What the stocky 6-foot-2, 200 pound native of Caracas, Venezuela, does so well is find guys: he greases the wheels for Our Savior's offense. He is a distributor first, with strong vision and a healthy IQ.
He keeps OSNA's stable of bigs happy with his post feeds, has good defensive instincts, and can control tempo and lead the break. He's a savvy floor leader with a little bit of an edge to his game. And in his absence the team realized just how much they missed having him around.
"He's been the key to our success," said OSNA assistant coach Eric Jaklitsch. "He's helped our team chemistry a ton. Ever since he's come back at a hundred percent, we've been better. Once he came back the team started showing better chemistry and running the plays better.
Benitez hadn't been right since suffering a high ankle sprain while trying to take a charge in the team's first game of the year, back on Nov. 11 against the Boys Club of New York.
The injury kept him out of a number of high-profile events early in the season, including the National Prep School Showcase, the Bull City Classic in North Carolina, and the Marshall County Hoop Fest in Kentucky, as well as a couple of home games. It is only recently that he has been back at full strength.
"He can really get into the lane and pass the ball and defend," said Jaklitsch, who, along with Chris Phillips, coaches Benitez with the New York Elite AAU team, in addition to OSNA. "He's a very smart player.
The ankle injury, coupled with the fact that Benitez only first took the SAT in January, has translated into limited college interest. In fact, save from some light interest from Manhattan, no Division I programs are making serious overtures at the moment.
However, he is one of the better available point guards in the New York area, and a viable Division I prospect. He still has to improve his body and conditioning, but his feel for the game and ability to distribute it make him a guy that D-I programs should definitely check on.
"He took the SAT on January 27th," said Jaklitsch. "Once his SAT score posts, I expect his recruitment to get going. Once people start seeing him more, and know that he's qualified, I would expect more schools to jump in on him."
Benitez scored 10 points with seven assists and four steals in an 86-71 loss to St. Anthony of Jersey City on Tuesday.