Sports

Off the Court with Patrick Benzan '19

For Patrick Benzan ’19, basketball, and specifically Holy Cross basketball, is a family affair. Both of his parents, John Benzan ’85 and Kim (Kelley) Benzan ’87, graduated from Holy Cross, and his mother was a member of the women's varsity basketball team during her time on The Hill. Benzan traces his interest in the sport back to days he spent playing basketball with his mom as a kid. "She was a high school basketball coach, so I spent a lot of time with her in the gym when I was younger," Benzan says.

These days, the 5'11" Benzan is on the court at the Hart Center, playing guard for the Crusaders. HCM caught up with him before the start of his sophomore season.

Holy Cross Magazine: Why did you choose Holy Cross?
Patrick Benzan: I thought it was a great combination of academics and basketball. I also had a great relationship with the old coach, who recruited me, which made the decision easy for me.

HCM: What has been your favorite course at Holy Cross and why?
Benzan: Right now, I am in a creative writing seminar, which has been really fun. Every two weeks we have a story due, so I have been writing a lot. I feel like I’ve always been a creative person, so I usually have a bunch of stories bouncing around in my head. It’s nice to have the opportunity to actually write them down. I think I am going to be an English major.

HCM: In 2016 you were named to the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll. How do you balance your course load with being a varsity athlete?
Benzan: It’s tough. I only have a limited amount of free time between practice, lift and film, so I have to make sure I take care of my work diligently and focus on homework. I don’t have much down time.

HCM: You began volunteering at a soup kitchen in Worcester while attending Worcester Academy, and continue to volunteer there since coming to Holy Cross. Tell us about what you do there.
Benzan: I started volunteering during my postgraduate year at Worcester Academy. We used to go every Wednesday morning to do community service. I really took an interest in it, so I continued to volunteer after I started at Holy Cross my freshman year. It was great because it allowed me to stay in touch with my old coach. Usually, I am in charge of the oatmeal when I go. I stand in the front and help put the oatmeal into bowls. Everyone has different roles; there are people who make cereal, people who serve breakfast, people who make lunch, etc.

HCM: What is your favorite winter activity?
Benzan: Do snowball fights count? I think that’s my favorite, especially with my friends around campus. I don’t know if I’m supposed to be doing that ...

HCM: You are going into the second semester of your sophomore year. What have been the biggest challenges and what are you looking forward to most for the next two years at Holy Cross?
Benzan: The biggest challenge is probably being on the road for basketball and missing class. The teachers expect you to keep up with homework and assignments while you are gone, which can be really tough. What I am looking forward to most are the facilities being done. I heard they were supposed to be done by the time I am senior, so I am really looking forward to that.
HCM: You’ll be happy to hear that the work at the Luth Athletic Complex is expected to wrap up in the summer of 2018, just in time for your senior year!

HCM: Has your mom offered you any tips as you've embarked on your own Holy Cross basketball career?
Benzan: My mom is able to help me with all of the basketball stuff. It was tough being a first year student with a new coach and a new system. My mom was able to relate to me and remind me that it was going to be hard, but that it is important to keep your head up and keep going through it day by day. To have someone who has been through what I have been through, especially here, is really helpful.

HCM: Last year the men’s basketball team made a historic run in the NCAA tournament. What was it like having this experience as a first-year student at Holy Cross?
Benzan: Honestly, it was surreal. We struggled through the regular season, so we were not expecting to make it to the tournament. Next thing you know, we won the [Patriot League] championship. It was also really cool to see other teams, like Duke, Syracuse and Oregon. We watched all of these teams on TV and then next thing we know, we were at the tournament with them. We’ve all been watching the tournament since we were kids and then suddenly we were in the bracket, which was awesome.

HCM: What was it like having so many students on campus invested in the tournament?
Benzan: It was crazy. People were coming up to us with a million questions. Even people we didn’t know were coming up to us and congratulating us.

HCM: What was the team dynamic like during the tournament?
Benzan: We were all kind of in disbelief. But we weren’t feeling too much pressure, because no one expected us to be there. Each game we got more confident. We had nothing to lose, so we were just having fun and not getting too stressed.

HCM: What did participating in the tournament teach you?
Benzan: It taught me that really anything can happen with hard work and perseverance.

HCM: What is the best part about being on the men’s basketball team?
Benzan: We get a lot of gear—I think that’s pretty cool. The March Madness run last year was also really rewarding. People recognize you and are really supportive. Just knowing people are looking out for you is a cool feeling.

HCM: Who is your biggest role model and why?
Benzan: I would say Kyrie Irving, the basketball player [with the Cleveland Cavaliers]. I admire his work ethic and mentality. I have listened to a lot of his interviews before I play, so I can get into his mindset.  ■

—Mary Cunningham ’17