North Texas Daily

Players value relationship with Benford

Players value relationship with Benford

April 24
22:03 2013

Audra Stamp / Staff Writer

Although head coach Tony Benford and the men’s basketball team didn’t have the year they wanted, Benford always made sure to maintain a strong relationship with the athletes.

Whether it was Benford having his team over to his house for a pre-game dinner or the daily check-ins with his players, he made sure his team was well-rounded so it could function well on the court.

“He wants to see us succeed in life,” senior guard Roger Franklin said. “Not just in the classroom, or not just on the basketball court. He’s preparing us to be not boys in the world, but men.”

As a child, Benford’s father served two tours in Vietnam as a sergeant in the Army, and wasn’t around much for his son.

“A lot of the coaches I had were like father figures to me because they were always around,” Benford said.

In high school Benford played for head coach Ralph Tasker at Hobbs High School in Hobbs, N.M., and aspired to be like him one day.

“He cared about us,” Benford said. “He didn’t care black, white, brown, he cared about kids and making a difference in the lives of kids. It was a family atmosphere, he invested in our lives.”

Growing up with coaches like Tasker and current UNT associate head coach Rob Evans, who recruited Benford to play for Texas Tech University, Benford learned the importance of relationships within a team.

Many new coaches have to get to know their players, but Benford had been watching many of the current UNT athletes when he was recruiting for Marquette University, so he was already familiar with many of them.

To further bond the team, Benford hosted dinners at his house, but also used the time to be a role model as a husband and father for the team. The Benford family even opened its home last Thanksgiving to senior forward Niko Stojiljkovic and former-freshman guard P.J. Hardwick, who weren’t able to go home.

“It was really nice of him to do that because I was by myself here on campus,” said Stojiljkovic, who is from Paris, France. “They were really welcoming and it was a good time.”

Benford also requires all players to check in with the coaching staff once a day so he knows about any stressful events in their lives that could affect their practice.

He also paid attention to their class work, monitoring everyone’s grades. To keep everyone on a similar schedule, all players and Benford himself got weekly calendars to assure the whole team was doing what they needed to do to have a successful college career.

“The only thing I promise you is that you’ll get a great degree,” Benford said. “But we’re going to invest in you as a player, and if you invest in your game also, then you have a chance to do something with basketball.”

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