Time will tell whether a comma is required when the time comes to put Michael Benkert’s career point total in Center Grove’s basketball record book.
Two games into his fourth and final season as a varsity mainstay, the 6-foot-4 swingman is 134 short of becoming the latest Trojans boys player to join the program’s 1,000-point club.
Yet it’s all news to Benkert, who — entering tonight’s home game against New Palestine — admits to being clueless as to where he ranks among Center Grove’s all-time prolific scorers.
“If it comes, it comes. It’s not really a big deal for me. I could care less about points, really. I care more about the wins,” said Benkert, who is averaging team-highs in points (19.0), rebounds (4.5) and assists (3.5) in Center Grove’s first 2-0 start since the 2011-12 season. “It’s been fun, even though some of the accomplishments I’ve wanted didn’t come these past couple of years.
“Mostly team things, like having a winning record and also Johnson County (Tournament) and sectional championships. Hopefully this year with a new coach and a new mentality, I think new and good goals are going to be ahead of us.”
Center Grove’s 32-36 record (.471) since Benkert’s arrival is no more a source of pride to the senior than the fact the lone winning season he took part in as a freshman ended with losses in the final five games.
Enter first-year Trojans’ coach Zach Hahn, who appreciates that someone with Benkert’s basketball savvy and leadership qualities remained.
“Michael is a very talented player with great athletic ability. He has as pure of a shot as I’ve seen at the high school level,” Hahn said. “This offseason, he worked really hard on improving his ball-handling, finishing at the rim and developing a defensive mindset.
“His best attributes are his unselfish style of play and his relentless work ethic. Mike is a great role model for the youth in the Center Grove community because he carries himself in such a positive way and exemplifies a dedicated student-athlete.”
As the eldest of Mike and Anita Benkert’s seven adopted children — four of whom are Ethiopian, and another is Russian — the Trojans’ go-to player learned at a tender age how to lead.
“Thankfully, it came naturally,” he said. “The hardest part would probably be taking care of them and taking care of yourself. With all the stuff that I have to do, there is still responsibility on me to help take care of the other brothers and sisters when they need help.
“Ever since I was younger and they were younger, I’ve always had that leader-type of mentality, just having to set a good example for all of them. I think that carries onto the basketball court, as well.”
Mike Benkert insists the couple’s oldest child never has been one to seek attention.
Case in point: Benkert recently signed a national letter of intent to attend Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. The event occurred inside the comfort of the Benkert home — the kitchen, more specifically.
“The big thing is just having good character, and hopefully your siblings see that in you,” Mike Benkert said. “Just his ability to balance doing well in school while working hard in his sport for so many years.
“He doesn’t really care about a lot of fanfare. Michael does his thing, and he’s been successful at it.”
Benkert averaged 12.2 points and 4.3 boards as a sophomore and came through with even better numbers (17.9, 5.2) last season.
Indiana State University offered Benkert a scholarship, as did Lehigh University, a private university of roughly 4,900 students in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, an hour’s drive north of Philadelphia.
In the end, though, Benkert opted for Belmont, an NCAA Division I program of some 7,300 undergraduates. The Bruins are a member of the Ohio Valley Conference, which includes Morehead State, Murray State, Tennessee Tech, Eastern Illinois and Austin Peay State.
“There are a lot of reasons like location and playing time and all that, but what really stood out to me was that, at all the tournaments I would go to, even if it was an early game or an easy opponent, there was always a Belmont coach there,” Benkert said. “That showed they really had interest in me.
“When I went there on my official visit, you could tell how the coaches really care for the players. I thought that would be a perfect environment for me.”
THE BENKERT FILE
Name: Michael Benkert
Family: Parents, Mike and Anita; sisters, Michaela, 17, Alena, 16, Anitabeth, 13, and Mary, 7; brothers, Thomas, 17, and Andrew, 15
Favorite TV show: “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”
Favorite food: Spaghetti
Favorite movie: “Step Brothers”
Favorite athlete: John Wall
Favorite team: Indiana Pacers