Playing for the Miami Tropics, 7-foot-2, 245-pound center Jason Bennett made a strong case to move up from his No. 88 spot in the 2006 class rankings with his play both in Las Vegas and Houston last month. Bennett, from Arlington Country Day High School in Jacksonville, Fla., now has six schools on his list.
"I like Florida, Cincinnati, Illinois, Arizona, Kentucky and Connecticut," said Bennett. "I have offers from all of them."
For over a year, Florida has been a constant figure at the top of Bennett's school list, but with his recent improvement and incoming offers, the other schools on his list are closing the gap with Florida.
"I still like Florida a lot," he said. "But things are kind of evening out. I like all the schools on my list."
The most notable improvement in Bennett's game is the increase in his competitiveness. A year ago, Bennett often played as though he would rather not be on the court but was forced by the circumstances of his size to play basketball. Now he is thoroughly engaged in the game and is starting to impact nearly every possession, especially on defense.
The evolution of Bennett's improvement began in November with early morning workouts in the weight room and gym. With added strength and improving skills came an upsurge in confidence which resulted in a much harder playing big man.
"The difference is that Jason made a commitment to the weight room," said Arlington Country Day head coach Rex Morgan, who was watching Bennett and his improving 2007 teammate Anthony Stewart play at the Kingwood Classic. "Five months ago he could only bench 100-pounds. Now he is up to 225. He has so much more confidence now."
Morgan also noted that opposing teams this past season shot 15 percentage points lower when Bennett was in the game when compared to when he was out of the game.
With his defense certainly ahead of his offense, Bennett does run the floor well and is active on the offensive boards. His back to the basket game is still a work in progress. His ability to hold onto rebounds and tough passes is the area of his game that has the biggest room for improvement along with his free throw shooting..
"I'm working hard on my turnaround jumper in the post and my face up game," said Bennett. "I'm also working on a hook shot, and my free throw definitely needs some work."