Ben Bentil was named a finalist for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year Award on Friday. He joins teammate Kris Dunn who is a finalist for another positional award presented by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame — the Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year Award. Frank Kaminsky won the inaugural Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year Award. The other finalists are Domantas Sabonis (Gonzaga), A.J. Hammons (Purdue), Jakob Poeltl (Utah) and Joel Bolomboy (Weber State).
Bentil may not be your traditional definition of a center. In fact, Chris Holtmann referred to that yesterday during his postgame comments when asked why he didn’t employ a particular defensive strategy he used during a non-conference tilt with Purdue and their big men. Holtmann said “Bentil is a five-man that plays almost like a three-man…He’s very different than those Purdue bigs. Very different. Almost in every way.” Those Purdue bigs Holtmann references include fellow finalist A.J. Hammons and Isaac Haas. Hammons is 7’0 and weighs 261 pounds. Haas is 7’2 and weighs 297 pounds. That’s pretty different than Bentil at 6’9 and 235 pounds.
Bentil showed off an array of moves in Providence’s quarterfinal win over Butler on Thursday and Butler had “no answer for Bentil,” according to Holtmann. “Zero answer.” Bentil’s 38 points and 8 rebounds were impressive and tied a school record for most points in a Big East Tournament game, but the most impressive thing about Bentil’s play this season is that he seems to get better game by game, right in front of your eyes. He was a lock for the Big East’s Most Improved Player award and went from getting no preseason recognition to being a unanimous First Team All-Big East selection. It’s been a great season for Bentil and the future only looks brighter for the native of Ghana.
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