The week leading up to the Final Four is an exciting one for student athletes. In the case of the Oregon Ducks, there were plenty of big smiles in their locker room, but no one was smiling bigger than Casey Benson.
The Oregon guard is one of the most decorated high school basketball players in Arizona history, winning three titles with the Corona del Sol Aztecs at what is now known as Gila River Arena. Now, the Ducks are going after a national title just a block away at University of Phoenix Stadium.
“It feels pretty comfortable,” Benson said through a grin that never left during the Ducks’ media session Thursday.
“Obviously the Final Four is a much bigger stage than the Arizona state basketball championship. (I) just take that experience and knowing that it was right next door, I’m looking forward to trying and winning a fourth one in Glendale.”
Benson’s high school coach Sammy Duane, who is now the head coach at Perry High School, has known the Oregon guard since he was a fifth grader. Seeing the guard now playing at college basketball’s pinnacle does not surprise him.
“He wants to win,” Duane said. “If we’re in a drill and we’re shooting and a player made 15, the next time we did the shooting drill, Casey would hit 16. He had to win every drill. He was that competitive, and that spread to our players.”
Benson has transitioned his game from predominantly a scorer in high school to a facilitator to the rest of the Ducks while still being able to hit shots from the outside for Dana Altman. That team-first mentality is why Duane calls Benson “one of the most selfless players” he has coached.
“We’re still close,” Benson said. “We talk weekly and so to play like a coach like him in high school, it prepared me for this next stage. He could be coaching in college right now if he really wanted to…At Oregon, our goals are to win championships and we’ve carried that winning tradition on.”
The Oregon faithful are hopeful Benson can capture some more of that Glendale magic and carry that winning tradition a little further – two games to be exact – to win the national title.
The Oregon Ducks take on the North Carolina Tar Heels in the Final Four on Saturday at 5:49 AZ time.