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Athlete of the Week – Ellie Benson, Washington Warriors

A point guard is often a leader on the court, and Ellie Benson relishes that opportunity every time she suits up in black and orange for the Washington Warriors.

“As a point guard, I think it’s really important that you keep your team together. You need to communicate with them from the coaches, and relay it on to your team. I feel like it’s important to be the leader on the team,” says Benson.

Leadership has become natural for Benson. In fact, when she answers a question about herself, she often responds with ‘we,’ or as a team. She is unselfish on and off the court, and will strive to make others better.

“Ellie is a vocal leader, but she is also an example,” says head coach Nate Malchow. “At 5’8″, she’s our leading rebounder and is not afraid to get in there, play hard and that just permeates through the rest of the team with how hard she is willing to go. A vocal leader plays with a lot of enthusiasm, with a lot of emotion, and rubs off on her teammates in a positive way.”

Benson’s passion and work ethic on the basketball court reflects her love for the game. Ellie’s parents, and grandparents played, and has been dribbling a basketball since she was a little girl.

“I love the energy and the emotion that goes into it. Coach Nate at Washington likes it when we are passionate when we play. I love being with my teammates, scoring a point, and everyone involved. It’s not about you.”

Malchow appreciates Benson’s hard work and he remembers telling Ellie that she was going to have a chance to lead the Warriors.

“I’ll never forget at the state tournament when she was a freshman, and her and I were walking out after watching the state championship game between Brandon and O’Gorman, telling her she was going to be in this position and that day is going to come sooner than later. It happened the next year for us. She has been starting every game since she was a sophomore and I have seen her improve in a lot of different aspects. I think in one area, basketball-wise, she’s always been a great leader for us, but her shooting has improved a lot. She had a big game in Minnesota when she hit three 3′s for us. Teams have to get up and honor that. All the intangibles and everything she brings to our team.”

Benson’s earned the respect of her coach, and teammates. As a senior, she has had the chance to play with six other senior teammates, (Hannah Nieman, Kelsey Knecht, Sydney Koel, Michaela Mayer, Lauren Farritor, and Peyton Vandebrake), and is loving every minute she gets to play with them.

“It is different than any other team. That is a lot people that have played and know what to do. The maturity on the court is strong and we have had a really great connection together for awhile.”

Benson loves her teammates, and when she’s on the court, her favorite way to contribute is getting boards, and creating plays.

“What I really enjoy doing is like I to rebound. We play a 2-3, and I’m always down low. When I get a rebound, it’s nice that I’m the point guard because I can get an outlet pass, and then run with it.”

Her ability to rebound has also led to her scoring, as she is averaging 12.1 points per game this season. Malchow says both of those skills lead to her biggest strengths on the basketball court.

“She’s in the bottom part of our zone. We let her be in that spot, reading plays, and she’s just a playmaker. Our leading rebounder leads us in about every statistical category. I think Ellie’s biggest attribute is she makes people better around her in way she them organized, and involved in what we do.”

Benson’s team-first mentality is a big reason the Warriors are 11-1, and would love a chance to cut down the nets for the first time in March with her teammates.

“It would mean everything. I’ve never won a state title in basketball or volleyball, and this is my last chance to do it, so it would mean everything.”

When Ellie is not playing basketball, she enjoys watching college basketball, or South Dakota State. Her favorite subject is psychology, and has played volleyball and track at Washington. In May after graduation, she plans to play volleyball and major in nursing at SDSU.

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