Future Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett is known for his tenacious defense, his passionate love for the game and his leadership on the parquet floor. In 2005, during an emotional interview with John Thompson, Garnett broke down while he explained one of the motivations driving him to go out every night and compete. He said, "I just don't like to lose, man. Now, if we were sitting here playing dominoes, playing cards, running back and forth and you kept beating me, whatever we were doing—I hate to lose."
Like Garnett, UMass Boston’s 6 foot 8 center Rahshjeem Benson, a 30-year-old Dorchester native, approaches the game with a similar mindset. He said, "My love for the game [motivates me]. I’ve been playing since I was a little kid and I always played with a deep passion, and on top of that I hate losing.”
The Dorchester High School graduate began dribbling a basketball at the age of seven. After graduating, Benson traveled to play at Howard Jr. College in Texas. Last season, he suited up for Mass Bay, and with two years of eligibility left, he finds himself towering over younger players on the UMass Boston campus.
Although UMass Boston wasn’t the veteran player’s first choice, the idea of being close to home attracted him to join the Beacons. Benson said, “I just came because I think, being from Boston and from what I've heard from all the people that I know from Boston that have graduated from UMass Boston, UMB holds precedence in this city.”
While Benson is the oldest player on the team, he doesn’t feel that his age will be much of a factor when he interacts with his teammates. He believes that he brings experience and familiarity to the game. To him, things have changed—it’s a new era. He looks to his teammates as younger brothers, but he doesn’t let the age difference keep him from learning about the new generation.
“Well, I’m young at heart so I don’t let [the age difference] bother me,” he said. “I just look at them [the same way] I look at my little brothers …I help them through with my experience and having already went through this, they help me understand that it is a new era.”
Although basketball was one of the motivators that led him to continue his education, Benson’s goals go beyond the basketball court. He wants to finish his two years of college and graduate. As a junior, he is majoring in human services, and hopes to continue working locally after graduation with at-risk youth. He explained, “I want to graduate and it just so happens that I can play ball [while working on my degree].”
Like KG (his favorite modern day player), Benson does not allow his age to define who he is as a player. He strives to go out every night and orchestrate his team’s defensive game plan. ”I want to bring defensive energy,” he said; “I’m more of a defensive player.”
Benson describes the Beacons as “driven,” and hopes that they may continue to build on their team chemistry in the coming weeks before the season opener. The team collectively hopes to be the first Beacon team to produce a 20-win season and go deep into the tournament.
The Beacons’ road to the NCAA Tournament will begin on Nov. 17 when they take on Framingham State.