NJ Benson commits to Missouri State

2022 NJ Benson out of Mt. Vernon, Illinois entered the 2021 grassroots season with high expectations of becoming a certified college prospect. The 6-7 small forward was on the radar of a few college programs but he hadn’t quite busted through the doors to actually pick up any offers.

Benson made some noise during a Covid-filled 2020 AAU season playing with the SW Illinois Jets on their 17u team as a sophomore. His role was more rebounding and playing tough interior defense. He would show flashes of some offensive versatility and ability to run the floor but the 17u Jets had some upperclassmen that were the focal point on offense.

We knew Benson was a beast on the glass and was not afraid to challenge any shot on the defensive end. We were excited to see how his game had developed. And as the 2021 grassroots season started, we were very impressed with his offensive game — he was a completely different player with his game. He was dunking everything, cleaning the offensive glass, handling the ball on the perimeter some, and even showing that he can knock down the 3-point jumper. There was a nastiness to his game now… he was battling for every rebound, every loose ball, and had the mindset that he was going to put the defender in the rim.

This explosion led to a slew of college coaches coming out to recruit him — and eventually offering the 2022 rising prospect. He had picked up 15+ D1 offers entering the crucial July live periods where programs like Mizzou, Marquette, Illinois, and others came to evaluate him. His stock was soaring.

Benson made the decision to narrow in on 5 schools (SIUE, Southern Illinois, Missouri State, Illinois State, Murray State) that were recruiting him the most and ultimately committed to Dana Ford and the Missouri State Bears.

We caught up with Benson to ask him a few questions about his commitment.

RLH: What led to your commitment to Missouri State with so many quality programs recruiting you?
NJ: It wasn’t an easy decision. My final 5 all made strong pitches and I enjoyed the recruiting process that each school brought to the table. Coach Ford has a family-like atmosphere that I really enjoyed. He was at all my AAU games and made me a priority. I like the Bears style of play and think that fits with my skill-set.

RLH: Did Coach Ford say how he was going to utilize you?
NJ: He has coached hybrids like me and I like what he’s done with those players. He has the same idea for me as those players which helped in my decision process. I just felt really comfortable with the coaches and the system.

RLH: As Missouri State fans get to know you better. What do you want them to know about your game?
NJ: That I love to rebound and can handle the ball well for my size. I can take mismatches inside or out based on the personnel on the floor. I’m going to play hard 100% of the time and want to get this team to the NCAA tournament.

RLH: Can you talk a little about your experience this AAU season?
NJ: I had a great time at the RecruitLook events and thought the competition was some of the best. I appreciate the love and opportunity that you guys gave me. I appreciate Coach Dana, Coach Dre, and Coach Burton for all they did for me. The Jets are like a family and have that family atmosphere in their program. I could call any of those guys at any time of the day or night and they would be there for me.

Q&A with 2022 Isaac Traudt

2022 F Isaac Traudt from Grand Island HS/Lincoln Supreme 16U National is one of the fastest rising prospects in America. He’s a top-65 prospect on every recruiting site that has him ranked and is continuing to climb. We got a chance to speak with him recently.

RLH: First off, how has this season been going both individually and as a team?

IT: Really well, I think individually I’ve been playing well and have done a nice job being a leader and being more than just a scorer. As a team, I’m very pleased where we are at. We are 7-2 right now and I think we can continue to string a bunch of wins together. We have great chemistry and coaching that will take us a long way.

RLH: Opposing teams know that you are a nightmare matchup and that they need to try and stop you with double teams, on and off-ball pressure, etc. Which game this year has been the toughest for you and why?

IT: Probably last night’s game against Lincoln Southwest. They were doubling me in the full court and sending multiple guys at me as soon as I got past half court and scrambled from there. It forced me to become more of a facilitator and I thought I did a nice job of that. Teammates stepped up and made big plays and that’s what made us win.

RLH: You recently picked up an offer from Kansas, how does it feel to receive another offer from a college basketball blue blood?

IT: It’s a great feeling. KU is one of the most historic programs of all time and Coach Self is a hall of fame coach. I am very excited about the offer and I’m looking forward to learning more about the program.

RLH: Which colleges are keeping in contact the most or have the best relationship with you?

IT: I would say as of now probably Oklahoma, Virginia, Kansas, Missouri, Creighton, Nebraska, Louisville, and Michigan State.

RLH: Are you looking at trimming down your list anytime soon?

IT: I’m not really sure yet. I do know that I’d like to commit some time during my senior year after getting out to some campuses. I haven’t decided on a list cut yet but if I were to do that it wouldn’t be for a while.

RLH: What is something you’ve learned during the recruiting process?

IT: That hard work pays off and to always be thankful for everything you have

RLH: If you could compare your game to 1 NBA player, who would it be?

IT: Probably Jayson Tatum

RLH: What is the key to your high school’s team’s success for the rest of the year?

IT: Just to continue to improve each day in practice and fix our mistakes and to keep trusting one another.

Traudt is currently averaging 24.8 points and 9.8 rebounds a game for Grand Island Senior High School. He’s leading his team to a 7-2 record so far this season. In the summer, he runs with Lincoln Supreme.

Q&A with 2022 Cruz Davis

Cruz Davis is a 2022 Point Guard from Lewisville, Texas that is ranked as one of the top PGs in the country by several recruiting outlets. Davis runs point for the nationally ranked iSchool Entrepreneur Academy where he’s averaging 12ppg, 4apg, and 3rpg. The athletic and long guard has tremendous scoring abilities as he carves his way through the defense. Cruz is a scoring point guard that can pass. His unique skills has caught the attention of several division one schools, including offers from: Georgetown, SMU, Oregon State, Houston, TCU and others are in the mix. We caught up with Cruz to discuss hoops and his recruitment.

RLH: How was this past summer on the AAU scene?
CD: This summer was difficult adjusting to only playing at the end of July and some of August. But we still got to play the best from Texas and good competition from other states. We made the most of it as a team.

RLH: You play for a talented iSchool Entrepreneur team. What is your role and this team?
CD: Coach wants me to get buckets and control the follow of the game. I’m also stepping up as a leader to some of the younger players we have.

RLH: What have you done in preparation to play a national schedule with iSchool?
CD: I’ve been playing against top competition all my life, so that has prepared me for this coming season. Everyone is good on our schedule and we look forward to the challenge.

RLH: You’re one of the top PGs in your class. What is your pitch as to why you should be #1?
CD: I’m a true Point Guard. I can run the show and facilitate for my teammates. I can score the ball when called upon to do so. I’m not worried about how many points I score as long as we are winning and my teammates are getting better.

RLH: What is it like playing with Keyonte George (a top 10 2022 player)?
CD: It’s cool. I feel like we make each other better and getting to compete with him in practice is only going to make my game better too. Plus, he brings a lot of attention to our team.

RLH: You have several High Major offers and a long list of schools recruiting you. Who is recruiting you the hardest right now?
CD: I’m blessed to be in this position and will continue to work at my game. Some of the schools that are on me the most right now are: Tulsa, Rice, Oregon State, New Mexico, and TCU.

RLH: What are you looking for in a college?
CD: I’d like to go to a place that I can come in and compete early on for playing time and win games.

Cruz will be running with Basketball Means More this coming grassroots season.

Q&A with 2023 Jimma James

6’5″ | 2023 | Point Guard |

Solid Rock Academy | Grassroots Elite Canada

Jimma James

Jimma James is one of the merging prospect targets in the 2023 class. He is explosive with the basketball in his hand and can do a little bit of everything on the court. He rebounds well, he facilitates, he can handle the ball, and he can score from all over the court. This season he is off to a torrid start, averaging: 15ppg, 8apg, 7rpg.

RLH:  What have you done this past Summer to prepare for your high school season?
JJ:  This past summer I’ve been working on all my weaknesses in my game and my whole game in general. I was in the weight room getting stronger, and in the lab perfecting my craft

RLH:  How was the travel season for you this Summer?
JJ:  This past travel season was oddly special. I’ve only played a few tournaments due to the pandemic but I made a statement in the very few games played and opened a lot of eyes. I averaged about 20+ppg.

RLH:  What role do you play on your high school team?
JJ:  The role I play on my Highschool team is the point guard. As a point guard, I have a big job I have to get my teammates going and also myself. There’s nothing better than getting your guys better and also yourself.

RLH:  Is there a player at the NBA level that you study and try to emulate? 
JJ:  If there is an NBA player that I like to study and try to emulate, it would be Ja Morant. Ja Morant is my favorite player in the league overall, Me and Ja are about the same height and build. Morant also plays my position… he’s someone I see my play type to be in the near future.

RLH:  What is your case to as why you should be ranked highly in your class?
JJ:  My case to as why I should be highly ranked in my class is first of all I’m different, physically, mentally, emotionally. There are not too many guys out there like me. It sounds cliche but my hunger, my motivation, and my ambition will one day get me to where I want to be…and some.

RLH:  What are some of your hobbies off the court?
JJ:  Some of my hobbies off the court are things like going to the movies, riding bikes, working out, watching basketball, and spending time with my family.

Player Interview: Jackson Twombly

Jackson Twombly is a 6’7 junior at Frankfort high school, also plays travel basketball with Kentucky Vision. Jackson had a stellar summer and fall playing travel basketball, and has improved his perimeter skills. Jackson is a big time scorer and can score in a variety of ways.

RLH: Is there a player either in the NBA or college that you model or that people say you play like?

JT: Not really, I think I’m a little more special than everyone else because one game I could have 25 to 30 points then the next game I can have 15-20 rebounds. I just do what I need to do to impact the game and help my team win.

RLH: Tell us more about this past summer and fall AAU season

JT: I played with a bunch of different AAU teams, just wanted to play when I could in the summer. In the Bluegrass Fall League I led the 16u in scoring for majority of the season, but ended up finishing second in scoring.

RLH Give us a preview for your high school season. Also, what role do you play on your high school team?

JT: Last year we made it to the All A state championships and lost to St. Henry by 9 points. I feel like we can make another All A state run. We have potential to win our district, and compete in the regional tournament

RLH: What are some of your hobbies off the court?

JT: I like to hang out with my friends, play 2k, Madden, Call of duty sometimes. I am a homebody, if I am not at the gym or school I’m usually at home. This year I will be the main guy and control the pace of the game. Also, I will be the leader and the go to guy to get points and do what’s needed to get the win.

RLH: What separates you from other Basketball players?

JT:  I have a 3.2 GPA and I work as hard in the classroom as I do playing basketball. I love being in the gym, and I am known for getting a lot of points but I will do what ever it takes to impact the game and help my team win.