YSU senior plays final season close to home

YOUNGSTOWN — The last thing the Benton family wanted to do was disrupt Jaylen’s season.

He was just settling in at Southeast Missouri State as his third college year of basketball was almost complete.

Jaylen knew something was amiss when he read a Facebook post from a relative.

He called his home in Columbus, expecting bad news.

It was the c-word. Benton was told his grandmother’s cancer had returned after 10 years in remission.

“Doctors said she doesn’t have that much longer to live,” said Benton, who is a senior walk-on at Youngstown State University.

He wears No. 4, a tribute to his grandmother.

“That’s her favorite number,” Benton said.

Benton’s Southeast Missouri State team was placed on NCAA probation at the end of last season. Upcoming seniors like him were permitted to transfer without sitting out the normal one season as the NCAA regulates.

He reached out to former Fairmont State player Matt Bingaya, from Delaware. Benton went to nearby Westerville North. Benton said he and Bingaya played basketball together during high school. So, there was an opportunity for Benton.

YSU first-year coach Jerrod Calhoun recruited Benton when Calhoun was at Fairmont.

There was a quick call to Bingaya who went to Calhoun, and Benton was headed to Youngstown late in the summer, leaving the mess at Southeast Missouri behind.

“It all just worked out perfectly,” Benton said.

The 6-foot-3, 180-pound guard is adjusting to the new up-tempo system at YSU, just like the rest of the team.

Calhoun said Benton can be an integral part of the team with his aggressive nature on offense, attacking the basket and distributing the ball.

“I think he really he wants to do right and have a positive impact on this team,” Calhoun said.

Benton played a similar style in high school. He has to adjust at this point, plain and simple.

He’s been adjusting his whole college career, playing at Central Arizona, Monroe (N.Y.) College and Southeast Missouri — all sites far from Columbus. YSU is less than three hours away.

His family was at last month’s open basketball practice prior to the North Dakota State football game, one of many times the Bentons will travel to the Mahoning Valley.

“It’s a blessing to be back home to be where people can see me play,” Jaylen said.