Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Major Benedictine presence in Division I basketball

Last week's college notes led with how former Benedictine standout Derek Jackson has adjusted to basketball life at Kent State. 

The interview with Jackson rekindled memories of stacked Benedictine rosters. How talented were the Bengals during Jackson's career? Jackson played alongside four future Division I players at various times.

Jackson, a junior, is a starting guard at Kent State, where he's averaging 11.3 points per game. He started his career at Central Michigan and landed at Kent State after spending a year away from basketball for academic reasons.

Less than 15 miles from Kent State's campus, Nick Harney, one of Jackson's high school teammates, has shifted in and out of Akron's starting lineup. Harney has helped the Zips earn two straight NCAA Tournament appearances. This season, he's averaging 8.9 points per game this season, although he's currently serving a suspension for violating team rules.

Another one of Jackson's former teammates, Cameron Wright, hasn't missed an NCAA Tournament since beginning college. Wright is a junior guard at postseason regular Pitt, where he's averaging 10.8 points per game. Wright has started every game for the Panthers this season.

Wright is one of two former Benedictine players competing for a Division I basketball program in Pittsburgh. Desmond Ridenour is a freshman guard at Duquesne, where he's averaging 5.1 points per game against Atlantic 10 competition.

On other side of Pennsylvania, Mark Williams is a freshman forward at Temple, where he's averaging 4.0 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. Williams played at Benedictine, transferred to Richmond Heights and ended his high school career at Montrose Christian (Md.).

The five players would comprise a competitive Division I starting lineup. Williams and Harney are both 6-foot-8 while Jackson, Wright and Ridenour are 6-2 or taller. The five players are averaging a combined 40.1 points per game. Ridenour is the only member of the group who hasn't started a game this winter.

Jackson said he's remained close with his former high school teammates. As seniors, Jackson, Harney and Wright led Benedictine to the state semifinals.

"I talk to those guys all the time," Jackson said. "I talk to Cameron a lot, we communicate a lot. I have to talk to Nick. We are right down the road. I just talked to Desmond. We keep up with each other. It's just good to see the people I played with in high school are still playing. All of us are still chasing our dream."

-- Guy Cipriano @newshearldguy

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