, and the reduced depth at guard has limited NC State's ability to press on occasion.

However, Bennerman feels that Bethel is working his way back to form quickly.

"Tony is being yanked in and out right now," Bennerman said. "I don't think Coach has the confidence in him right now with his physical status. I think Tony's fine, but Coach is just being real cautious. He doesn't want him to re-injure anything, whatever he is trying to do.

"I know that when I come back, I will be ready. And we're going to turn this season around. I'm trying to come back as fast as I can, but at the same time be safe with it.

"Until then, it's all concentration. Tonight, it was concentration; that's the only thing that stuck out to me. Everybody was wandering off, and that bothered me."

Of course, the popular criticism today is the same as it was after road losses to Washington, Miami and Virginia Tech: the Pack did not get the end-game look it needed to win the contest. Bennerman, however, doesn't see it that way.

"Jordan [Collins] had a good look, he just didn't knock it down," said Bennerman. "I'm sure people are going to talk junk about him and that shot and about Coach Sendek not running the right play and this and that. But if it would have went in, Jordan's a world beater, Coach Sendek is the greatest coach in the world, NC State is whatever. That's just the way of the world, I guess.

"The thing about it is it comes down to that, but it shouldn't come down to that. Von Wafer is a good player and he had a good game tonight, but even with what he did, we were still in the game.

"We were not concentrating, that's all I can say. We did not concentrate tonight."

And from where Bennerman is sitting, nothing is more frustrating than that.


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