Sil­ver­swords’ Ben­nett Find­ing His Fit On Honolulu Courts

MidWeek Islander (East Oahu) - - EAST OAHU SPORTS EAST OAHU ISLANDER / JANUARY 6, 2 - By JACK DANILEWICZ

When the Cham­i­nade cam­pus clears out over the hol­i­day break, there’s plenty of time for re­flec­tion for its in­hab­i­tants. Steven Ben­nett doesn’t mind.

“No classes and no latenight home­work,” said Ben­nett. “I’ve been us­ing the time to rest my body.”

The start­ing point guard from Los An­ge­les has fi­nally adapted to life on the Is­land and on the bas­ket­ball court, where he has stepped into the role of CUH’s team leader.

Ben­nett’s first foray from home, when he at­tended Mecca Mis­sion Elite Chris­tian Academy in Mis­sis­sippi di­rectly out of high school, was mem­o­rable for all the wrong rea­sons.

“They sold me a dream, and when I got there it was dif­fer­ent,” said Ben­nett, a ju­nior at Cham­i­nade.“I wasn’t learn­ing any­thing (aca­dem­i­cally), and my liv­ing sit­u­a­tion wasn’t good. It felt like a scan­dal there. It was a bad sit­u­a­tion, and I left af­ter a month and a half.”

Ben­nett found life at Cit­rus Ju­nior Col­lege — an hour away from L.A.— more to his lik­ing. He helped lead Cit­rus to a 35-1 sea­son in 2007-08 and a Cal­i­for­nia State Ju­nior Col­lege ti­tle. Divi­sion I colleges were call­ing on him soon af­ter. He was re­cruited by CalS­tate Fuller­ton, Fresno State and East­ern Wash­ing­ton. When he de­cided to give Divi­sion II schools a look, it came down to Cham­i­nade and Cal-State Los An­ge­les. As was the case when he left home the first time, Ben­nett was go­ing to a place he hadn’t yet vis­ited.

“It was kind of hard at first — we don’t have our own gym, and the dorms (at CUH) are a lit­tle small, but it helps now that we are in sea­son,” he said.“We’ve bonded now, and we’ll be a good team this sea­son. We were judged ear­lier by what we did in our Divi­sion I games, and we just had to get our chem­istry to­gether. I came to Cham­i­nade to get down to busi­ness.”

That means play­ing a big­time sched­ule, of course. No com­plaints from Ben­nett on that note, al­though four of Cham­i­nade’s six losses came to Divi­sion I schools — in­clud­ing games against Mary­land, Van­der­bilt and Colorado at the Maui In­vi­ta­tional and a road con­test against its Oahu neigh­bor, UH, whom the Sil­ver­swords played to the limit in a 70-61 loss on Dec. 9 at the Stan Sher­iff Cen­ter.

“I wish we could play more (DI schools),” he said. “We felt we should have won a cou­ple of those, but we got a lot of pub­lic­ity for re­cruit­ing from those games. It’s great play­ing teams like that — es­pe­cially at the Maui In­vi­ta­tional. You get to play on na­tional tele­vi­sion, and I want to prove that I’m a Divi­sion I (cal­iber) player. Cham­i­nade has ben­e­fited me. Ev­ery­thing is fast-paced in L.A., and I need to be in a more re­laxed en­vi­ron­ment.”

While small­ish by DI stan­dards at 5-foot-8, Ben­nett plays much big­ger by way of his quick­ness and his tenac­ity. His 33.6 min­utes per out­ing is sec­ond on the team to Shane Han­son, and he has a sparkling as­sist-ver­sus­turnover-ra­tio ( 56-27) through nine games. He handed out eight as­sists in the riv­et­ing game against Hawaii and leads CUH in most of­fen­sive cat­e­gories. On Dec, 14, he was named Pa­cific West Con­fer­ence Player of the Week af­ter lead­ing Cham­i­nade to a 2-1 record for the pre­vi­ous week. CUH fol­lowed up the loss to Hawaii with wins over HPU and BYUH. All told, he av­er­aged 16.7 points and 9.3 as­sists per con­test, rank­ing sev­enth in scor­ing and first in as­sists per game in the PacWest for the week. He also was tops in the league in as­sist/turnover ra­tio for the week (14.0).

This week, Ben­nett and Cham­i­nade are in Phoenix for Thurs­day’s game against Grand Canyon. On Satur­day, they will be in Utah to play Dixie State. From there, five of their next six games will be at McCabe Gym on the CUH cam­pus.

Con­tact Jack Danilewicz at Jack­ster.1969@ya­hoo.com.

Steven Ben­nett of Cham­i­nade pro­tects the ball in a re­cent game. Photo cour­tesy of Cham­i­nade Uni­ver­sity.

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