Jan. 18, 2009
by Justin Heinze '09
"I've always wanted to play in college," says Hawk sophomore Charoy Bentley. "The dream has been to play in the NBA, but you play in college first."
In an era dominated by high school-to-pro stars like LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, Bentley's simple statement suddenly takes on a stronger meaning. The 5'11", 183-pound guard out of Harding High School in Connecticut saw college as the next logical step after a star-studded high school career. Coached by his father, Charles Bentley, he was twice selected to the All-State team, averaged 21 points game, was named `Mr. Basketball' in Connecticut, and led Harding to a perfect 20-0 season and a state championship his junior year. Then he picked Saint Joseph's.
"This is a great program, with a great coach. It's a good atmosphere. There are always people supporting you. The alumni and the fans are always supportive at the games."
Bentley was also courted by Robert Morris University, but ultimately chose to come to Hawk Hill. Although he did not receive very much playing time his freshman year, Bentley has emerged this year as one of the Hawk regulars. Averaging over 11 minutes a game, Bentley's best performance this season may have come versus Lehigh, where he scored 7 points and dished out 2 assists en route to a 71-64 Hawk victory. He also went 4-for-4 from the free throw line, drained his first collegiate three-pointer, and logged 14 minutes in a losing effort against a strong Texas team (ranked 11th in the nation) earlier in the season.
Despite limited playing time in his rookie campaign, Bentley realizes that gaining experience is a crucial part of making the step to the next level. When St. Joe's competed in NCAA Tournament last March, it made a strong impact on him. Although they came up eight points short in the end, the 11th-seeded Hawks held their own as underdogs against Oklahoma.
"Going to the tourney, getting to see how that is, it was a great experience," he says, pointing to the tournament appearance as a highlight of his collegiate career thus far.
Practically, however, the transition from high school to college has been, as it is in every sport, quite difficult. Once at a certain level, even the slightest increases in speed can seem to be magnified.
"It's a big difference," Bentley says. "It's a whole different pace of game. Everything's much faster. Every Division I player is basically the best player from their high school team."
And he's right. Many of his teammates and competitors carry heavily decorated All-State, All-Area, and All-Region high school résumés not all that different from Bentley's own impressive history. NCAA sports are like international high school all-star leagues. What separates players after high school is not what they were able to achieve with their talent as teenagers, but how much hard work they are willing to put in to become the athletes they need to be to compete at the college level.
"I've had to change my work ethic," Bentley says. "In high school, I didn't have to work out as hard. Now, you have to train harder, work harder. You study the game of college ball. I've had to adapt to it."
Thus far, the adapting process seems to be going well. All of Bentley's numbers have improved significantly from last year, and the regular season is only just approaching the halfway point. From playing time to shooting percentage, Bentley has stepped up his game.
Bentley is part of a diverse group of Hawk guards, consisting of seven players - half the roster - ranging from freshmen to seniors, five-foot-eleven to six-foot-five. With this kind of range of size, this compliment of speed and strength, almost any defense can be accommodated, and specific players can be used when the matchup with the opposition is seen by the coaching staff to be most clearly favored in a certain direction.
The athleticism required for a man of Bentley's position was honed after years of playing a variety of sports, including soccer, baseball, football, volleyball, cross country, and track and field. Many of the greatest basketball, baseball, and football players of all time were also accomplished athletes in another sport. A case in point would be Hall of Fame slugger Dave Winfield, who was drafted by the NBA's Atlanta Hawks and the NFL's Minnesota Vikings before settling on a baseball contract with the San Diego Padres. Deion Sanders, Bo Jackson, Jackie Robinson, Jim Brown, and Jim Thorpe are just a few of the other names on that same list. And of course, perhaps most relevantly, there is Michael Jordan.
"Football was the hardest to give up," Bentley says of his own multi-sport career. "I played right up until high school. In high school I played volleyball and ran cross country and track."
It is perhaps this extensive athletic background which has contributed to his success as a basketball player. Unlike many of his competitors who are over a foot taller, Bentley was not necessarily born to play only basketball. At 5'11" he had a choice, yet it seems as if he never really questioned his ultimate destiny in basketball. Endurance, speed, versatility, and hand-eye coordination may snowball into something approaching the perfect guard, should the cards continue to fall in his favor.
Bentley seems to be in a position where such good fortune is likely. With strong coaching in an atmosphere in which he feels comfortable, continued success and improvement are inevitable. Perhaps most importantly, however, Charoy Bentley carries with him the simplest and most elemental kind of love for the sport.
"I love to compete," he says. "It is just a part of me."