Maciej Bender may be a strong competitor as the WVU basketball team slowly starts to see its roster take shape.
Bender, a native of Warsaw, Poland, could provide great depth at a post position for WVU head coach Bob Huggins and the Mountaineers.
Bender has been in the United States playing high school basketball for Mountain Mission in nearby Virginia. He adjusted well to a new environment and a higher level of competition than he may have seen in his home country.
Bender had the opportunity to see some of the best prep teams on the east coast as a student-athlete, here, for the past few years. Bender grew as a player and developed into the player that Huggins recruited him to be.
He will not start right away, this fall, for the Mountaineers. He’ll have to wait in the wings for ample playing time, but he should be on the fast track to make an impact as quickly as possible.
Bender is getting a great opportunity this summer, back in Poland, to play for his home country at the U20 European Championships.
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According to WVUsports.com, Bender is averaging 7.8 points per game and leads his team in rebounding at 9.2 boards through the team’s first four games of the tournament. Bender leads Poland with a 13.5 efficiency rating.
When this tournament wraps up, Bender will have an even greater opportunity as he as been chosen for the Poland Senior National Team training camp.
This is a lot to take in for a young kid who has yet to even play in a college basketball game. However, this has all been a great experience for him. It will prepare him for his debut with the Mountaineers, which will be in the near future.
Bender has the opportunity to be a player like Deniz Kilicli, who was a polarizing star for the Mountaineers when they were on their road to the Final Four in 2010.
Kilicli showed flashes of brilliance for WVU. He was a stingy defender and an offensive threat on the inside and the outside. His play slipped later in his career, but he will still be fondly remembered for his intimidating demeanor and contributions to the Mountaineers, when they were playing some of the best basketball in recent memory.
Kilicli’s career started off similar to Bender’s as they both played in the United State prior to their time at West Virginia. Also, they both played in their home countries (Kilicl was from Turkey) before enrolling full-time at WVU. Kilicli ran into some trouble, though, as he was said to have played with a paid professional during an amateur game in Turkey.
He was suspended for the first half of his first season with the Mountaineers.
That kind of reprimand was extensive, but it should have sent a message to other former players. Bender should play by the rules before he begins to make an impact with this year’s WVU basketball squad.
It’s so far, so good for Bender in his young career. He needs to keep it that way.