Benzinger developing into all-around threat for Wright State

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Benzinger expanding his game

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Wright State junior guard Grant Benzinger is on a torrid shooting streak in which he’s made 53.1 percent of his 3-point attempts the last five games, and both he and coach Scott Nagy credit his heating up outside to his willingness to mix it up inside.

“When we play him at the 4, it helps him offensively because he’s harder to guard,” Nagy said. “It’s hard for 4s to find him and stay with him, but he’s tough enough to play inside and guard 4s. His game has really developed.”

It’s not the first time Benzinger has been asked to bang around with the bigs inside. But it is the first time he’s been equipped to do so.

When the Cincinnati native arrived on campus two years ago, he was a slight 180-pounder who was expected to be a 3-point specialist. But a rash of injuries during his freshman season decimated the roster and forced the Raiders to move Benzinger inside, where he took a beating on both the offensive and defensive ends.

Wright State junior guard Grant Benzinger brings the ball up the court against Detroit’s Jarod Williams during the Raiders 106-88 win Jan. 20. KEITH COLE/SUBMITTED PHOTO
Wright State junior guard Grant Benzinger brings the ball up the court against Detroit’s Jarod Williams during the Raiders 106-88 win Jan. 20. KEITH COLE/SUBMITTED PHOTO

“My freshman year was one of the biggest struggles I’ve ever faced,” Benzinger said. “Since then I’ve grown an inch and I’ve put on 15 pounds. I was listed as as 190 my freshman year, but I was really 180. Now I’m actually 195.

“Sometimes it’s still guys that are 6-10, 6-9 that I’m guarding, and I’m only 6-4, so there’s only so much I can do,” he added. “But it’s fun. Now I kind of like playing it more because you can be more physical with the guys instead of when you’re on the perimeter and you touch them and it’s a foul.”

After shooting 43.1 percent from 3 and averaging 9.1 points per game as a freshman, Benzinger saw his numbers drop to 39 percent and 7.6 ppg as a sophomore. A big reason for that was he was just patrolling the perimeter, and opponents stayed on top of him, knowing they couldn’t leave him a sliver of space.

The approach was the same earlier this year, and it led to poor shot selection and a further dip in accuracy.

“Earlier in the season I was taking some tough ones with guys in my face, taking ones I shouldn’t have,” Benzinger said. “Now instead of trying to force the issue, I’m letting the game come to me and sometimes you just get hot and you take the 3s you’re not supposed to take and they just go in. So it feels good.”

Benzinger has made 17 of his last 32 3-point attempts, a streak that began with him hitting four in a row in the first half of the Youngstown State game Jan. 7.

In the eight games prior to that, when he was struggling to get free on the perimeter, he was just 9 of 29 (31 percent).

“Shooting is so much about confidence, and you get confidence by being in the gym and getting repetitions, and he does that,” Nagy said. “He’s in there getting in extra shooting. He takes a lot of pride in it.”

Benzinger’s average (11.5 ppg) and 3-point shooting percentage (42.2) are not the only things climbing. He’s averaging 5.5 rebounds per game, the second-highest total of the team. His 116 rebounds this season are approaching the 153 he had during his freshman and sophomore years combined.

And he’s found a way to be simultaneously effective on the boards and at the arc. In that YSU game when he hit four consecutive treys in a five-minute span, he also finished with a career-high 10 rebounds.

“One of my goals this year was to be a little more active rebounding, defensively and offensively, because you get a defensive rebound, you have the ball in your hands and you’re able to push the ball,” he said. “You have it in your hands more instead of me just being in a corner, a catch-and-shoot guy. Being able to do more and create more for the team. I wanted to be more involved, and so far it’s been working out really well.”

Next game

Wright State (14-7, 5-3) at Valparaiso (16-4, 6-1)

When: 8 p.m. Friday

Where: Athletics-Recreation Center, Valparaiso, Ind.


Radio: 106.5-FM