By GREG MADIA The Daily Progress
Ben Vander Plas knew the fact off the top of his head.
The Virginia forward didn’t need a reminder to find his new coach’s name next to the NCAA’s all-time record of 3-point shooting. As a player in Green Bay, Cavaliers coach Tony Bennett shot 49.7% from deep – the best rate in Division I history for any player with at least 200 3s made.
“He still holds the record,” Vander Plas, a sixth-grader and a transfer from Ohio University in his first season with the Cavaliers, said with a grin earlier this month ahead of UVa’s season opener.
At the time, Vander Plas said one of the reasons he was so eager to play for Bennett — a college teammate of Vander Plas’ father Dean — was because he knew Bennett’s strong track record with veteran transfers and understood how Bennett help him was able to improve.
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The areas Vander Plas was targeting were his jump shooting and defense.
“So to be able to learn from that [Bennett] and hear what he has to say about my jump shot,” said Vander Plas, a first-team All-MAC pick last season, “was really cool.”
Through four games – a small, small sample size – at UVa, these lessons from Bennett have yielded favorable results for the 6-foot-8, 236-pounder.
During the Cavaliers’ 86-79 win over Baylor on Friday, Vander Plas was 4-of-5 from the field and 2-of-3 from beyond the arc as part of his 14-point performance in support of Armaan Franklin’s game-high 26 Points.
For the season, Vander Plas shoots 52.9% from field (9 of 17) and 46.2% from 3-point range (6 of 13) – two numbers up from the career 45.1% from field and 32.2% out of 3 he competed this season.
Up to this point he has provided goals and stability for UVa from the bench. Vander Plas sunk eight critical free throws and went off the line 8 of 9 in the second half to help the Hoos hold off Illinois on Sunday.
Vander Plas said he was also quick to absorb everything from Bennett about defending the Cavaliers and he feels he’s taken advantage of UVa’s strength and conditioning program over the past summer to be better prepared for the game on both ends of the floor against competition like he faced the Bears on Friday, the Illini on Sunday and will be competing in the ACC this winter.
“Especially with my role last year in Ohio,” said Vander Plas. “I’ve been guarding the 5’s and playing more of the 5, so last year I had a little extra weight and when I got here I had to cut some of that off right away to be more agile and a little bit lighter.”
Perhaps the increased speed coupled with his experience enabled him to get off to a quick start with his new team. He averages 9.8 points and 4.8 rebounds.
“Good blitzes,” said fellow forward Jayden Gardner after Sunday’s win against Illinois over Vander Plas, “and then on defense it just takes time to be in the gap and close the shooters. It’s a transition, but once you get used to it, you’ll move on.”