Towson’s Jerrelle Benimon is no longer an unknown name.
Of course that's what happens when you ranked second in the NCAA with 20 double-doubles and third in the country in rebounding (11.2 per game) as he did last season. That’s what happens when you rank third in the Colonial Athletic Association in scoring (17.1 points per game) en route to being named the league’s Player of the Year. And that’s what happens when you are the conference’s Preseason Player of the Year – which is a first in Tigers history.
Considering all those accolades, the 6-foot-8, 245-pound Benimon will probably face opponents’ top defenders all year. That’s fine with the senior forward. In fact, as Towson prepares to open its new SECU Arena on Friday night against Navy, he expects it.
“They’ll try to put their best defender on me, but if we’re running the offense the way coach [Pat Skerry] wants us to, then I’ll be at different positions all the time, and it’ll be tough for them to match up,” Benimon said. “So it’ll be tough because we have so many good shooters on the floor this year.”
Benimon is correct. The team’s five top scorers from last winter are back, including senior forward Marcus Damas (11.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per game), sophomore point guard Jerome Hairston (9.9 points per game and team-best 35 steals), senior shooting guard Mike Burwell (9 points and 3.2 rebounds per game) and senior forward Rafriel Guthrie (8.1 points per game).
“I feel like we have great scorers all around,” Damas said. “But it’s a lot easier when you have one of the best forwards in the country on your team.”
Benimon said he does not feel as if the scoring burden is solely on hm.
“We’ve got a lot of people that can score and a lot of people that want to score,” he said. “So it won’t be that much pressure on me. I think it’ll be more that when we’re not putting points on the board, that’s when I’ll feel pressure to score.”
Skerry is just as hopeful that the team’s versatility will lead to an offense that can excel in transition as well as half-court sets. But Skerry also realizes that Towson has a unique weapon in Benimon, who combines a skill set with a big frame that is unique in many basketball circles.
“There’s expectations, and there’s pressure to perform,” Skerry said. “He’s got to perform well, he’s got to rebound, he’s got to cut down on turnovers. We’re going to experiment with him at the point guard position, which we’ve done a little bit of in practice. The better he plays, the better I look coaching, and we hope he plays really well.”