Jonesboro’s Benson, Dawkins sign with D-1 schools

JONESBORO — Kimberly Dawkins and Briana Benson worked together last season to help take the Jonesboro Lady Cardinals to the Final Four.

They will work together to help Lamar Harris get acclimated to pacing the sidelines as the first-year head coach of a senior-laden team many expect to return to the Final Four — and beyond.

So it was only fitting for them to sit down together and sign letters of intent to play basketball at Division I schools next season.

Dawkins, a 6-feet-1 center who transferred to Jonesboro from Lovejoy after her sophomore year, signed Wednesday with Jacksonville in Jacksonville, Fla., while Benson, a 5-feet-10 guard, signed with Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville, Ala.

Benson averaged 15.7 points and seven rebounds a game last season on her way to earning first-team all-Southern Crescent honors. She chose the Lady Gamecocks over the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, North Carolina A&T and Marshall who came on strong toward the end of the recruiting period.

“When I went [to Jacksonville State] it just seemed like a good fit,” Benson said. “I just felt right.”

Benson fought back tears as she thanked her classmates, teammates, family and coaches who were assembled in the Jonesboro gym.

One of the coaches she mentioned was Michael House — Benson’s coach for her first three years at Jonesboro. House, who is now leading the Alpharetta girls program, was in attendance at the signing and spoke glowingly of his former players.

“It’s very overwhelming to be here to see this,” House said. “It’s your ultimate personal goal as coaches to try and get every athlete onto the next level. These two girls are not only great players but outstanding students. The girls will be very well equipped to excel at the next level.”

Benson will major in sports medicine at Jacksonville State and wants to be either a physical therapist or personal trainer when her basketball career is done.

Dawkins said she chose Jacksonville because of the impression that her future coaches and teammates made on her. And for her, getting the college decision behind her was like a weight lifted off her shoulders.

“All this work, it’s been hard, so I know everything has happened for this reason,” Dawkins said. “It feels excellent. I thank God, my parents and all my coaches and I hope they’ll continue to support me when I go to Jacksonville University.”