LUBBOCK — When Ben Janssan moved from Adelaide, Australia to Centralia as an exchange student in 2017 to finish his senior year of high school, it was quite the shock.
Jannsan had lived his entire life in the bustling state capital of South Australia, a city of 1.3 million with a Mediterranean climate that’s generally warm and sunny most of the year. That first winter in Centralia was a bit different, to say the least, though he wasn’t there for the weather.
Janssan had traveled through Lewis County while playing with his high school’s touring basketball team from 2014-16. It was there he met an exchange student host family in Centralia, who offered to host him his senior year.
He had dreams of playing college basketball in the U.S., wasn’t getting recruited back home and saw this as an opportunity to earn a scholarship. So Janssan packed up his belongings, moved in with the host family and joined the Tigers basketball team. By midseason the 6-foot-3 forward was averaging 13 points per game.
After graduating from Centralia, South Puget Sound Community College (SPSCC) offered him a roster spot but he wasn’t sure if he could afford it. He wasn’t eligible to get a full-ride and would have to pay a bit of out-of-pocket expenses to attend school and join the basketball team.
“Being an international student, it’s tough to play in the Northwest Athletic Conference,” Janssan said. “They don’t do full legit scholarships.”
So he went back home and played briefly for a semi-pro club team in Australia before ultimately signing with SPSCC. It wasn’t the start he expected, however, as he went on to average just 3.3 points and 13 minutes per game in reserve duty off the bench. Though it was discouraging, Janssan stayed true to himself and the game of basketball.
“I’ve had a passion for it my whole life and I didn’t want to just give up,” Janssan said.
When he went home during the summer between his freshman and sophomore seasons, he used his lack of playing time as motivation and spent nearly every day in the gym working on his shots and athleticism. He wanted to be ready if and when his time came. It paid off.
He took over as a starting guard/forward his sophomore year, and started the season with a couple of big games that helped boost his confidence. It was all the encouragement he needed.
“That confidence lit a fire within myself,” Janssan said. “That’s all I really needed to start having these good games.”
Jannsan went on to average 17.3 points, 7.6 rebounds and two assists on 43.9 percent shooting. He averaged 35 minutes a game and shot 37.2 percent from long range. He scored a career-high 31 points during the Clippers’ 87-83 win over Olympic on Nov. 19, and scored 20 or more points in nine total games.
“I just continued to work hard in the offseason and try to get the most out of my sophomore year,” Janssan said. “With some things falling into place, I was lucky enough to step up into a bigger role and use it to my advantage.”
He earned first-team all-NWAC West Region honors at the end of the season, and helped the Clippers finish second in the West Region with a 22-6 overall record as the program claimed its fourth consecutive season of 20-plus wins.
Then it was just a matter of locking up a roster spot at a four-year university. Janssan met Tyler Kennedy, a basketball player from Texas, while playing for his club team following his senior year at Centralia. The two stayed in contact while Janssan went to SPSCC, and it was Kennedy who steered Janssan toward Lubbock Christian University (LCU).
It was after his breakout sophomore year that LCU reached out to him, a big surprise for Janssan, who a year prior never thought he’d get the opportunity after having such a lackluster freshman season. He actually ended up having to choose between a few universities, but ultimately went with LCU. He committed in late April without even going on a visit, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The coaches jumped on me in the middle of my sophomore season and recruited me,” Jannsan said. “They made it known they definitely wanted me here. I’m just happy I’m here now.”
Janssen is now practicing and lifting with his new team three or four times a week. The Chaps finished fourth in the regular season in the 18-team Lone Star Conference last season, going 19-10 overall, 15-7 in conference and advancing to the conference championship quarterfinals. Janssan is looking forward to helping the program go even further next year.
“It’s definitely a step up in the level of play,” Janssan said. “The main difference for me has been the bodies. We’ve got bigger bodies and a team that’s a lot more deep. The practices are highly competitive, which makes it very enjoyable but also very good at pushing me.”
Janssan just finished his fifth week of school in Lubbock, going to class with a mask on and complying with the 6 feet social distancing guideline.
“I’m enjoying it,” Janssan said. “All the people here are so nice and welcoming. I didn’t really know what to expect being a foreigner to Texas. The weather has been tremendous. It’s been super hot weather, which I’ve enjoyed a bit more compared to Washington. The summer in Washington is beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but wintertime can be a different story. So it’s been nice to get some here. It’s been great. Can’t really complain.”