Head Coach Chris Collins, assistant Armon Gates and staff capitalized on Barret Benson's visit at the end of June, but it was incoming freshman and former AAU teammate Jordan Ash that helped seal the deal. A good 2015 recruiting class, followed by the pledge on July 7th of Benson, will provide Northwestern with a solid core of talented youth for the next four to five years.
The 6'9" and 240 lbs. Hinsdale South (Illinois) senior said that Ash kept calling and texting him to come to Northwestern. Benson added:
It feels like the weight of the world is off my shoulders. I can just focus on playing now knowing that I'll be going to a great place. And just enjoy my last AAU season and my last high school season and try to make a difference there.
Benson joins 3-Star point guard Isaiah Brown and 3-Star forward Rapolas Ivanauskas as Northwestern jumps to #2 in the Big Ten rankings and #7 in the nation per 247Sports Composite. Benson is ranked #96 nationally and #12 at the post position. He averaged 19.5 points and 10.6 rebounds per game his junior season, including two 36-point performances.
However, Benson struggled somewhat during the May and June sessions of the Under Armour circuit for Illinois Wolves. He averaged only 6.8 points and 5.8 rebounds.
Benson has great footwork in the paint, has developed a mid-range jumper, and should be a strong contributor on the glass. His frame has plenty of room for added weight and strength. Ironically, these two bigs will be battling one another in Big Ten action for years to come as Nick Ward committed to Michigan State.
Check out the video and watch a pretty even match-up. Benson wears #20 and Ward #44.
Northwestern's Future Outlook
Since Collins arrival two years ago, Northwestern has steadily improved on the recruiting trail which has translated to gradual improvement on the hardwood. His first recruiting class ranked 101st nationally and 13th in the Big Ten. Granted, Collins had just one prospect. The 2014 class boasted a 53rd ranking and 8th among Big Ten schools with five committments. And the 2015 class consisted of three committs and a 60th ranking.
The Wildcats have one spot remaining for the 2016 group with seven open offers. Among those are point guards Jagan Mosley, 4-Star Xavier Simpson and 3-Star power forward Dylan Painter, who is leaning towards Penn State. Another prospect is point guard Quentin Jackson. Northwestern is in need of a pure point guard, but may have to wait until Brown arrives with Benson and Ivanauskas.
The Wildcats are in good shape with sophomore shooting guards Bryant McIntosh and Scottie Lindsey and freshman Jordan Ash. McIntosh played 33.3 minutes per game last season and averaged 11.4 ppg. Lindsey played 15.1 minutes and averaged 4.4 ppg. Expect Ash to compete for valuable playing time.
Last season, the Wildcats finished 15-17 (6-12) in Collins' second year at the helm. With a talented group of sophomores, coupled with the three incoming freshmen and the 2016 class, the future looks promising. And Benson could be the missing link in helping Northwestern get over the hump, especially after the graduation of 7-footer Alex Olah.
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