Current Athlete Of The Week: JJ Bennett

JJ Bennett came into his senior season hungry for the chance to compete again after missing his junior year. The senior big man began the season as one of the Whaler’s role players off the bench, but has continued to improve as the year has progressed and become one of Nantucket’s best players on both ends of the court. He is the Current Athlete of the Week.

“I’m so proud of JJ,” head coach Willis Ferreira said. “You know, he was down and out there a little bit mentally. He wasn’t playing much, but he kept with it and when he got his opportunity he ran with it and has been great ever since.”

Bennett had 10 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks, and two steals in the Whaler’s 52-50 win over Nauset last Friday to close out their regular season. As great as his performance was last week, he was even more impressive in Nantucket’s earlier matchup with Nauset in February, where Bennett scored 20 points, grabbed 14 rebounds, and had seven blocks.

Bennett said at the beginning of the season, he felt like his ankle injury hindered his ability to perform.

“In the beginning of the season I was feeling very confident until I went through my ankle injury,” he said. “To me, it felt like it took way too long for it to heal and I was growing impatient with it. Towards the end of the season, my ankle started to feel as if it were back to normal and my confidence just kept going up from there.”

Bennett has done most of his damage in the paint. His 6’6 height gives him an advantage over most of his matchups, but his strength and athleticism makes him a nightmare for his opponents to box out. Throughout the second half of the season, Bennett has shown many moments where he takes his game to another level and wills his team to victories. He helped do that in both of his team’s victories over Nauset.

“I was upset I couldn’t play last year,” Bennett said. “Playing this year has felt great. I think my senior season was amazing. I got to finish my high school basketball career with the people I started it with.”

Ferreira sees Bennett as being one of the keys to the entire operation as his squad enters the playoffs. He said taking advantage of Bennett’s size and athleticism on the fast break could lead to easy points. He said he is encouraging his team to shoot often because even if they miss, Bennett is likely to grab the rebound and have an opportunity at second chance points.

Bennett said he is excited for this state tournament run, which begins on the road against Millbury on Thursday, March 3, at 6 p.m.

“I definitely think my team is mentally prepared,” he said. “We just have to go out there and show it.”

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