Ben­son headed to Hamp­ton

West­lake grad­u­ate signs to NCAA D-I lacrosse pro­gram

Maryland Independent - - Sports - By AJ MA­SON aj­ma­son@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @aj­ma­son301

Just six days af­ter grad­u­at­ing with his se­nior class at West­lake High School, Pear­son Ben­son is now ready to take the next step in his life: Col­lege.

Ben­son, who was a three-year start­ing de­fender for the Wolver­ines boys lacrosse team, will con­tinue his ca­reer at Hamp­ton Univer­sity, re­cently sign­ing his na­tional let­ter of in­tent to play NCAA Di­vi­sion I lacrosse for the his­tor­i­cally black in­sti­tu­tion based in Vir­ginia.

The for­mer Wolver­ine is ea­ger to join a Hamp­ton men’s lacrosse pro­gram that formed just two years ago, be­com­ing the first his­tor­i­cally black univer­sity to field a NCAA Di­vi­sion I lacrosse team.

Coached by front­man Lloyd Carter, the Pi­rates be­came the first HBCU since Mor­gan State in 1981 to field a var­sity men’s team in the sport. Mor­gan State was Di­vi­sion II at that time.

“It was very ex­cit­ing be­cause it has been over 30 years since a HBCU has had a Di­vi­sion I lacrosse team,” said Ben­son, who had a sign­ing cer­e­mony on May 17. “I’m look­ing for­ward to start­ing a legacy there, Hamp­ton wants to ex­pand lacrosse to other HBCU schools and I’m just grate­ful to have the op­por­tu­nity to be apart of a [HBCU] school to be the first to have it.”

Ben­son re­ceived other in­ter­ests from NCAA Di­vi­sion II’s Tus­cu­lum Col­lege (Tenn.) and NCAA Di­vi­sion III out­fits Hood Col­lege, Messiah Col­lege (Pa.), and Methodist Univer­sity (N.C.), among other schools, but Hamp­ton turned out to be the right fit for his fu­ture.

“I’ve al­ways had a sense that I wanted to go to a HBCU. A lot of my fam­ily mem­bers have been to those schools,” said Ben­son, who will ma­jor in mar­ket­ing. “Hamp­ton has a lot of great op­por­tu­ni­ties and when I vis­ited there I talked to coach Carter and the vi­sion of what he sees with the lacrosse pro­gram and I was sold there.”

Ben­son vis­ited the Hamp­ton cam­pus on Feb. 25, the day the men’s lacrosse team faced the Univer­sity of the District of Columbia. The Pi­rates fell 19-15.

“I got to hang out with the team and the coaches,” he said. “When I was watch­ing the game, the level of col­lege lacrosse is much faster than high school and cleaner also. That is what I picked up from look­ing on the side­line. I’m pretty sure when you are ac­tu­ally on the field it is a to­tal dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence.”

De­spite fin­ish­ing 1-7 in 2017 with only one se­nior on the ros­ter, the fu­ture is bright for Hamp­ton to make pos­i­tive strides for next sea­son.

“With it be­ing only the third sea­son when I get there it is a great op­por­tu­nity,” Ben­son said. “I’m used to go­ing into a new pro­gram. I re­mem­ber when Charles County lacrosse first started when I was in high school. It is all about so­lid­i­fy­ing your­self against your op­po­nents. I’m happy to come in with a new team.”

Ben­son scored 17 goals, dished out eight as­sists and scooped up a school-record 146 ground­balls dur­ing his se­nior sea­son at West­lake.

As a ju­nior, he scored seven goals with five as­sists and 96 ground­balls. As a sopho­more, he fin­ished with two goals, two as­sists and 76 ground­balls.

“I’m su­per ex­cited for Pear­son. I re­mem­ber last sea­son when told me he was go­ing to Hamp­ton’s camp,” West­lake head coach Matt Pan­zarella said. “I knew Hamp­ton was where he wanted to go. His lacrosse IQ is phe­nom­e­nal. He lives eats and breathes the sport. He knows when to get the ball down the field and when we needed a ground­ball he would get it.”

Ben­son, who first started play­ing lacrosse at the age of 10, did not play lacrosse at West­lake his fresh­man sea­son, fo­cus­ing on travel ball.

Through mid­dle school, Ben­son played travel with the Charles County Clay­mores and South­ern Mary­land Se­lect. Dur­ing the high school ranks, he played with Charles County Rebels and the Mary­land Wild Wings.

Ben­son’s older sis­ter Ge­or­gia is a 2015 West­lake grad­u­ate who played on the girls lacrosse team all four years and his mother Chrys­tal is cur­rently the Prin­ci­pal at Thomas Stone.

“At West­lake, I’m go­ing to miss the sup­port that they had for stu­dents. The teach­ers and coaches cared about you as a stu­dent first,” said Ben­son, who also played two sea­sons on the var­sity foot­ball team as a de­fen­sive line­man. “It was very easy to be a stu­dent-ath­lete be­cause you have a lot of time to fo­cus on your grades and sports. I had great team­mates on the foot­ball and lacrosse teams. We were like one big fam­ily. I’m go­ing to miss those mem­o­ries.”

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

West­lake High School grad­u­ate Pear­son Ben­son signed his na­tional let­ter of in­tent to play NCAA Di­vi­sion I men’s lacrosse at Hamp­ton Univer­sity (Va.) on May 17. Seated, from left are, Pear­son’s fa­ther Leroy Ben­son, Pear­son Ben­son and Pear­son’s mother Chrys­tal Ben­son. In the back row are, Pear­son’s youth coach and La Plata head boys lacrosse coach Kris Bayer, left, West­lake head boys lacrosse coach Matthew Pan­zarella, Pear­son’s older sis­ter Ge­or­gia Ben­son, West­lake Prin­ci­pal Michael Meiser and West­lake ath­letic di­rec­tor Do­minic Zac­carelli.

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