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The Benson family: A legacy of Lopes

GCU senior guard Casey Benson drives on a teammate at the first practice of the season, Friday, September 29, 2017, Phoenix. (Photo by Jamie Nish/ Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – Prior to playing in the Final Four and showcasing himself on the biggest stage in college basketball, Casey Benson was just a normal kid living in Tempe who had a drive to play basketball.

Following three years at Oregon, the senior decided to leave Eugene to come back home to Arizona.

Benson transferred to Grand Canyon University after his Final Four run with the Ducks, and he has become a fan favorite with the Lopes, averaging nearly 10 points per game while playing in front of his family and friends.

“It’s extremely special to have my parents here,” Benson said. “It’s special to have them here, and they were able to come watch me at times when I was at Oregon, but it’s just different to be home in your home state.”

While Benson might receive some of the limelight and notoriety on the GCU campus, he is not the only person in the family who has left a legacy in the purple and black.

Benson’s brother, T.J., is an assistant coach with the basketball program and used to play for the Lopes prior to their time at the NCAA Division I level.

Casey Benson is now playing under his older brother T.J., an assistant coach at GCU. Here’s a picture of them as kids. (Photo courtesy Judy Benson)

In addition to T.J. and Casey, Holly Benson is the sister of T.J. and Casey, and she was a member of the GCU women’s soccer team at the beginning of the decade, creating a family legacy of Lopes.

“It’s really a neat place,” Casey’s father, Tim, said of GCU. “There is nothing like the place … It’s just a wholesome, healthy place for anybody to be and wants their kids to be.”

While all three siblings played collegiate athletics for GCU, they share another intriguing coincidence — none of the siblings started their college careers in Phoenix.

T.J. transferred to GCU after making an NCAA Tournament appearance with Weber State University in 2007, and Holly finished her soccer career with the Lopes after playing stints with Paradise Valley Community College and Oregon State University.

While growing up in Tempe, the Benson family was accustomed to busy weekends, whether they were spent on the basketball court or the soccer field.

“There were some times where basketball and soccer were in the same season, so I would be heading to one of Holly’s soccer games because they started at six, and then I would head straight to a basketball game because they started at 7:30,” said Casey’s mom, Judy. “That happened quite a bit when they were in high school and we just did what we had to do.”

Tim Benson is one of the founders for the AZ Power AAU basketball program. Growing up, Tim was a big part of his sons’ basketball careers, and the father has relished in both of his sons’ basketball success.

Tim never coached his sons, but he wanted to give both T.J. and Casey an opportunity to shine at the next level, which they are now doing with GCU.

“Casey sat and watched (T.J.) play and grew up watching the right and the wrong (way to play),” Tim said. “He kind of sucked it all in, and he learned how to play.”

Growing up, both parents admitted that Casey looked up to T.J., and that respect for his older brother has continued during their time together at GCU.

“It’s always hard whether you are coaching your son or you are coaching a family member,” GCU coach Dan Majerle said. “That line between being a coach and a brother. Sometimes he has to take that family hand off and be a coach, and you always want your siblings to be successful and have great success, so it’s a balancing act for both of them. We are lucky to have them both.”

As for any possible confrontations between the brothers, Casey noted that he and his brother have always gotten along, and that it’s easy to be alongside T.J. on the bench.

“I know that he just wants to help me all the time,” Casey said. “Everything he tells me, I always soak it up and let him coach me. There are times when he is extremely encouraging with me, and it’s just kind of his personality … At the end of the day, I know he wants me to be successful.”

During Casey’s senior season, his family has been at every game. His mom, his dad and Holly are all present at GCU home games.

Similar to her mom’s profession, Holly is now a school teacher, and she has a son who T.J. looks forward to seeing at games.

Although the Bensons have certainly enjoyed watching Casey play close to home, the family wouldn’t mind traveling come March, as the Lopes look to make a run toward their first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance.

“It was a special opportunity to be able to come home … being able to play for Coach Majerle and being able to play for T.J.,” Casey said. “Those are people who are going to push me, and to be able to play in front of my family and in front of a crowd that is pretty surreal.

“I want to be on the first team in school history to go to the NCAA Tournament.”

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