By Tom Nader
Publisher and Editor
It is an exciting time for the Streetsboro girls basketball program.
The Rockets are building the type of sustainable success that has forever eluded the program.
After setting a new single-season win record a year ago and a roster filled with bright futures, Streetsboro is on the verge of a new era.
Guiding the new direction is sophomore Naomi Benson, who burst onto the scene as a freshman last year to help set the program’s new trajectory.
Benson averaged a double-double with 13.4 points and 11.8 rebounds per game and set a new single-season rebound record with 248. She also averaged 2.8 steals per game and had a team-high 34 blocked shots.
All of the numbers validate Benson’s ability on the court, but what sets the 6-foot-3 forward apart from most players is her desire to be the hardest-working player in the gymnasium.
Every single day.
It would be easy for Benson to rely solely on her height and current abilities, but she refuses.
She has too much on her mind to let that happen.
Benson expects more from herself, she has higher aspirations for her team and she has loftier goals for her future.
The menality has naturally reinforced the culture that head coach Carl Singer wants to be synonymous with his program.
“Naomi is humble and hard working, it is as simple as that,” Singer said. “She is so talented that she could get good numbers just based on her athletic ability, but she wants more than that and she is always ready to work hard for it. It makes my job a lot easier.
“She comes to practice ready to work hard every day and with a good attitude,” Singer said.
It has allowed Benson to grab the attention and respect of her teammates, who voted the sophomore as a team captain.
“They know how much she puts into it,” Singer said.
All of the team practices, individual workouts with personal trainers and even one-on-one battles with her two older brothers Nehemiah and Noah.
The latter of which is where her competitive spirit was sparked.
“I always wanted to prove to them that I was better than they were,” Benson said. “I always lost, but it didn’t stop me from playing them the next time.”
Benson’s competitive nature is now the Metro Athletic Conference’s to deal with — for another three years alongside a core group of talent for a Rockets team that is growing in numbers.
When Singer was hired as head coach eight years ago, the youth program included just 28 kids. The program has grown to 60-plus and it has allowed Streetsboro to string together talented players across all four high-school classes instead of just relying on one class to deliver a successful season before dropping off the following season.
“It is a really exciting time for the program,” Singer said. “Having good youth coaches is immeasurable, and I take very little credit for the way our pieces have come into place now.”
A few years ago, years that probably seem like only days to her mother Candace and father Greg, Benson was part of that growth at the youth level.
Benson began playing as a third-grader and almost instantly fell in love with the sport.
She had height then, too, which made her a presence in the paint throughout her youth years, but it was when she was in fourth grade that she made a statement to her mother.
“I told her that I wanted to start taking basketball seriously,” Benson said. “She asked me, ‘Are you sure?’ I was sure, and I started working out two times a week to try to get better.”
The same work ethic that has set her apart today is the same work ethic that she had then.
Nothing has changed — except for the Rockets’ upward curve that included the team’s first sectional championship in 36 years last season.
With a player like Benson leading the way in both skill, charisma and mindset, buckle up because the Rockets are just blasting off.
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