For Alex Benson, this was just an added gift.
The Ensworth High senior was the school’s recipient of the annual Nashville City Civitan Club’s annual Hancock-Nipper sportsmanship awards luncheon Wednesday afternoon at Swett’s Restaurant.
The club said it awards its sportsmanship award to a basketball player off a Nashville high school region or state championship team, as well as to local college players. In the past, players from Nashville district championship teams were honored.
“Winning state was clearly first,” Benson, who will attend Ole Miss, said. “Team goals always top the list. For me, I just did what I had to do. As a team, we stuck together and worked together.”
Ensworth’s Ricky Bowers (boys) and Franklin Road Academy’s Chris Hart (girls) were named Civitan high school coaches of the year after guiding their teams to respective DII state championships last month.
“We had a special group of players who were a lot like Alex, all good in the sportsmanship area, a great group of kids,” Bowers, whose team won the DII-AA title for second time in three years, said. “It seemed Alex hit a big 3 every time we needed one or made a big play every time we needed it. For him to win this award off the team we had says a lot for him.
“This is all a culmination of a lot of hard work by this team as well and a lot of work by people who came before them.”
It was much the same for Franklin Road Academy’s Erin Ford who was the Panthers’ recipient and for Hart who guided his team to the school’s first basketball crown when they captured the DII-A girls title.
“If my daughters grow up to be like Erin, I’ll be a lucky man,” Hart said. “The kids in school just adore her, they flock to her after games.”
As for his coaching honor, Hart said, “I was on auto pilot, just a sidelines observer the last part of the season. The girls already knew what to do. They just went out and did it.
“I’m so happy for Erin, she’s been with me ever since the seventh grade, been at every practice and works so hard and is so encouraging of her teammates.”
Other high school Civitan awards winners:
• Overton: Brandon McPhail, who coach James McKee said “did everything we asked of him, he was the first in the gym, the last to leave,” for the Bobcats district and region championship team.
• East Literature: Nick Drake, who coach Jim Fey said “just jumped off the page as who was deserving off our team, in terms of character, loyalty, honor a great teammate” for the AA state runners-up.
• Hunters Lane: Kaysia Taylor, one of the leaders for the Warriors’ district and region championship teams.
• Belmont: John House (men), Tereva Moore (women).
• Lipscomb: Michael Teller (men), Jenna Bartsokas (women).
• Tennessee State: Wil Peters (men), Meredith Stafford (women).
• Vanderbilt: Darshawn McClellan (men), Rebecca Silinski (women).