Men’s hoops nabs major U.P. recruit

curt.kemp and curt.kemp

Jared Benson, a 6-foot-10-inch center from Carney-Nadeau High School, is the first recruit to be signed by the NMU men’s basketball program for the 2007-2008 season.

After averaging 19 points per game and setting the school record for blocked shots, Benson was named to the Detroit Free Press Class D all-state second team and the Detroit News all-state fifth team.

“He’s a big kid-he’s solid,” NMU assistant basketball coach Dan Waterman said. “He’s big enough and he’s strong enough to play right now.”

Benson was also named Central Upper Peninsula conference MVP after finishing his senior year averaging a double-double in points and rebounds.

“The thing that impresses me the most about him is his skills at 6-foot-10 are just outstanding,” Waterman said. “He dribbles, passes and shoots really well. The biggest adjustment I see him having to make-like every player coming in-is the speed and the strength that it takes to play at this level.”

Waterman said if Benson came in physically and mentally prepared to play, he would be an integral part of the team.

“We see a lot of potential and if he comes in ready to work hard, he could be a heck of a player for us,” Waterman said.

According to Waterman, Benson is just the first signee of an ongoing recruiting process, and the NMU basketball program hopes to sign more student athletes in the coming days.

Coach Waterman added that the recruiting process for Division II teams is much different than the process for Division I, and because of that difference, the process took much longer.

“Because we wait for the D-I schools to fall through, and then we’re recruiting against other D-II schools, sometimes the recruiting process drags into May, sometimes even June,” Waterman said. “Then, once they commit, you have to be sure they’re through the NCAA eligibility clearinghouse, and that process sometimes gets dragged out. It can go on quite a while.”

Waterman said NMU would be in contact with a few players in the coming weeks, and said he had high hopes for the recruiting class overall.

“There’s some good players out there,” he said. “There’s a couple of junior college kids that we’re interested in, and obviously with high school seniors, we’re flooded with calls and tapes-people saying we’ve got to look at this kid. We do our best to sort through all of that.

“Some of these kids that are on the border between Division I and Division II would be great Division-II prospects,” Waterman continued. “We have to sit there and wait and see who’s left after the D-I colleges pick through them all. That’s the biggest issue we deal with.”

Waterman said another problem the basketball ‘Cats deal with during the recruiting process is NMU’s location.

“A kid from Detroit, it costs quite a bit of money to fly him up on a visit, whereas he can take a bus or drive to Saginaw Valley or Grand Valley, or some of those schools down there,” Waterman said.

Despite the many difficulties, NMU has been able to recruit players in the past such as last year’s seniors Ricky Volcy and Will Washington, who both received postseason accolades.

“These are just some of the issues we deal with, and we’ve been dealing with them for a long time, and we’ve been successful for a long time,” he said. “So, we’ll make it work.”