St. Thomas More coach Danny Broussard has been around his program for a long time.
And he’ll tell you, anytime a team has a player who can create offense when things break down, it helps a coach get to sleep at night.
Broussard has seen many of those types of players come through the program in the past 30 years, and junior guard Devante Benjamin is no different.
“He has been a pleasure to coach, he has been everything you want in a player,” Broussard said. “He’s been able to come up huge for us time and time again.”
Benjamin is one of the team’s leading scorers this season, using his explosive athletic ability to get to the rim at will.
In the Cougars last game against St. Martinville, Benjamin poured in 18 points in the win, finishing at the basket despite the presence of 6-foot-7 center Jevante Walker, a prolific shot blocker.
Standing at 5-foot-11, Benjamin’s ability to finish at the rim, despite taller players surrounding him has helped him become a dynamic scorer.
“He’s so quick to the rim, his first step is very explosive,” Broussard said. “He doesn’t get many of his shots down there blocked.”
Benjamin said practicing against teammate Will Vincent, the Cougars 6-foot-7 center, helped him get used to finishing over outstretched arms.
“If you can finish over (Vincent), you can finish almost just about anyone else in our district,” Benjamin said.
Benjamin’s ability to score at the rim has always been present, but his outside stroke was lacking in his first action with the varsity.
One of the Cougars goals as a team is to improve players as shooters, Broussard said, and they saw the natural ability there for Benjamin to become a knockdown shooter.
Broussard said they helped fix his form, and since then Benjamin has steadily improved from midrange out to the 3-point line, helping to open up the Cougars offense.
“We try to focus on progressing players as shooters; it’s one of the things that you can teach,” Broussard said. “When we first got (Benjamin), I could tell his shot was a little off, but we worked hard with him and now he’s got more range.”
Benjamin worked tirelessly to improve his jumper, Broussard said, and the motivation to improve came from within rather than the coaches forcing it upon him.
“No doubt that (Benjamin)has improved a lot in our program. He’s such a hard worker,” Broussard said. “With that hard work and his athletic ability, he’s been able to do a lot for us this year.”
“I told him he just needed to get in the gym and shoot.”
Benjamin heeded his coach’s advice, shooting 200 shots per day during the offseason to improve his form.
The biggest thing Benjamin needed to fix was his elbow, which was sticking too far out and leading to an inconsistent shot.
“(Broussard) told me to get my elbow in, and it would really help me,” Benjamin said.
But for Broussard, perhaps Benjamin’s most impressive ability is to score points within the confines of the Cougars offense. Benjamin never stops the ball from moving where it needs to go and helps keep everyone on the team involved.
Benjamin said the decision to pass or take a lane to the basket comes naturally to him.
“It’s just an instinct that I have when I get the ball,” Benjamin said. “My teammates are really good shooters so if I get by my defender and see an open guy in the corner I have to get it to him.”
Broussard said Benjamin’s unselfishness has helped bring together a starting lineup that hadn’t played together before this season.
Despite seeing a few All-Americans come through his program, Broussard said teaching players to play the right way has always been what St. Thomas More was about.
“I think it’s an attribute of all my kids. We kind of preach that a lot. It’s kind of our program mission,” Broussard said. “He just does exactly what we ask him, and you can’t ask for more than that.”