Sibling rivalry, lacrosse revelry

Hopkins: For the first time since they were little, junior Bobby Benson and his brother Joe, a McDonogh senior, will be on the same team.

College Lacrosse

May 07, 2002|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

It's not that Bobby and Joe Benson didn't talk about how great it would be to win a national championship., As kids growing up in Baltimore - lacrosse sticks never far out of reach - the Bensons had their dreams, too, yet in those dreams, glory for one sibling always seemed to come at the expense of the other.

"I can remember a couple of conversations where we talked about going to different schools and beating each other. We never talked about playing on the same team," Bobby Benson said.

Nevertheless, that will become a reality next spring when Joe Benson, a high school senior at McDonogh, joins his brother at Johns Hopkins. Bobby will be a college senior next season.

This will not be the first time Bobby, 21, and Joe, 18, have been lacrosse teammates. They were on a Loch Raven recreation team, but that was when Bobby was 8 and Joe was 5.

Bobby Benson played lacrosse, soccer and basketball at McDonogh. He moved on to Hopkins and has become one of the most productive attackmen in the college game, earning a coveted spot on Team USA for this summer's world championships in Australia.

Already on the radar screen of every college lacrosse coach in the country after registering 70 goals and 49 assists in 25 games last season, Joe Benson may be more well-known on McDonogh's Owings Mills campus for his football exploits. He quarterbacked the Eagles to two straight Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association titles.

Football powerhouses, including Tennessee, Florida and Virginia Tech, expressed interest, and Joe said Maryland, which recruited him in both sports along with North Carolina and Virginia, pursued him the hardest for football.

But Joe was a bigger prospect in lacrosse and decided he would focus on that sport. When he did, the most intense recruiting came under his own roof.

"Bobby definitely wanted Joe to go to Hopkins, and every time he saw him, he would push for it," said their mother, Charlotte Benson. "He pointed out all the great things about Hopkins, and if there were bad points at other schools Joe was looking at, Bobby made sure Joe knew about them."

Joe committed to Hopkins in early October, just about ending any chance at a collegiate football career. Hopkins has a Division III football team, but NCAA rules prohibit Division I scholarship athletes - which he will be at Hopkins - from playing a Division III sport at the same school.

"Bobby would probably say the only reason I am going to Hopkins is because of him," said Joe, who listed Princeton and Virginia as the runners-up. "But I turned a blind eye to him mostly. Seeing how he has had a great experience might have helped, but the reason I am going to Hopkins is not because he is there."

And if it were true, Joe would probably not give his brother the satisfaction of admitting it. That would give Bobby the upper hand in an ongoing war of words that the two have playfully carried on since they were young.

The verbal sparring even went public. In an ad in the April 1 issue of Sports Illustrated, Joe was recognized as the Old Spice Athlete of the Month. Bobby was quoted in the article as saying that Joe looked like "Bozo the Clown," referring to his brother's hair, which was dyed McDonogh orange at the time.

Joe's retort came in a phone conversation. "I called home to see how he played that day, and he said, `I played just like you: I couldn't score,' " Bobby said.

They both laugh about the good-natured ribbing and recall many times when the words have been supportive.

Earlier this season, Bobby was mired in a goal-scoring slump, so he sought advice from Joe the night before the Blue Jays played North Carolina.

"He was really upset, and I just told him to shoot where the goalie isn't," Joe recalled. "He got quiet for a moment, then he asked, `What does that mean?' "

Later crediting Joe for putting things in perspective, Bobby did in the Tar Heels with two goals and three assists. His confidence has been on the rise since.

The left-hander, who had six goals and two assists in his team's first five games, totaled 20 goals and six assists in the next seven. He now has 26 goals and 10 assists for the Blue Jays, who were awarded the top seed and a first-round bye in the NCAA tournament. Hopkins (11-1) will play host to the Massachusetts-Fairfield winner on May 19.

Joe has had another banner season for the Eagles, amassing 69 goals and 33 assists. His team has a critical MIAA game at Calvert Hall today.

Though each Benson produces goals in bunches, the two are as opposite as any attackmen you will find.

At 6 feet 4, 198 pounds, Bobby is the crease man for the Blue Jays, adept at victimizing late-sliding defenses for slam-dunk goals. Joe, also 6-4 but a little thicker at just more than 200 pounds, is a power player better suited for the offensive perimeter, where he can use his speed and strength to dodge past or through defenders.

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