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Ferris’ Cody Benzel blocks a shot by Central Valley’s Justin Fayant during Tuesday’s loss to the Bears. (Colin Mulvany)

Benzel: Act III

Ferris senior guard amply fills big family footsteps

When Ron and Molly Benzel began having children, they were blessed with a daughter and a son.

They thought two children would suffice. Then 12 years after their second child was born, along came a third.

“I like to tell myself that I was a blessing,” the Benzels’ third child, Ferris senior Cody Benzel, said in explaining the age gap.

When Cody turned 18 last fall, his parents told him the truth.

“I was an accident,” Cody said, smiling. “I wasn’t planned.”

To watch the youngest Benzel on the basketball court is to know he’s a Benzel through and through and born to play the family sport. He’s blessed with athletic gifts similar to the ones Jenny and Erik Benzel had as standout players at Ferris. Like his siblings, Cody can shoot.

He’s having a senior season unrivaled by Jenny, a four-year starter and 2000 graduate, and Erik, a two-year starter, three-year letterman and 2001 grad.

Through seven league games, Benzel is averaging a Greater Spokane League-leading 22.9 points per game. He outscores the closest scorer by four points per game.

A three-year letterman, Benzel averaged 17.6 points last year in his first season as a starter. He said the obvious reason he’s scoring at a higher clip this winter is he’s much more efficient.

He’s shooting 48 percent from 3-point range and 58 percent inside the arc.

“I’m scoring on less shots this year than last year,” Benzel said.

“I’ve gotten more consistent. Now when I shoot I expect to make it.”

Count Ferris coach Don Van Lierop a little surprised by Benzel’s production – though he certainly knew he was capable.

“It’s actually just kind of happened,” Van Lierop said. “It’s nothing that we’ve manufactured. We try not to manufacture much for him.”

Van Lierop said he rarely talks to Benzel about his offensive play.

“I compliment him more in practice about his defense,” Van Lierop said. “That’s what I’m most happy about. He’s been more of a complete player this year. He was good last year, but he’s improved in every area this year.”

Benzel’s career high, 37 points, came in a district playoff last year. His season high this season is 36. He’s scored in the 30s one other time – 34 in a nonleague win against Coeur d’Alene.

He ranks third all-time at Ferris in single-game scoring. That’s one point better than his brother’s all-time best and seven behind the school record set by Sean Mallon in 2001.

Benzel has his eye set on that record along with the GSL mark (47).

“I’ll have to make most of my shots and get to the free-throw line to get the records,” Benzel said.

Benzel credits his brother, 30, who is a project manager for a construction business in Seattle, and his father for helping him become the player he’s become.

“All my moves I’ve learned from my brother,” said the 6-foot-3 guard, who is 2 inches taller than his brother. “The thing we probably have most in common is our shot.

“I grew up watching him and wanted to continue the Benzel tradition.”

While he doesn’t necessarily have memories of it, Benzel said his brother was all about basketball, getting up early on summer mornings and going for long runs before working out and shooting hundreds of shots.

Erik Benzel accepted a scholarship to the University of Denver, where he was a four-year starter. He set the Sun Belt Conference record for most 3-pointers in a career (323). The record still stands.

Van Lierop was an assistant coach at Ferris when Erik played. He remembers his dedication to the game.

“Cody has put a lot of time in as well,” Van Lierop said.

And he’s put a lot of time in the weight room. As one of Van Lierop’s first substitutes two years ago, Benzel has gone from a gangly beanpole to having distinct muscle definition.

“I’m just starting to tap my potential,” he said. “I’m getting stronger and growing into my body.”

College coaches haven’t been beating down Benzel’s door. But he’s not too worried about the lack of attention.

“If I keep having the season I’m having I’ll get offers,” he said.

He hopes to lead Ferris to state. Erik went to state three times, including two state runner-up finishes.

The Saxons haven’t been to Tacoma since winning back-to-back championships in 2007-08.

“That’s something we hope to change this year,” Benzel said. “We’re an experienced group. We have eight seniors and we’ve been playing together for a while. Going to state has been our goal since Day 1 this season. We have all the pieces to be real good. We just have to put it all together and keep improving in practice. We’re getting there, but we still have lots of room to improve.”

The Saxons showed their potential in a showdown between league unbeatens at Central Valley on Tuesday. The two-time defending league champ Bears downed Ferris 57-49.

“The thing I like about him is his whole game isn’t predicated on just being athletic,” CV coach Rick Sloan said. “He’s obviously worked on his game and developed his game to where it is today. You have to know where he is at all times on the court.”