OBERLIN — Destiny can be an overused word in sports, but Elyria’s Kody Bender indeed seemed destined to be 2013 Lorain County Mr. Basketball once he decided to open-enroll four years ago and play for Pioneers coach Brett Larrick.
Bender, a four-year letterwinner, was presented the award Sunday at the annual Gene Legeza Classic at Oberlin College. He’s the eighth Elyria senior to accept the award, joining Larrick among the best to ever wear the red and white.
Bender’s accolades include being the No. 3 scorer in Pioneers history with 1,265 points. Only Louis Tumblin (1,419) and Larrick (1,351) scored more.
“It wasn’t the top thing in my mind, but people have talked about it,” Bender said of the award, which is sponsored by Elyria Coca Cola. “It’s definitely something I wanted to get.”
Bender, who has a 3.8 grade-point average, will play at West Liberty College next year.
“I’m very proud of Kody,” Larrick said. “It’s such a great honor in the county. I was overwhelmed when I won it. It is something special. It shows all your hard work.
“This year’s Mr. Basketball couldn’t have gone to not only a great player but a better person.”
There certainly was parental support. Bender’s parents — Ken and Tracy — played basketball at Wellington. Tracy was a three-sport star, adding volleyball and softball.
“He’s worked hard for this,” Tracy said. “It doesn’t come easy. He’s been playing basketball since first grade.
He’s dribbled in the house so much he drove me crazy. I’ve got a hole in the wall.
“I’m very proud. He’s always thinking of others. He’s great with his brother and sister. He’s a great kid.”
Ken also soaked in the moment.
“You never have to get on him about nothing,” he said. “When he’s told something, he listens the first time around. He works hard. If he’s told he needs to work on something, he works on that part of his game.”
Through his four years on the varsity, Bender was given more and more responsibility by Larrick. As a pure-shooting freshman, Bender quickly established himself by scoring 114 points, including a high of 17 in a loss at Strongsville. In 22 free throw attempts, he made 18 — and the 81.8 percent was only the beginning.
Bender led Elyria in scoring as a sophomore — the first time in memory for a 10th-grader — with 334 points, an average of 15.9. He was second in assists with 42 and tied for second in steals with 27. Again, he was prolific at the foul line, hitting more than 80 percent of his 93 attempts. He scored 30 points at Midview and 32 at Garfield Heights.
As a junior, Bender led Elyria to the Division I district title at Midview. He averaged 15.4 and finished with 369 points. He was first in assists (81) and second in steals (37). He made 85 percent of his free throws (90-of-106).
Bender again led the team in scoring as a senior with 450 points (18.8 average), which ranked as the ninth-best season in Elyria High history. He led the team with 126 assists and 74 steals and made 87.4 percent from the foul line (132-of-151).
He was second in rebounding and blocked shots, and equaled his best game with 32 points against Medina. He capped his career by finishing second in the 3-point shooting contest and scored 21 points for Red at the Legeza Classic.
“If you think of him back as a freshman, he was just a stand-still, 3-point shooter,” Larrick said. “Every year he added something a little bit more. This year, everything fell on him. He finally became vocal and became a leader for us. He always wanted to lead by example, but this year a few times in practice he actually got on people. That’s what you do as a leader.”
“Coach has developed me into an all-around player from the defensive end to the offensive end,” Bender said. “It’s been great to have him as a part of my life.
“I’m very glad I picked Elyria. It’s a great school and a great basketball program. We did a lot of successful things in those four years.”
Although he played with reckless abandon, he was durable and didn’t miss time due to injury or illness.
“You can’t measure what’s inside of people,” Larrick said. “You can’t measure how hard people want to work and how competitive they are.”
Larrick and Bender have a special relationship. Larrick, finishing his fifth year as head coach, said he’ll miss Bender.
“I’m very happy for him,” Larrick said. “I’m very happy for his family. It’s very special when it happens to one of your guys. You see how hard they work for four years. Kody being my first player to win this award, it’s a very special moment for me as well.”
Lorain County Mr. Basketball
- 2013 - Kody Bender, Elyria
- 2012 - Claude Gray, Avon
- 2011 - Ronnie Willoughby, Avon Lake
- 2010 - Nick Farley, Vermilion
- 2009 - Drew McGee, North Ridgeville
- 2008 - Promis Cabbil, Elyria
- 2007 - Troy Simmons, Clearview
- 2006 - Louis Tumblin, Elyria
- 2005 - Dan Biber, Admiral King
- 2004 - Jordan Beard, Oberlin
- 2003 - Robert Nelson, Elyria
- 2002 - Tom Port, Avon Lake
- 2001 - Brian Ingleright, Avon Lake
- 2000 - Scott Remaklus, Southview
- 1999 - Brian Keller, Vermilion
- 1998 - Steve Vega, Avon
- 1997 - Eric Gilbert, Clearview
- 1996 - Carl White, Admiral King
- 1995 - Anthony Stacey, Midview
- 1994 - Byron Gladden, Admiral King
- 1993 - Brett Larrick, Elyria
- 1992 - Frank Bolognia, Avon Lake and Todd Simon, Columbia
- 1991 - Craig Bradley, Avon Lake and Mike Darmos, Southview
- 1990 - Eric Barnes, Elyria Catholic
- 1989 - Jamie Gladden, Admiral King and Mike Hartman, Lorain
- 1988 - Harold Walton, Admiral King
- 1987 - Greg Eichenberg, Columbia
- 1986 - Chip Winiarski, South Amherst
- 1985 - Jeff Mott, Avon
- 1984 - Joe Rittenhouse, Wellington
- 1983 - Roger Smith, Admiral King
- 1982 - Doug Carrico, Firelands
- 1981 - Tom Underman, Elyria and Bobby Warden, Elyria Catholic
- 1980 - Bill Szabo, Firelands
- 1979 - Mike Razdrh, South Amherst
- 1978 - Jay and Clay Dill, Keystone
- 1977 - Richard Montague, Elyria
- 1976 - Bill Dodd, Firelands
- 1975 - Fred Balser, Elyria
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.