March 2, 2011
by Pete Spiewak '10
Eventually, Saint Joseph's guard Charoy Bentley, like every senior playing college basketball, will run out of time.
He's playing like he knows it.
As the Hawks take the floor against Richmond tonight, Bentley will don the Crimson and Gray for the final time in front of the home crowd at Hagan Arena. Knowing his fate, the 5-foot-11 guard is fighting to make the most out of every game. Every minute. Every second.
Even after a difficult season, Saint Joseph's is battling for the final spot in the Atlantic 10 Tournament. For the reserve guard, it is a battle to extend his career.
Bentley is in the midst of his "senior moment." The West Haven, Connecticut native has taken his game to a new level as the end of his career approaches.
The former "Mr. Basketball" in Connecticut has seen extended minutes in the past six games, scoring 6.5 points per game - well above his season average of 2.8. His scoring has been a pleasant surprise, but his biggest impact may come from his stellar point guard play. Bentley has 17 assists and just six turnovers over that time frame. And most importantly, his team has three wins, and has played its best stretch of basketball of the season with him inserted in the team's rotation.
To think, it almost didn't happen. As Saint Joseph's was preparing for a matchup with Massachusetts on February 5, a game in which the Hawks were eyeing their first Atlantic 10 win, they received some devastating news. Head coach Phil Martelli's team would be without Carl Jones - the city's top scorer, averaging 16.9 points per game - leaving a huge void in the Hawks' backcourt as the sophomore sat out with an ankle injury. After not playing more than five minutes in the previous five games, Bentley knew the injury to Jones opened the door for him.
"I didn't want [my opportunity] to come like that, with [Jones] getting hurt," said Bentley. "But I knew, being a senior, I had to step up and be a leader out there."
With Jones sidelined, and star freshman Langston Galloway fighting a stretch of cold shooting, it would not have been surprising for the Hawks to panic and lose to the Minutemen. Instead, it was Bentley's calm hand that led Saint Joseph's to a 67-64 win over Massachusetts. He didn't light up the box score, but it was his senior leadership, willingness to get his teammates involved and smart decision-making that propelled the Hawks to their first conference win.
"Charoy Bentley has waited his whole career to play a lot of minutes and he did a good job," said Martelli, following the guard's five-point, three-assist, zero-turnover performance. "Charoy is going to play safety first. That's good point guard play when you don't have any turnovers."
Saint Joseph's ended a nine-game losing streak with that victory, a win that the team desperately needed.
For their next game, the Hawks traveled to the Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J., to take on Fordham. Jones returned to the starting lineup, but Bentley had made his mark, and the coaches rewarded him with 23 minutes of playing time off of the bench. "I was kind of happy, but I wasn't satisfied [with my performance against Massachusetts]," Bentley said. "I wanted to continue that, and after that game, coach gave me the opportunity, because I played well during the UMass game."
Martelli's decision to continue to play Bentley would pay off. Against Fordham, the co-captain may have had the best game of his career, as Saint Joseph's rallied back from a 16-point deficit to pull out a win in North Jersey, 76-70.
With 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting, Bentley continued what was an unprecedented hot streak for the senior who spent the first three and a half years of his career as a defensive specialist, often times subbing in and out on the defensive side of an offense-defense platoon near the end of each half.
(continued on page 47) Although he was a scoring guard in high school, Bentley accepted the role coaches asked him to fill, and embraced it.
"I guess at first, coming in here, it bothered me," he said. "As time went on, it was what I had to do to help the team out. But I was still waiting for the opportunity to show what I had."
Suddenly, Bentley became a key figure in the Hawks' late-season surge to the Atlantic 10 Tournament - a player relied upon to contribute on both offense and defense.
Since being given a new role on the team, he has found a way to make contributions in every game. Whether it was his seven points, five rebounds and three assists against Temple, his six assists in a win over St. Bonaventure, or a clutch defensive play, like taking a charge - something the fearless guard has become known for - Bentley has found ways to help his team succeed.
With only two guaranteed games left in his career, Bentley will continue to do whatever it takes to make a positive impact on Saint Joseph's. However, it's only a matter of time before Bentley's time on the hardwood will be up and graduation will come.
But that doesn't mean he won't be helping the Hawks down the line. Always a hard worker on the court, and by all accounts, somebody who has brought a great attitude and a sense of professionalism to the team for four years, Bentley has set a great example for the team's younger players.
"I think they've benefited from having me," said Bentley of the team's talented but inexperienced guards. "When I was younger, I had Tasheed Carr and Garrett Williamson to look up to. They gave me role models when I was coming in [to Saint Joseph's]. Just having somebody to look up to helps. Hopefully, I helped them out for the future."
Perhaps, over the course of the last few weeks, Bentley taught his fellow Hawks a lesson in persistence.
After waiting so long to get his chance to have a consistent role in the team's offense, it would have been easy for Bentley to become discouraged along the way and give up. But he didn't. He continued to battle.
Just as the Hawks, after losing eight straight conference games, could have packed it in. But they didn't. Saint Joseph's has split their last six, and are fighting tooth and nail to earn the final spot in the Atlantic 10 Tournament.
Bentley speaks glowingly of the potential of his younger teammates. He expects big things from them.
"I think they're going to be really, really good," said the guard.
If Bentley's hard work and persistence has rubbed off on them at all, maybe they'll be great.