Tucson Round-Up, Kota Benson Emerges

by Ben Hansen | Posted on Friday, December 13th, 2019

So far this season, it has been more of the same in Southern Arizona high school basketball. The usual suspects are once again the teams with the best records in the first half of the season: Salpointe Catholic is 10-0, and Catalina Foothills was also 10-0, before losing it's first game of the season Thursday night in the loaded MaxPreps Holiday Classic in Palm Springs (CA). Still, the Falcons – who are very young – sit at 10-1 on the season, as the city of Tucson looks forward to their two cross-town rivalry games against 4A Kino enemy Salpointe in the coming months. Sabino is the best team on the east side of town with its 9-2 record, and traditional big school powerhouse Tucson High is 8-4 under new Head Coach Daryl Jones.

As I said, though, team success is almost predictable in Tucson, so it is individually where things get interesting with breakout seasons, impact newcomers and emerging stars. Fortunately, we may have found someone who checks all of those boxes about an hour southwest of Tucson down in Sells, AZ – the capital of the Tohono O’odham Nation. Sells is home to Baboquivari High School, where Kota Benson (pictured) is a new class of 2023 freshman.

Through 17 games so far this season, Benson is one of the leading scorers in Southern Arizona with his 20.3 points per game. Benson is still small, at 6-foot, 145 pounds, but is expected to grow and should develop similarly to his older brother and teammate, Brightstar Benson, who is a 6’4, 165-pound junior at Baboquivari.

Along with scoring 20 points per game, Kota is also averaging 5.4 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 3.5 steals to go with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.11-to-1. He is a volume shooter, who takes around 15 shots a game and makes nearly 50 percent (48.6%) of them, including 7.5 threes a game, of which he has made 36.7% (47 of 128) so far.

The fact that Benson has put up such impressive scoring numbers as a freshman is what is most impressive. After all, the other top scorers around Tucson are all seniors from the class of 2020. That group includes Harvard-signee Evan Nelson (17.8 ppg in 10 games); 6’3 guard Grant Weitman (17.0 ppg); Tucson High’s 5’11 guard Mark Hunter (16.2 ppg); 6’4 guard Jordan Gainey (13.6 ppg), and Sunnyside’s 5’11 guard Danny Mendez (12.9 ppg). Nelson, Weitman and Gainey are all teammates at Salpointe.

Catalina Foothills – known around town simply as “Foothills” – is the most intriguing team because of its talented young roster, which includes 6-foot-9 junior Will Menaugh, sophomore guards Dylan Hadley and Quincy Geary (the son of former University of Arizona point guard Reggie Geary) and the Pinckney twins, a pair of freshmen newcomers, and sons of former Stanford wide receiver Jonathan Pinckney.

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