The Valparaiso University women’s basketball team has announced a new addition to its staff as the Crusaders welcome assistant coach Eddie Benton Jr. to the program.
A veteran who has been coaching collegiately since 1999, Benton comes to the Crusaders after coaching most recently in the Atlantic 10 as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Duquesne from 2013-2016. Benton helped guide the Dukes to a program-record 28 victories in 2015-16, a season that culminated with a win in the school’s first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance, as Duquesne defeated Seton Hall in the opening round before playing UConn in the Round of 32.
“One of the biggest things I bring to the table is that I know what it takes to be successful and win,” Benton said. “Every program I’ve been in, we’ve won. You have to be relentless in your preparation. If you do that, you’ll be rewarded with the wins. I’m equipped to deal with a lot of different people and make everybody come together.”
Benton, a former professional player who was inducted into the University of Vermont Hall of Fame in 2006, has also spent time as the head coach at LaRoche College (2004-2012) and as an assistant at Saint Francis University – Pennsylvania (2012-2013) and Robert Morris University in Moon Township, Pa. (2001-2004). He started his coaching career at LaRoche College as an assistant on the men’s staff from 1999-2001 after serving as a student assistant at the University of Vermont during the 1996-97 season.
When Valpo head coach Tracey Dorow received Benton’s application, she had a feeling he was the right fit. Once she spoke to Benton during the interview process, there was no doubt he was her top choice in a competitive field of over 150 applicants.
“He applied the last day the position was open,” Dorow said. “The timing seemed perfect for both sides. He has a wealth of experience, and when he came in, you could see the energy emanate from him. It was clear that he belongs here.”
Benton helped guide Duquesne to the WNIT back-to-back years, including a WNIT Sweet Sixteen appearance in 2014-15. That set up the memorable 2015-16 season that saw the Dukes earn a national ranking for three weeks, finish with the second-most road wins in all of Division I and win the A10 regular season title.
The newest member of Valpo’s staff was named the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference Coach of the Year for the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons. In both of those years, Benton guided LaRoche to an automatic berth in the NCAA Division III Tournament and the conference’s tournament and regular season titles. LaRoche enjoyed a 30-game conference winning streak spanning those seasons.
Before beginning his coaching tenure, Benton enjoyed an accomplished playing career. He adds another ex-professional player to a staff that already includes former WNBA forward Megan Leuzinger and another veteran presence to a group of assistants that already features Justin Rees, who is entering his 19th season as a collegiate coach.
Benton won the 1996 Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award, given to the top point guard in the country under six feet. He also earned the 1996 Bob Cousy Award, given to the top point guard in New England. He left Vermont as the school’s all-time leading scorer (2,474) and individual single-game scoring record-holder (54). His professional career included time with the Venezuela Punta Fijo (1999) and the Isreal Carmiel (1998).
“I’m going to be working with our guards, and I think I have the ability to help those young ladies maximize their potential every single day,” Benton said. “The young ladies have to realize that the small components equate to winning. Working as hard as you can and being the best teammate you can be is a recipe for winning.”
Benton has two children, his daughter NyAsia (12) and son Eddie III (10). Dorow said the family atmosphere at Valpo will make Benton and his children feel right at home.
“The Valpo environment, the Christian belief and Coach Dorow were three big factors in my decision,” Benton said. “When I met the players and saw how much they want to be pushed, I knew this was the right fit. I could tell Coach Dorow really wanted me here. Her vision is my vision. She wants to win doing it the right way. That’s somebody I want to work for.”
In his initial visit to campus, Benton made a good first impression on Valpo’s current players.
“They love him already,” Dorow said. “Each candidate that came to campus got to spend 15-20 minutes with the team. There was something about him and his passion that made them want to take the court right then. There were a number of them that stuck around and talked with him afterward, and that’s unique. One of the biggest keys for him is that relationships are the most important part of coaching. That fits my philosophy and will enrich the Valpo women’s basketball program.”