Not many Providence Friar fans know who Paul White is. Out for the season due to a re-aggravated hip injury, this Georgetown forward is someone whom Friar fans should be constantly thanking throughout this unexpected and successful 2015-2016 run.
A top 100 recruit out of Chicago, White was one of two power forwards that Georgetown was heavily pursuing in the class of 2013. That other forward was three star prospect Ben Bentil. Looking for their fifth commitment in an already stellar recruiting class, it was one or the other for John Thompson III. At that point, the Hoyas were right at the top of Bentil’s list, alongside Miami, Delaware, and Providence.
Before the start of his senior season at Whitney Young High School, White announced he would be playing for the Hoyas starting next fall. With that, Georgetown immediately dropped out of the race for Bentil. Two weeks later, he was signing his letter of intent to play for the Friars.
Fast-forward two years. Bentil finds himself leading the Big East in points per game and helping steer the 11th ranked team in the country to an unpredicted and pleasantly surprising first four months of their season. When people hear about the Providence Friars, they hear about Kris Dunn; the best point guard in America and future lottery pick. Without question, Dunn is the spark that makes this team go. But without Bentil, this team would not be 18-5, and they certainly wouldn’t be in the midst of their 10th straight week as part of the AP Top 25 Poll.
The 6’8 Ghanaian forward creates terrifying matchups for opposing defenses. His straight-line speed is one that’s not often seen from a player of his size. Bentil can rebound in traffic and is not afraid to get fouled (he’s currently shooting 82% from the line – that’s seventh best in the Big East). Combine that with his ability to stretch defenses with his jump shot, and you’ve got one scary scouting report for opposing teams to study. With such potential, sky seems to be the limit for Bentil. Find me another big man who can consistently knock down threes like this and you’ll realize that it’s a very short list.
The guy does it all. Want to watch him creepily caress a basketball for 7 seconds? No problem. He does that too.
Nobody thought Bentil would be a 1st-team all Big East player during his second season at Providence. But he is. Nobody thought this team would be a top fifteen group for the majority of this season. But they are. From a recruit who sat in the shadows of Paul White and was by no means seen as a bona fide superstar, Bentil has quickly risen to a future sleeper on NBA draft boards and to someone more deserving of Most Improved Player accolades than anyone else in the country. This 6-8 soccer player from St. Andrew’s High School in Delaware is the most important Robin in college basketball. Unsung heroes live throughout the college basketball landscape. Every great player or team has their utterly important second in command. But when it comes to my preference, I’ll take Ben Bentil, every day of the week.