From Warrenton to D.C. to Baltimore
Wednesday, Jul. 27
Fauquier product Jerrelle Benimon played two seasons at Georgetown before transferring to Towson. --Courtesy Photo
Jerrelle Benimon sat on the Georgetown bench a bit more often this past men’s basketball season.
That gave him more time to ponder his future. A future he decided will be at Towson University outside Baltimore.
After playing a surprisingly high 12.1 minutes per game as a Georgetown freshman during the 2009-10 season, Benimon’s playing time dipped as a sophomore. Not the ideal career trajectory. The 2009 Fauquier High graduate played only 10.3 minutes per game during the Hoyas’ 2010-11 schedule. The season began with promise as he averaged 15.2 minutes over the first six games, but that dropped to a 9.1 clip over the final 26 games.
“I think my mind kind of got out of it, and I think Coach kind of knew it and my playing time decreased,” Benimon, 19, said of Hoyas head coach John Thompson III.
As the season wore on, that reduced playing time, and his limited role in the offense, led Benimon to consider transferring to a different school.
Georgetown’s season ended March 18 with a 74-56 loss to VCU in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Benimon left the Georgetown program May 4, and before the end of the month he chose to transfer to Towson over schools like Old Dominion, Dayton, Xavier, South Carolina, James Madison and other Colonial Athletic Conference schools.
"I'm really, really excited, actually,” Benimon said. “I think it's going to be better overall….They have really high expectations.”
Benimon, a 6-foot-7, 237-pound forward, will not play during the 2011-12 season in accordance with NCAA transfer rules, but Towson first-year coach Pat Skerry expects him to be a centerpiece of the team during his final two seasons of eligibility.
“I’m really excited. I think he’s got a world of ability,” Skerry said. “He has a chance to be an impact guy for us.”
Benimon’s impact at Georgetown was mostly limited to rebounding. As a sophomore, Benimon averaged 1.8 rebounds, 1.3 points, 0.5 blocks, 0.4 assists and 0.3 steals per game.
The energetic, aggressive approach that made Benimon a two-time all-Cedar Run District Players of the Year while at Fauquier High was rarely seen with the Hoyas. Georgetown’s rigid Princeton-style offense was like Xanax.
“I just didn't like the offense. It didn't fit for me,” Benimon said. “I understood it, but it was a lot of [feeling] held back. I'll be able to play a lot more like I did in high school” at Towson.
“It’s a different type of system,” Skerry said, comparing Towson to Georgetown. “We’re hoping he can provide some versatility; be an inside-outside presence. He was a prolific scorer in high school…and I see no reason why he can’t do that” now.
As a Fauquier senior, Benimon averaged 21 points, 17 rebounds, seven assists, four blocks and 1.6 steals per game.
“He can do a little bit of everything,” Skerry said. “He can drive the ball and get to the foul line, and he can run the floor. We’re looking for him to fill the stat sheet a variety ways.”
That expectation is one of the biggest reasons Benimon chose to transfer to Towson.
"I just wanted to go where the coaches were going to promise what I was looking for — to be able to play my game,” he said.
At the same time, Benimon said he was grateful for his time spent at Georgetown. He learned a lot and considers it a positive experience.
“He liked Georgetown. He liked the coaches,” said Wayne Brizzi, Benimon’s coach at Fauquier High. “It just wasn’t working. His playing time was getting less. He just wanted to play.”
Georgetown took a chance on Benimon when few other Division I programs offered him a scholarship. He rewarded Thompson as a freshman by giving the Hoyas a forward willing to do the “dirty work” off the bench, and he often played in pivotal situations as the final piece of a seven-man rotation. He got lost in the shuffle as a sophomore, though.
Georgetown lost only one significant player in Greg Monroe after the 2009-10 season, but then it added five freshmen, including forward Nate Lubick, a two-time Gatorade Player of the Year in Massachusetts during high school. So Benimon’s role diminished.
Regardless, Benimon’s experience on a Georgetown team that went 10-8 in the Big East Conference this past season (21-11 overall) was attractive to Skerry, who previously served as an assistant coach at Pittsburgh and Providence.
“He got to play two years at a terrific program in the best league in the country,” Skerry said. “He has experience at highest level. That’s what we’re looking for.”
While at Pittsburgh, Skerry watched a lot of film on Benimon during the scouting process prior to games against Georgetown. So, after Towson hired him from Pittsburgh on April 6 and Benimon decided to leave Georgetown in May, Skerry targeted the potential transfer. Somebody from the Towson staff called Benimon nearly every day for a few weeks, Benimon said.
“We worked to get him on campus as quickly as possible,” Skerry said. “We were very aggressive.”