Life in Geraldton, playing with Buccs just what Benjamin hoped
PLAYING football, finishing college, playing in Denmark and now moving to Geraldton have all been in Dwayne Benjamin's past 12 months, but he just describes that as his life as he continues to thrive on his early time with the Buccaneers.
There was much attention heaped on Benjamin last year when the former Northside High School football player decided to join in on practices with Oregon's football team after having played two years of basketball with the Ducks.
However, he soon decided to turn his focus to life as a professional basketballer. His first experience in Denmark wasn’t something that he enjoyed greatly, but now coming to Geraldton is something he couldn’t be happier with.
He already loves the city and based on his opening weekend of the 2017 SBL season, it suits him too as he earned the Player of the Week honours.
He had 33 points, five rebounds and seven assists against the Kalamunda Eastern Suns on Saturday night before adding 29 points, nine boards and four assists on Sunday against the Lakeside Lightning.
The Buccs won both games and Benjamin only expects himself and his team to continue to get better now as the season goes on.
"I know I can play better. I rebounded better in this second game after I only had five on Saturday and that's not enough. I still think I could have played better defence but overall it was a pretty good weekend considering I haven’t played in a couple of months," Benjamin said.
"I know we will keep getting better as a team and I will get better as an individual, and that's just off the work we will put in and that I will put in personally. We push each other every day in practice so I know we are going to keep getting better.
"We are going to try and go further this year, and try to win every game we can. Then the ones we don’t we'll learn from and our goal is to do everything we can to win a championship. That's honestly our goal."
Benjamin already has great chemistry with his teammates and respect for them as he tries to help the Buccs improve on their season last year that saw them make it to the semi finals before losing to eventual champions the Cockburn Cougars.
His combination with Mo Barrow already looks exciting and having a point guard like Jackson Hussey is a perfect fit for him as well.
"He (Barrow) is my guy. He can do a lot of different things and so can I, so we just try to play together and try to be a nightmare match up for the opposition. Then with the other guys we have who are also hard to guard, we try to be tough to stop," he said.
"Jackson can do a lot of things. He can score but the most important thing is that he can run our offence and everybody respects him for that. He can call a play and we are going to run that, and he can stop it or speed it up, and we like it.
"He don't have any problem letting someone else bring the ball up the court either so he can play that off guard spot at times too, so his versatility as well as being a good point guard is going to be big for us."
When he reflects on his past 12 months that saw him finish up his hoops career at the Ducks, give football a go also at Oregon and then begin his pro career in Denmark, it's simply only what Benjamin would expect.
He is never afraid to throw himself full on at any challenges but for now he has settled into wanting basketball to be his focus.
"That’s just my life. There has always been a lot of changes but I adjust pretty quick and I feel like I'm a pretty nice person so I can get along with a lot of people so I've never had too many problems adjusting to new things," Benjamin said.
"With the football thing, I did that my whole life so it wasn’t too big. Then in terms of going to new countries and meeting new people, I think I fit in well with my personality and that's just part of the game. You never know where basketball is going to take you and you just try to enjoy the ride."
Before arriving to begin pre-season with the Buccs, Benjamin knew little of Australia and had really only ever heard of Sydney and Melbourne. He had never heard of Perth and certainly never Geraldton.
However, from the moment he arrived he fell in love with the city and can't wait to play his first home game in front of the locals this Saturday night against the East Perth Eagles.
"I honestly didn’t know a lot about Australia. I just knew of the major cities like Sydney and Melbourne, but it has all turned out better than I could have expected. Geraldton is a great city and it's better than advertised on the internet," he said.
"It looks better, the people are way nicer and it's a nice small town which is what I like. I'm now really excited to play this first home game.
"I went and watched the city league championship games and the crowd was amazing. They say it goes up another level for our home games so I'm excited to put on a show for them and try and get as many wins at home for them as we can."
Benjamin has also been pleasantly happy with the way life in Australia has been easier to adjust to than what he experienced in Denmark. Both in terms of the lifestyle and basketball, he has no doubt it's going to be a better fit for him.
"This is a lot easier adjustment to make. In terms of the language, the food and things like that Australia is a lot like America. But it is Australia and it's different in its own way, but in Europe the hardest part was the language barrier which isn’t a problem here," he said.
"Denmark wasn’t the best honestly. I just don’t think personality-wise me and the team fit, but the country was great and I had a lot of fun there. I did have some fun playing there and it was a good experience playing a lot of good people in the Champions League.
"That taught me a lot that I'm translating into my game here with the physicality in terms of defence and rebounding. I learned a lot from it even though it wasn’t the best decision for me."
Thinking about football, it will always be a passion of Benjamin's and he will go back to the game one day, but not until he has given his basketball career his everything.
One thing he's already had a glance at since arriving in Geraldton is Australian Rules Football. Without question, he has all the physical tools and co-ordination to make a go of it if he ever considered it.
With the AFL looking at providing opportunities to athletes from other sports as well it's not totally out of the question, but for now Benjamin will just be watching from the sidelines.
"A lot of people want me to go back to football and I've always got agents hitting me up, but as of right now I'm a basketball player and that's what I'm going to stick with for right now. I will be a football coach in my future though," Benjamin said.
"I've seen Australian Football and it's pretty physical. I like it but I tried to do the bounce the ball thing and I'm not too good at that, but they told me you can just touch it on the ground instead.
"Any sport or athletic event I'm always interested in so I'm planning on watching it a lot, but as of right now I have all the respect to them and I wouldn’t say I can play it because they've been doing it for so long.
"There are certain things I see them do that I can think I could go out and do, but as of right now I'm going to let them play that and I'm going to enjoy basketball and enjoy watching their sport."
Photo by Mick Cronin