In 24 years as a men's college basketball head coach, Temple’s Fran Dunphy has seen his fair share of players graduate to the NBA. He thinks Towson senior Jerrelle Benimon has what it takes to go to that next level.
“I think he’s got a really good chance to be in the league next year because he’s got good energy, he’s got a good enthusiasm, he finishes at the rim,” Dunphy said after watching the 6-foot-8, 245-pound forward score a career-high 32 points and grab 10 rebounds in the Tigers’ 75-69 win against the Owls Wednesday night at SECU Arena.
“He’s now shooting foul shots — 10-for-12 is good,” Dunphy added. “He knows how to get there. I think he’ll get to be playing in the league because he can make jump shots, and in my experience watching guys like him, if he can go to somebody and say, ‘I’ll guard anybody, one through five. You just put me out there, I’ll do whatever,’ if you make yourself a guy who can really defend the court in every sense of the word, he’s got a really good chance to make the league.”
Tigers coach Pat Skerry has had a front-row seat for Benimon’s development in the year-plus Benimon has spent at Towson since transferring from Georgetown, and even he sounded impressed by what he saw from the Colonial Athletic Association’s reigning Player of the Year.
“For people who haven’t seen Jerrelle Benimon, he’s a special, special talent,” Skerry said. “Does a lot of really good things. He carried us tonight. I told him during shootaround, ‘You look tired today, and you ain’t ready because we are going to wear you out tonight. We are going to you all night.’ And he really stepped up.”
Benimon was especially pivotal in the second half against Temple. In those 20 minutes, he scored 21 points on 7-for-14 shooting, made seven of eight free throws and grabbed seven rebounds (including four offensive boards) despite playing with four fouls for the final 5:37 of regulation.
But Benimon shrugged off the notion that he was forced to carry the offense only because three starters — senior guard Mike Burwell, sophomore point guard Jerome Hairston and sophomore forward Timajh Parker-Rivera — combined for 16 points on 6-for-19 shooting.
“We have so many scorers on this team this year, which was shown in the two games prior to this,” Benimon said. “I was just getting some plays called for me. I was getting to the rim and getting some offensive rebounds and stuff. So I just took advantage of it.”
Temple junior forward Anthony Lee — with a team-best 20 points and nine rebounds, no slouch himself — said Benimon was tough to defend.
“Everything was going through him,” said Lee, a Columbia native. “He was always getting the isolation plays. When he’s getting those isolation plays, you just have to be prepared for what he’s trying to do.”
Benimon will finish out this season before waiting to evaluate his NBA draft stock. But he already has some backers in Dunphy and Skerry.
“He’s talented, he’s tough, and he’s got great work ethic — three pretty good ingredients,” Skerry said. “He does it all. Tonight, we really felt like maybe we couldn’t post him as much, but we could put the ball in his hands, let him bring it up, drive it, make plays for others, live at the foul line. He’s a hard guy to guard. We obviously were wearing him out, and I think the thing is, if you really study his game, the better opponent, the better he plays. He clearly has the ability to raise his game up to the next level.”