Boys Basketball: Plainfield East’s Brian Bennett earns Herald-News Player of the YearHerald-News boys basketball player of the year, Brian Bennett, of Plainfied East High School, Wednesday, March 13, 2012. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 20, 2012 9:49PM
Brian Bennett was there with his parents and Plainfield East coach Branden Adkins.
What Adkins had to say could impact the subsequent Bengals basketball season. But more important was how it could affect Bennett’s future.
“After last season, we sat right here in Room 190 (at East),” Adkins said. “I said, ‘If you want to achieve what you say you want, you have to take care of your body better. You have to get stronger and more agile, and you have to watch what you eat.’ ”
That meeting followed Bennett’s junior season. The Bengals’ 6-foot-9 senior center, a 4.8 student on a 5.0 grade-point system, got the message. He was vital to East’s historic 27-2 season, a District 202 record for victories, that ended with a 58-53 overtime loss to West Aurora in the Class 4A East Aurora Sectional semifinals. Today, he is named the 2011-12 Herald-News Boys Basketball All-Area Player of the Year.
Next, he will attend NCAA Division I Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo on a basketball scholarship.
“My desire and passion were pumped up after that meeting,” Bennett said. “My mind-set was to set the goal and once I achieved it to go beyond, not stop there.”
Bennett went to work and has not quit. He said he weighed 295 pounds at his heaviest, soon after his junior season ended. He is down to 233. That’s 62 pounds.
“What coach said when we sat down clicked in my head,” Bennett said. “I had to eat healthy and work out, and all the while he was there for me when I struggled a bit. I have a great support system with my parents and teammates included. They’re all a big part of me being where I am.”
Bennett said Cal-Poly began recruiting him “after my junior year, over the summer. I saw what they were offering and I fell in love with the place. It was where I wanted to be.”
Coach Joe Callero and his staff wanted him there just as much when they saw his commitment.
“Coach Callero and I are on the same page with Brian taking care of himself,” Adkins said. “He realizes he has made the commitment. He’s in better shape, and you can tell the change in his character. There were times in the past he struggled with adversity. This year, he found ways to battle through it.”
Bennett will play center or power forward at Cal Poly, which, despite injury issues, finished fourth in the Big West Conference this season.
“I’ll probably play the 5 my freshman year,” he said. “I’ll be the tallest guy on the roster. But the three of us they are bringing in are 6-9, 6-8 and 6-7.”
Plainfield East surrounded Bennett with excellent athletes. The Bengals’ success, though, began with the big man who was so much more.
“Brian’s a physically tougher player this year,” Adkins said. “He’s more dominant. He uses both hands and rebounds better. He can hit a 15-footer and expanded his game to where he definitely can play at the D-I level.”
Bennett averaged 15.6 points, 6.9 rebounds, 0.8 blocks and 0.8 steals. He shot 59.7 percent from the field and 72 percent from the free-throw line.
“He gave us a post presence inside offensively and defensively,” Adkins said.
In the process, he helped land Plainfield East on the state basketball map while laying a solid foundation for his future at Cal Poly, where he will study business administration with an eye on specializing in marketing or management.
Of course, keeping his body in shape will be paramount.