Bennington wants Winamac boys to be known for being ‘not fun’ to play against
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
Cam Bennington comes from a sports family, but he also comes from a livestock family.
In both endeavors, success courses through his family.
His grandfather was his inspiration, his father is his mentor, and he watched his younger twin brothers become legends at his high school alma mater.
So Bennington does not just want to be a basketball coach. He wants to be a successful coach.
He thinks he can achieve that success at Winamac, and he was named the school’s new boys basketball coach at a May 9 school board meeting.
Bennington replaces Alan Huggler, who had coached the team since 2017. Huggler stepped down after Winamac went 9-14 in 2021-22.
Bennington will also teach world history, physical education and weights classes.
“I want to do it at a place where I think I can have success, and I think Winamac is that place,” Bennington said. “I think if you get the right guy at Winamac, and anybody can have success there because of the culture and the type of kids you get at Winamac. You get kids that play hard, that work hard and that want to win and that want to be successful and are willing to do whatever it takes. I think that matches my level of energy and enthusiasm.”
Bennington, 27, said he always knew in the back of his mind that he wanted to get into coaching. He cites two key turning points in his life.
First, he said his grandfather Ted Bennington encouraged him. Ted Bennington was a 1961 Lebanon High School grad who was the leading scorer on a team that made it to the semistate his senior year.
Ted Bennington died on April 22, 2011, at age 68. Cam was a sophomore at Twin Lakes at the time. Ted Bennington was described as a “basketball junkie” in his obituary. Cam said his grandfather was both his biggest fan and biggest critic. It was a shared passion.
“That made me realize that basketball was something I wanted to have in my life forever,” Bennington said. “Because it was kind of a way for me to still hang on to him.”
The second event occurred when he was a sophomore on the team at Hanover College. There, he tore “every ligament” in his ankle, which ended his playing career.
“Basketball was taken from me, and when basketball was taken from me, that was when I realized it was gone forever, and I didn’t want it to be gone forever,” Bennington said. “I think everything just came full circle that I wanted to coach.”
Before then, Bennington kept a balance in his life. He said when he was growing up that he and his brothers Bryce and Blake and his sister Kayla were tending to livestock when they were not playing basketball. Bennington said he showed pigs.
“We were very much so a sports family but at the same time a livestock family,” Bennington explained. “I spent a lot of time during my summers, we were either at AAU tournaments or we were at a pig show. The livestock world still is a big part of our family, but I think the key thing about it was there were a lot of similarities. And the lessons that can be learned in basketball can also be learned in 4-H. … The competitiveness of it all stays super high.”
Bennington’s father Kent officiated high school and college games and was also a youth basketball coach to his son growing up. He said he tagged along with his father to high school games every Friday night during basketball season while he was growing up, and that’s where he learned to love the game. They would go to college games on Saturdays.
He was exposed to different styles of play, whether it was teams that played a run-and-gun style or teams that liked to play slow and keep the final score somewhere in the 30s.
Cam said he calls his father most every day, telling him what happened at practice and getting feedback. He said his father keeps him “level-headed.”
His eighth grade basketball coach was Bryan Leverenz, now the athletic director at Winamac. That team went 21-0, and there was a banner raised in the Twin Lakes Middle School gym to honor that team.
A 2013 Twin Lakes High School grad, Bennington played both football and basketball in high school and his first year at Hanover College. He played only basketball his second year at Hanover.
Then came the career-ending ankle injury. At that point, then-IUPUI coach Jason Gardner offered him a job as a manager and a student assistant. Bennington accepted and got his bachelor’s degree from IUPUI in 2018.
While he was getting a taste of coaching from Gardner at IUPUI, he was also immersed in watching the 2017 Twin Lakes team that lost to Indianapolis Attucks 73-71 in the Class 3A state title game on a last-second tip-in at a building then known as Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
The 2017 team was when Bryce and Blake became legends.
Against Attucks, Bryce Bennington scored a career-high 32 points. Watching from the sidelines, Cam was inspired. Coached by Kent Adams and led by his brothers and players like Kris Goodlow and Justin Crabb, Cam noticed that team’s tournament run was marked by a group of guys that did not care who got the credit.
“They had five guys on the court who wanted nothing other than to win,” Bennington said.
His first “real gig” as an assistant coach was on Albert Hendrix’s staff at Lebanon in 2018. He was there for two years and came to Winamac after a three-year run as an assistant on Tyler Scherer’s staff at McCutcheon.
He raved about Hendrix’s ability to coach defense and motivate players to play defense. He also said that Scherer is “severely underrated” and gave him job responsibilities that often went to the head coach.
Now he takes over a Winamac team that graduated five of its top six scorers from last year – Russell Compton, Beau Brandt, Jaden Terry, Ryan Gregor and Alex Stark.
He said he is emphasizing work in the weight room, saying that an important goal is to get bigger, stronger players. They also went to a team camp at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion this summer.
A word he used during summer workouts often was “compete.”
“That can mean a lot of different things,” Bennington said. “Number one, I want us to be competitive in every single game that we’re in, and I mean that from the fact that no matter the talent level, we’re going to compete like we’re supposed to win. I don’t care what anybody says. I don’t care how good the other team is. We’re going to compete, and we’re going to go into every single game expecting to win.
“But the other side of ‘compete’ is it just shows how hard we play. We play so hard. We get after you on defense, and on offense, we don’t stand around and hold the ball and wait for the … clock to go down. We want to take the football adage of ‘be the hammer, not the nail,’ and I want to apply that to basketball. … I don’t want anyone to think we’re playing not to lose or we’re just to keep games close. We’re playing to win.”
He said there is a greater motto to be considered.
“I want people to get done playing us and say, ‘Wow, that was not fun,’” Bennington said.
Aaron Hines, Parker Fox and Matt Swartzell will be on Bennington’s coaching staff. Hines is the father of sophomore point guard Brendan Hines. Fox, a 2015 Winamac grad, will coach the JV. Swartzell is a 2021 Winamac grad.