Tag: Lawrence basketball

2 Minutes With … Kenya Earl: Records on the basketball court, research in the lab

Kenya Earl ’21 poses for a photo in a science lab in Steitz Hall. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

2 Minutes With … is a series of short features to introduce us to the passions and interests of Lawrence students on and off campus. Find more 2 Minutes With … features here.

Story by Isabella Mariani ’21

In pairing an impressive basketball career with research and study as part of her biochemistry major, Kenya Earl ’21 is forging a path at Lawrence that is anything but ordinary.

The junior from Iowa City, Iowa, is setting scoring records for the Vikings on the basketball court—she surpassed the 1,000-point mark earlier this season, the fifth player in Lawrence history to do so—while also carving a path on the academic side as she eyes a career in the pharmaceutical field.

She hopes to go on to pharmacy school after getting her degree at Lawrence.

Trailblazer on the court

In her freshman year, Earl set the single-season scoring record for women’s basketball at Lawrence with 433 points. Now, she’s on track to become the highest scoring player in Lawrence history, a milestone she could reach during her final season.

“It feels pretty good,” Earl said. “In freshman year, I didn’t know about any of these records.”

Earl has had her eye on the ball for as long as she can remember; she first started playing basketball at age 6—perhaps not surprising, considering her father, Acie Earl, starred at the University of Iowa before moving on to play four years in the NBA and then overseas. When he wasn’t playing, he was coaching his daughter in the sport they both loved.

For more on Lawrence athletics, see here.

For more on the biochemistry major at Lawrence, see here.

For more on Lawrence’s success in STEM fields, see here.

The big picture

Earl also puts a lot of focus on what she and other student athletes do off the court. She’s a member of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), which seeks to improve the student-athlete experience at Lawrence by strengthening ties with university administration and the community. Volunteering is a big part of that. Over D-Term, for example, Earl and her teammates held a fitness boot camp at Alexander Gym for families of cancer patients to promote fitness and wellness.

“It was pretty fun to see that and be a part of that,” Earl said.

Public wellness is familiar territory for Earl. Until she heads off to a pharmacy school, she continues to put in work on her major. Last summer, she did research with Associate Professor of Chemistry Stefan Debbert, where she worked on finding new pathways for medications for a parasitic disease that has similarities to malaria. The medication on the market has not been effective, so the search is on for alternatives. Her compounds were sent to a researcher in Switzerland for further testing.

That’s all part of the student journey for Earl. With her third basketball season now over, and winter term of her junior year winding down, she is looking forward to her next steps as a Lawrentian. That includes finishing a basketball career that will place her among the most accomplished student athletes in Lawrence history.

“It’s meant a lot,” she said of her time at Lawrence. “It’s been great to accomplish the things I have. I’m inspired by great coaches and teammates who help me along the way.”

Isabella Mariani ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.

2 Minutes With … Shonell Benjamin: Heart, hustle, and a passion to inspire

Shonell Benjamin, a member of the Lawrence women's basketball team, holds a basketball as she poses for a photo in the Wellness Center gym.
Shonell Benjamin, a biology major and women’s basketball player at Lawrence, is working toward becoming a physical therapist. She also plans to launch an athleisure brand. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

2 Minutes With … is a series of short features to introduce us to the passions and interests of Lawrence students on and off campus. Find more 2 Minutes With … features here.

Story by Isabella Mariani ’21

Shonell Benjamin ’20 believes she’s found the perfect way to express her passion for basketball and empower members of the athletic community — she plans to launch her own brand of athleisure wear with a message built around “heart and hustle.”

This move is inspired by a lifelong love for the sport, she said. As a child, this biology major could be found playing streetball in her home streets of Brooklyn, New York. She first experienced the nuances of playing on a basketball team at her high school in 10th grade.

“Basketball gave me something to focus on and keep me motivated in school,” Benjamin said. “It taught me a lot of lessons — how to win, how to lose, and how to deal with adversity.”

She continues those pursuits now as a member of the Lawrence women’s basketball team.

Heart and Hustle

Her planned athleisure brand says it all — Heart and Hustle. It embodies the passion and hard work Benjamin puts into basketball and her academic pursuits. She hopes the name will encourage wearers of the clothing to put that same amount of heart into whatever they do. But the planned collection of comfortable hoodies and sweatpants isn’t just for athletes.

“It’s not only about basketball,” Benjamin said. “It’s about putting your heart and grind into whatever you’re passionate about.”

Benjamin believes building a brand is one way to give back to the community. That’s another motivating force behind her plans for the clothing line.

Working at basketball camps for three summers in Brooklyn introduced her to the joys of empowering younger players and strengthening their dedication to the sport. Inspired by that experience, the clothing is another kind of outreach that will allow others to wear the “heart and hustle” in their everyday lives, and perhaps share it with others.

Benjamin has designs ready and plans to get them produced as soon as she can. Basketball practice and applying to physical therapy schools have her attention right now, but she’s looking at summer for a possible release date.

Off the court

During the summer of 2019, Benjamin was on campus doing her senior capstone research with Assistant Professor of Biology Israel Del Toro, studying the thermal tolerance of different species of bees. Professionally, Benjamin would like to eventually start her own physical therapy practice.

But basketball, she said, will always be a part of her life.

“It’s molded me to become the person I am right now and the person I want to be in the future,” Benjamin said. “You can learn a lot through a game, and learn how to inspire people through it, as well. That’s going to translate into my brand. Wherever it ends up going, it’s going to be bigger than me.”

Isabella Mariani ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.