Hard Work is Academic for Hornets' Benson
Hinsdale South center excels on the court and in the classroom.
The media is filled with stories of the high school basketball star who is a student of the game and little else.
Hinsdale South senior Brock Benson is a student in the true sense of the word. Not only does the 6-8 center tower over most other players on the court, his accomplishments off the court actually trump his athletic talents.
With a 5.23 GPA (on a 5.0 scale) and numerous prestigious extracurricular activities on his docket, Benson is being recruited by Ivy League schools such as Dartmouth.
Hinsdale South coach Vince Doran said interest in Benson is picking up and that several coaches have told him they intend to scout his star player when the Hornets host their holiday tournament Dec. 27-30.
“I think the longer this plays out his recruiting will intensify quite a bit as our season progresses,” Doran said. “There’s not a lot of 6-8 kids with the intangibles that he brings to the table. Somebody’s going to really luck out getting him on their campus.”
Force on the court
Doran and the Hornets have been lucky to have the services of Benson, who has played on the varsity since early in his freshman year, when he already stood 6-5. He became a starter the following season and blossomed into a leader last winter, when he led the Hornets to a 17-10 record by averaging 12.2 points and 7.5 rebounds, earning all-conference honors.
Though he looks like a natural athlete with his lean frame and fluid movements in the post, Benson has had to work hard to become the polished player that MaxPreps.com ranks as the 73rd best recruit in Illinois.
“When he first came in he was nowhere near where he is today,” Doran said. “He’s put a lot of work into it in the off-season. He’s lifted, he’s much more muscular now than he was last year. I think his best days are ahead of him at the collegiate level because big kids tend to develop later, and he just has such a nice frame and great work ethic.”
Benson would be a power forward if he plays Division I basketball, a level no Hinsdale South player has played at since Andrew Burton, who graduated in 1977, played briefly at Austin Peay. But in high school, he knows he must dominate the paint.
“I’ve gotten a lot stronger,” Benson said. “I’ve developed my moves around the basket. I’m definitely trying to be a team player. I’ve got to work on staying out of foul trouble. I can’t put myself in position to get those [fouls].”
Benson has been hampered by foul trouble in several games early this season, fouling out of one contest and picking up four in a 58-46 loss to Downers Grove South. But he showed how dominant he can be against Downers South, tallying a game-high 21 points despite sitting out eight minutes after getting three early fouls. He’s working on adjusting to the referees who call the game tight and believes his intelligence is his greatest strength.
“I think basketball-wise I play pretty smart for being a big man, so I think that’s very helpful,” Benson said. “I won’t just go for blocks. I’ll take a charge. I’ll do what it takes to win.”
The Right Priorities
As important as basketball is to Benson, it is far from his only interest. He works diligently in the classroom and particularly loves math, chemistry and a pre-engineering class in which he is learning to use AutoCAD.
In a sport where some of his contemporaries struggle to remain academically eligible to play, Benson stands out for his well-rounded outlook.
“We haven’t had anybody with his [recruiting] interest level and where he’s put himself academically,” Doran said. “I’m constantly talking to our younger players about doing the job in the classroom. He’s someone that’s done that and has been a great role model. He’s going to have great opportunities.”
That work ethic comes from his parents, Cliff and Joan, high-achievers who both have degrees from Purdue and set a good example for him.
Cliff, who has a sociology degree, played four years in the NFL in the 1980s, playing tight end for the Atlanta Falcons, Washington Redskins and New Orleans in a career that ended in 1988. Joan, a pilot, is a captain for United Airlines.
“From an early age, I had to do my homework before I could go outside and play, so I think that definitely started it,” Benson said. “Even now I go home and do my homework right away so I’m done with it and I can have the rest of the night to relax.”
Leader in the halls
Of course, Benson’s definition of relaxing is not to be confused with laziness. His time is taken up with an array of meaningful activities at school.
In addition to being vice president of the senior class and president of Athletes Committed to Excellence, Benson is a member of J. Kyle Braid, a prestigious national organization dedicated to providing leadership skills for young people, and the Peer Leadership Network, which helps freshmen adjust to high school.
How does he keep it all straight?
“I just try to get the most important thing done first and go from there and everything will fall into place,” Benson said. “Academics is most important; basketball right next to it. Both are very important.”
Doran marvels at Benson’s hectic schedule.
“It’s amazing how busy he is and how many clubs and activities [he is in] and with athletics, how successful he’s been at Hinsdale South,” Doran said. “Obviously, [he’s had] a lot of support from his parents in [their] raising the kind of person that he is today. He’s not only great on the court for us, but all of that and much more off the court.”
On the court, Benson is focused on helping the Hornets overcome a 2-4 start and achieve what he thinks will be a good record.
“I think we’re very capable,” Benson said. “We haven’t played to our best ability yet, but I think we’re getting better every day working as a team, which is really good.”
Benson has to lead the Hornets while knowing that college recruiters are watching him. The recruiting process, which can be stressful for many players, only strengthens his resolve.
“Even at practice I’ve still got to do the same thing as if they were watching,” Benson said. “It’s motivation for me to do well every day.”
Unlike most players, Benson isn’t concerned with playing at the Division I level. He’ll gladly play at a Division II or Division III school if the fit is right. Academics, not basketball, will fuel his decision on where to play.
“I’m just trying to find the best fit for me and my family, whatever that turns out to be,” said Benson, who wants to study engineering and is considering Dartmouth, Lafayette, Washington University in Missouri and Hope College in Michigan, among others.
Benson, who won’t turn 18 until June, has a younger brother, Barret, who also plays basketball and is nearly as tall. Barret and other young players would do well to listen to Benson’s advice.
“I think if you are really serious about basketball you have to find the time to be a good person and succeed in school,” Benson said. “If you put the time into basketball that you put into school, there’s no doubt you’ll be successful. I think if you do that, [if] you balance your time, you’ll be successful in everything you do.”
Doran has no doubt that Benson, who will finish his high school career among the five best rebounders in school history, will do just that.
“In my opinion it’s hard to be a better role model than he is on and off the court,” Doran said. “He’s a tremendous human being. He’s just been a wonderful person to work with in basketball. He’s going to be a success in his life no matter what path he chooses.”