Unfortunately, sometimes an injury is all it takes to create an opportunity for a player in waiting. Last Tuesday the Stampede officially announced that Jack Cooley had been placed on the inactive list with a thumb injury and that they had indeed signed free agent Jerrelle Benimon as his replacement.
NBA fans should remember Benimon from his stellar performances during the NBA summer league. He played in Orlando with the Miami Heat (3.3 points and 3.5 rebounds in 12.5 minutes) and was asked to join the Denver Nuggets for the Las Vegas summer league, and it was here that his talent shined through. Benimon played three games with the Nuggets averaging 10.7 points and 11.3 rebounds while shooting 51.9 percent from the floor. He was signed and subsequently waived by the Nuggets after summer league, leaving his 2014-15 season up in the air.
Benimon did not start the D-League season with a team because he was weighing options overseas however, the two-time Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Player of the Year Award winner, ultimately decided to sign a D-League contract and Idaho picked him up.
Idaho came into this weekend with an early 0-2 record on the season and the energy Benimon can provide at the power forward position was exactly what they needed. Benimon is a power forward in the D-League but if he hopes to make the jump to the Association he is going to need some resemblance of small forward-type skills as well. He would certainly be classified as an undersized power forward as he's listed at 6'8", but we've seen players that size have success (Paul Millsap comes to mind) if they have some interchangeable skills to add in to their endless drive.
Benimon, like Millsap, is a tireless rebounder and showed that to be true in his first two contests with the Stampede. In his opening game he came off the bench for 21 points and nine rebounds which was good enough to earn him a start in game two where he had a monster game of 17 points, 18 rebounds (7 offensive) and three blocks. In the latter game he went 8-14 from the field and only took one shot outside the paint -- it was a missed three from the top of the arc.
The outside shot is certainly not a strong suit in Jerrelle's game, however he did show some range at the college level as he shot 36.5 percent from 3-point range in his last two seasons. While the stretch four is the latest trend, not being able to stretch the floor isn't a deal-breaker in most cases. Playing with tenacity and fervor on every single play down the court is a measurable skill and Benimon has that in spades.
I can come at you with all sorts of stats and game observations, but Benimon's Twitter handle really tells you all you need to know about his game. Watch out for @Benimonster20 in upcoming Stampede games!