Adam Reisinger is an NBA editor for ESPN.com. He was kind enough to write about Jerrelle Benimon while in Las Vegas for the 2014 NBA summer league. Enjoy!
LAS VEGAS — Friday’s Las Vegas Summer League games were the last for the 16 teams in action, all in the consolation bracket, which meant it was the last shot for players without contracts – or even training camp invites – to make an impression on teams. One of those players was Jerrelle Benimon, who put up 17 points and 15 rebounds for the Nuggets in a loss to the Lakers, while spending much of the game matched up against No. 6 overall pick Julius Randle.
“I don’t ever back down from anybody,” Benimon said of the matchup. “From college, to playing outside the collegiate games, I just always play hard.”
Benimon held Randle to just 2 points through the first three quarters before the Lakers’ rookie exploded for 12 in the fourth. Benimon said improving his defense has been his primary focus at Summer League, both with the Heat in Orlando and the Nuggets in Las Vegas.
“[Randle] was a train,” he said. “He just put his shoulder down and he was tough, but I’m just working on defense.”
Benimon is trying to score an NBA roster spot after going undrafted out of Towson University, where he finished third in Division I in rebounds per game (11.2) in each of the last two seasons. Benimon wrapped up his three-game stint with the Nuggets in Las Vegas averaging 11.3 rebounds per game (15.1 per 36 minutes), ranking among the Summer League leaders.
“That’s one of [those skills],” he said. “Teams are always looking for rebounders, so it always counts if you can rebound the ball.”
The 22-year-old Benimon posted a true shooting percentage of 59.6% as a senior last season, but shot just 31.8% beyond the shorter college three-point arc. He knocked down his only 3-point attempt on Friday, as he tries to show teams he’s more than just an inside scorer.
“I’ve always been able to shoot,” he said. “In college, I took advantage of what you could do, get fouled, get to the line, get easy points, but during pre-draft, that’s what I did a lot of. I did a lot of shooting.”
At 6-foot-8, Benimon may be too short to play much of an inside game in the NBA, though his 245-pound frame helped him bang with Randle on Friday. He also faces the knock that his big college numbers are inflated due to the lower level of competition in the CAA, especially since his stats were significantly lower in his limited action in two seasons at Georgetown. However, Benimon says he’s ready to rise to the challenge.
“As long as you can play, some stuff always translates from level to level, so [the quality of competition] doesn’t matter,” he said. “I had my best games in my college career against huge schools, so it really doesn’t matter to me.” Suffice to say that whether he plays in the post or on the perimeter, Benimon is ready for the challenges of the NBA. All he needs now is a chance.