EMMITSBURG, Md. (WDVM) – Mount St. Mary’s men’s basketball returns most of it’s NEC Championship team from last season, but after losing star guard, Damian Chong Qui, to the transfer portal, the Mountaineers needed a new point guard.
Enter Jalen Benjamin, a 5’10 junior transfer from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
“Yeah we needed a lead guard,” said Mount head coach Dan Engelstad. “We knew we had a championship ready team from last year, but we had a void to fill [and] Jalen fit everything we needed from a basketball player, and then the more digging we did, we knew we had a guy that was high character that was going to bring it everyday.”
Benjamin, a native of Raleigh, NC, appeared in 29 games for the Blazers last season as a sophomore, and averaged 9.2 points per game, but was looking for a bigger opportunity.
“Coming from really kind of a backup role to having a leadership role this year – it’s been a big difference,” said Benjamin. “I want to be seen as a leader. Not just by how I play. I want to be a vocal leader [and] that’s one thing I’ve been working on this year. “[I’m] talking to the guys more, making sure everybody else is OK, and just getting everybody’s input and helping the coaches out as another coach on the floor.”
Engelstad recalled coaching against Benjamin a few years back and the guard hitting a crucial shot against his team which sparked immediate interest when Benjamin’s name hit the portal.
“I had a familiarity with Jalen having coached against him and then just did as much research as we could,” said Engelstad. “I knew I needed somebody with the ball in his hands that could make plays, that could facilitate for the team, but also, when we need a basket, [can] go get that.”
Benjamin saw the opportunity at the Mount, but also felt it was a place where he could play meaningful basketball.
“They really wanted me here and I wanted to be somewhere where I was really wanted.”
“We recruited him and his family to our Mount basketball family because we knew it could be a really great fit.”
Engelstad’s coaching style was also something that enticed Benjamin to make the move to the small rural town of Emmitsburg.
“I love it man!,” Benjamin exclaimed. “The energy he brings. The smarts he has in the game…it’s what I love to see. It’s what I love to be around.”
Benjamin has also taken to his new teammates and has completely embraced what the Mount is trying to do as a program.
“I’m super excited. I feel like we’ve known each other out whole lives now,” said Benjamin. “I like to win just as much as they do. Last year they won conference, and I just…I want to go back and put Mount on the map again.”
Mount St. Mary’s tips off their 2021-2021 season Tuesday, November 9th at Villanova.