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Morning Journal Player of the Year: Elyria's Kody Bender became more than just a scorer
MORNING JOURNAL/SAM GREENE Elyria guard Kody Bender, the 2013 Morning Journal Boys Basketball Player of the Year, shoots a layup in a game against Normandy last season. Bender became Elyria’s third all-time leading scorer in 2013 and led his team in points, assists, rebounds and blocks.
He can pretty much do anything asked of him, whether it be scoring, passing, stealing the ball or even blocking shots.
The 6-foot-1 point guard led his team in points (18.4), assists (5.1), rebounds (4.7) and steals (3.1) per game and blocked nine shots in his senior season, earning him both the 2012-13 Lorain County Division I Player of the Year and 2012-13 Morning Journal Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
“It’s been a great four years,” said Bender, who will play at Division II West Liberty (W.V.) University next winter. “I’m glad I chose to go to Elyria. It went by really fast, can’t believe it’s over already. But we’ve had four great teams.”
Bender helped lead the Pioneers last season to their first district championship since 2008 and this year, Elyria went 17-5 in the regular season — the school’s best since 2006-07 — and reached the district semifinals.
Bender played all four years on varsity for Elyria, but grew throughout his high school career into a very complete player, especially on the defensive end.
“The best thing you can say is each year, he’s added something new,” Elyria coach Brett Larrick said. “When he started with us, primarily he was out there just to shoot threes. This year, it wasn’t the year where he made his most threes, but playing point guard, he led us in rebounds, steals and assists. And that really said something about what kind of competitor he is but also how hard he works.”
Among the biggest attributes that Bender has improved the most throughout his career was his leadership after becoming the team’s point guard.
“Giving him point guard responsibilities sort of forced it on him a little bit,” Larrick added. “He’s not the most vocal person. He does it more by example. But this is the most vocal that we had ever seen him.”
One of Bender’s greatest memories in his high school career was playing in the regional semifinal last season at the University of Akron in which his Pioneers fell in overtime to Medina 46-41. Bender led his team in the game with 13 points, but will never forget how it felt to play at that stage.
“We did something special,” he said. “Only a couple of teams have made it to regionals in the last couple of years. That’s definitely a memory I will never forget. It was a great group of guys.”
Bender will enroll at West Liberty in the fall, and Larrick feels he is a great fit for his new team because of how they play. The Hilltoppers ended the regular season with a 30-1 record with the highest-scoring offense in the country, averaging over 103 points per game, and are in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Division II Tournament.
“They play a style that I think is going to fit him,” Larrick said. “A lot of people handle the ball and shoot. They’re very up-tempo and I think that’s going to suit him very well. They know he’s a good competitor and that’s what drew them to him. But they’re going to figure out that he can do a little of everything. Even for his size, he’ll get in there and rebound and scrap. He’s probably a little better off the dribble than they expect as well.”
Bender admits it’s special to be among the greatest scorers in Elyria basketball history, but also said that he couldn’t have done it alone and owed a lot of his success to his teammates.
“I’m still young and it doesn’t mean as much as it probably will down the road from now,” he said. “But it’s definitely a great accomplishment for me. I couldn’t have done it without the teams from the past.”
Last Updated: 3/23/2013 9:43:17 PM EST