Ready To Lead

RALEIGH, NC -- Much has been said about the loss of Julius Hodge on the court, but NC State will likely miss Hodge off the court, where his humorous personality often kept Wolfpack players loose during the toughest of times.

A media favorite because of his one-liners and postgame remarks, Hodge's role as the "talker" of the NC State basketball team will likely be inherited by senior guard Cameron Bennerman. Why wouldn't it be? Bennerman has already been voted best interview in the ACC by The Sporting News. Like on the court, Bennerman believes it will be a group effort to replace Hodge's personality.

"Engin is actually a loud person," said Bennerman, referring to junior guard Engin Atsur. "Engin is, Andrew's a clown, I'm loud when I want to be... Tony's loud when he wants to be. So we all have good character."

Bennerman is also poised to have a big senior season after coming on strong last year.

"Cam really finished last season on a high note," Wolfpack head coach Herb Sendek said. "He was sensational in our win against Charlotte. He did a great job getting Brendan Plavich under check after he hit those five amazing three-point shots. [He] played very well against Wisconsin."

Bennerman averaged 9.6 points and 2.7 rebounds while shooting 47.5% from the field and 39.3% from beyond the arc. His numbers were even better earlier in the season, averaging 10.3 points per game in 23 minutes of action, when an elbow injury sidelined him for a couple of weeks.

"He got off to a really good start last year," Sendek said. "He was shooting the basketball well over 40% from 3... he was having his career-best year when we lost him for several weeks during the ACC season."

Known for his leaping ability and three-point shooting, Bennerman is taking a more mental approach into the upcoming season. He believes that the Wolfpack needs to stay focused and be mentally tough, and if they can do that they should have a strong year.

Cameron Bennerman
"The game is more mental," Bennerman said. "Physically everybody is capable of 40-inch verticals and all that freakish-type stuff. Right now we need guys to come in with the right mindset... being mentally tough at all times. It's a long season."

"We're in the process of defining roles," he added. "I was asked who was the go-to guy. We're all go-to guys. We've just got to find our roles of what we can do the best."

One of three seniors on the Wolfpack roster, point guard Tony Bethel and forward Ilian Evtimov are the others, Bennerman feels it is time he steps up and becomes a leader.

"I'm a senior. In that way I think my role has changed," he said. "I have to be able to teach the younger guys the right things to do, what works in the offense... how to talk to the media. I'm a senior now, and I think that title holds a lot of weight."

However, he also believes each player should be held accountable for their own actions, and if that happens NC State could be well on its way to achieving the high expectations being placed on a team that returns four starters from last year's Sweet Sixteen squad.

"Everyone has to be their own personal leaders," Bennerman said. "It's hard to be accountable for everybody's actions. Everybody has to take responsibility and to know that we all have each other's back. I just think if everyone has that approach it will be a lot easier to get things done."

Sendek is hoping Bennerman can pick his game up where he finished last season, as he was emerging as a lockdown defender and NC State's clutch shooter.

"Hopefully he can pick up where he left off last season," Sendek said. "As a senior, [he is] one of the guys on our team who has a great deal of experience."

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