Northern Michigan University alumnus and current Michigan State University men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo won’t be so surprised to see a ghost from his Wildcat playing days when NMU plays MSU on Wednesday (Nov. 5) at the Breslin Center in East Lansing.
Last November when the two squads met at the Breslin, Izzo walked into the gym during NMU’s practice shoot around and stopped short, turning to NMU assistant coach Dan Waterman to say, “Oh my God. It’s Ed Benson.”
Actually, the 6-11 shooter was Jared Benson, Ed’s son, who ended up red-shirting the 2007-08 season.
Jared’s father, Ed, had a short but impressive career at NMU before circumstances forced him away from continuing his Wildcat career. As a freshman , the 6-8 Carney native was moved up from the reserve squad to the starting contingent to try to spark the ‘Cats after an underachieving first quarter of the 1973 season. Spark them he did. Ed saw action in all remaining games and went on to be the team’s leading scorer , helping the squad to a 16-10 overall record. Just a tall slip of a kid, but his post moves were polished and his fade-away shot unstoppable.
Jared, who like his father also earned all-state honors playing at Carney-Nadeau High School, decided to follow in Ed’s footsteps and play for NMU. “It’s nice to even be a part of a Division II basketball team, but it’s even more special for me being that I’m a part of the same team my dad once played on. He was an exceptional player here for the brief time that he did play and I intend to be just as good or possibly better,” the younger Benson says.
The fact that Jared’s first collegiate game comes against his dad’s former teammate’s team and a perennial national powerhouse doesn’t make the rookie nervous, just challenged. “I feel that we have an exceptional team this year and we finally have the depth that we need to compete with a team as good as MSU,” he says.
Will Jared be the freshman phenomena his dad was in 1973? Ed’s not concerned about that. He just wants good things for his son at Northern, on the court and off. Jared is expected to perform just as well in the classroom as on the court, as his sister, Carly did as when she was an academic all Big Ten performer with the University of Michigan’s women’s basketball team. Ed says, it’s education first. “I want Jared to get a good education and bring the Benson name back to the basketball court.”
But on the court, neither Izzo nor NMU coach Dean Ellis will be surprised if Jared has some slick moves in his arsenal. After all, he was taught to play by his dad. In fact, watching them walk and shoot is like seeing mirror images. When Jared uses that same post move that left fans in awe in 1973 then runs back on defense with a confident smile, look for the man in the stands with the same exact smirk on his face. That is Ed Benson.
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