TERRE HAUTE —
Indiana State’s men’s basketball program recruited Tre Bennett to be its next starting point guard. Indiana State does not want to put too much pressure on Bennett in his first season.
Those two sentences seem to be a contradiction. But ISU’s coaches and Bennett himself are hoping there’s a third way, a path where he can ease into a role as a contributor without the pressure, at least right off the bat, of being “the man.”
The Sycamores’ success in 2014-15 might be determined by the answers ISU’s staff comes up with to make it a reality.
Bennett steps into the gigantic void left by the departure of four-year starting point guard Jake Odum. It’s hard to remember a time when the Terre Haute native wasn’t running the show for the Sycamores or when he wasn’t the primary contributor.
That alone makes the transition of how the offense operates a challenge for coach Greg Lansing and his staff. Lansing’s entire career has been with Odum at the helm. He’s never had anyone else run his offense.
That’s the dynamic that awaits Bennett. He knows it, but he’s going to try to not let it speed up his acclimation process.
Bennett knows he has a balance to strike. The balance between preparing with a sense of urgency that makes him productive, but not sped himself up to the point where he’s missing important details.
“I don’t put any pressure on myself. I’ve never been that time of person. I just go out and play and work as hard as I can,” Bennett said.
“Early on, my main goal is to get better everyday, whether it be in the weightroom or on the court or to get in extra shots.”
Bennett brings enviable credentials to the table for the Sycamores. The Houston native committed to ISU last September after one season at Lamar State Community College. He had a breakout sophomore season as he averaged 20.7 points and was named a NJCAA All-American, the first in Lamar State’s history.
“It was important for me. My team needed me to step up. Coming here, I hope to bring some of that same intensity and energy to this team,” Bennett said.
That breakout season understandably has many ISU fans excited about what Bennett brings to the table. Lansing is excited too, but wants to tamp down any notion of too much, too soon.
“As a player, physically, he’s ready. But we’re not going to ask him to do too much or put too much on him,” Lansing said. “We recruited him to come in and be our starting point guard, but I don’t want him to feel like he needs to do much. He has all-conference caliber players around him.”
Lansing cited Khristian Smith and Justin Gant as two such players, but he also said that Bennett will have help in the backcourt. Devonte Brown brings experience to the table and will take on a bigger role as an upperclassmen.
“I feel with Devonte there, you have the leadership and toughness you want in a lead guard. Devonte is not a true point, but he can handle the point,” Lansing said.
Redshirt freshman Brenton Scott is competing with Bennett for playing time and has the advantage of having a year in Lansing’s system. Scott has to win hearts and minds after his arrest last March, but Lansing is optimistic.
“He stubbed his toe once and you never want that to happen, but he’s improved on a daily basis. Everything he’s done on the floor, he’s improved on a daily basis,” said Lansing on Scott. “He’s a tough kid. He’s going 100 mph. He competes and he plays really hard. We’re going to have to rein him in on his decision-making, but so far, he’s been pretty good.”
As for Bennett himself? He’s different from Odum, but then, most point guards are. Given his compact build, he’s 5-foot-10, and the direct way in which he attacks the basket, he bears a passing resemblance basketball-wise to former ISU point guard Harry Marshall. Bennett can also shoot the 3-pointer.
“He’s more of the lead guy. He brings it up and sets up the offense. He can make 3s and he’s going to be a guy defenses have to guard. He can really zip his passes,” Lansing said.
As far as how ISU’s offense operates without Odum, that’s still a chapter to be written for the Sycamores. ISU will continue to run a motion offense, but how it runs depends on strengths and weaknesses no one yet knows about Bennett.
He’s not sure himself how it will all go.
“[The coaches] haven’t told me too much about it. They haven’t gone into too much detail. They want me to move the ball around and see my opportunities when I have them,” Bennett said. “They want me to continue to be aggressive offensively and defensively. They’re really stressing to never give up on a play. That’s one thing I know I can get better at.”
Bennett believes he’s establishing the necessary bonds with his teammates and all of the other things that go with being a first-year player. His teammates are being realistic too. They know it’s going to be a gradual process to get Bennett assimilated.
Smith, slated to be Bennett’s future roommate, paints a possible scenario for ISU’s new distributor.
“We can’t expect him to do the things Odum did. That’s unfair. He’s definitely going to be a great replacement no matter how many minutes he plays. He has a great IQ. It’s not a Jake Odum IQ, I don’t know too many players who have that, but he’ll be a good fit. He’s got the up-and-down pace we need,” Smith said.