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What’s in a name? Bennett facing Bennett in NCAA Tournament

Updated: Mar. 18, 2021 at 11:42 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - When the Virginia basketball team takes the court against Ohio in the NCAA Tournament on Saturday night, head coach Tony Bennett will see a familiar face, with a familiar name, on the opposing bench.

Redshirt junior Ben Vander Plas was third on the team in scoring, rebounds, and assists for the Bobcats this season.

And “Ben,” is short for “Bennett.”

Tony Bennett and Dean Vander Plas played together at Wisconsin-Green Bay, and they made the NCAA Tournament in 1991.

Ben Vander Plas, is Dean’s son.

“We were like, that’d be crazy if we got matched up, and yup, that’s exactly what happened,” says Ben Vander Plas. “My phone started blowing up, a lot of people know the connections.”

Tony Bennett says, “(That) makes me feel old. Very strange, when you look at it that way. Just means I’ve been coaching a while.

“When you coach that long, you’re gonna run into some of the kids,” he added, with a laugh.

Dean Vander Plas named his son “Bennett” in honor of his college coach, Dick Bennett, aka Tony’s father.

Dick Bennett on the sidelines with Wisconsin-Green Bay
Dick Bennett on the sidelines with Wisconsin-Green Bay(wvir)

Thirty years after two Bennett’s and a Vander Plas led Wisconsin-Green Bay to its first-ever NCAA Tournament as a 12-seed, Bennett Vander Plas will be looking to lead the 13-seed Bobcats past the Cavaliers.

“My family is Virginia fans,” says Vander Plas, “but hopefully they’ll be wearing green for this game.”

Bennett adds, “Watching Ben play, I’m like, man, I see some of the things his dad did. His dad was so physical, and had the skill, and the craftiness, and know-how. Dean will get mad at me, but from what I’ve seen, Ben might be better. I don’t know, but Dean was a heck of a player, and a heck of a teammate.”

UVA is schedule to face Ohio on Saturday at 7:15 in Bloomington.

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