Justin Rees | Assistant Coach/Recruiting Coordinator
Valparaiso assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Justin Rees is back for his fourth season with the Crusaders and 19th in women’s college basketball in 2017-18. During his career, the veteran coach has coached and developed three All-Americans and 32 all-conference award winners. He specializes in instructing forwards, and has helped 13 post players earn individual accolades.
Head coach Tracey Dorow added Rees to her staff in 2014 to help bring a fresh approach to the program’s recruiting efforts. Since that time, the Crusaders have brought in 14 newcomers.
Since Rees was added to the staff, the Crusaders have seen an uptick in total wins from six to 10, including a Horizon League Tournament first-round upset of the No. 4 seed in 2015-16. Working with the team's post players, Rees instructed a member of the all-league second-team and a member the all-league defensive team during the 2016-17 season. He has aided the development of Dani Franklin, who scored 559 points as a junior in 2016-17, the second-highest single-season point total by any player in program history.
Before arriving at Valpo, Rees served as head coach at Missouri Valley College during the 2013-2014 campaign. He guided a program that had won eight games the year prior to a 19-win campaign. Rees coached two players to all-conference honors, including one who earned NAIA Division-I All-American honorable mention. During his stint at Missouri Valley, Rees also established several Midwest and Southeast recruiting contacts in the high school, junior college and AAU programs.
Rees was an assistant coach at William Jewell College in 2012-2013. The program was under the direction of Jill Cress, who gave Rees the responsibility of directing the team’s half-court defense. William Jewell finished the season ranked first in the Great Lakes Valley Conference in steals and fourth in scoring defense and field-goal percentage defense. William Jewell reached the Great Lakes Valley Conference tournament in its first season of Division-II eligibility.
Rees served as the head coach at Lake Superior State University during the 2011-12 season. His team reached 10 wins and was in contention to make the playoffs until the final week of the regular season. The team finished fifth of 14 conference schools in defensive field-goal percentage.
Before arriving at Lake Superior, Rees spent four years as an assistant at the University of Maine. He established recruiting contacts in the Midwest and Northeast. The team’s 2011 recruiting class was believed to be one of the best in the northeast for small mid-major Division-I programs. Another of his responsibilities at Maine was to develop the team’s summer skill guides, which served as the backbone of their players’ conditioning and individual skill improvement over summer break.
Rees also spent five seasons as an assistant at Ferris State University, helping the team compile 88 wins and make two trips to the Division-II National Tournament during that stretch. In Rees’ final season on staff, Ferris State reached the D-II Sweet Sixteen. He recruited and helped coach six players to 13 individual all-conference honors and three players to All-American accolades during his tenure. The team also continued a streak of seven consecutive years in the WBCA Academic Top 25 Honor Roll.
A native of Miami, Fla., Rees earned a Bachelor of Science degree in broadcast communication from Barry University in Miami Shores, Fla. in 1997. Rees was a member of the Barry University men's basketball team.
Megan Leuzinger | Assistant Coach
Rebekah Llorens | Director of Basketball Operations
Rebekah Llorens is entering her third season as director of basketball operations in 2017-18. Llorens coordinates travel plans for the program, schedules community service events and acts as camp director for women's basketball summer camps.
Llorens comes to Valpo after concluding her collegiate career at Hope College in 2015, where she graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor's degree in history. A four-year letter winner and two-year starter, she graces three separate career Top 10 lists for the Flying Dutch, including free throws made (253), free throws attempted (379) and average offensive rebounds per game (2.5).
Llorens was a First Team All-Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) selection in 2014-15 after averaging 11.7 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. She helped the Flying Dutch to a 104-13 record in her four years in Holland.
Prior to Valpo, Llorens served as assistant coach at Grayslake Central High School (Ill.) for four summers, running camps and coaching summer league. She was inducted into her high school's Wall of Fame in September 2016 as the ninth leading scorer in program history.
Eddie Benton Jr. | Assistant Coach
Eddie Benton Jr. is entering his first season on Valpo's staff in 2017-18.
A veteran who has been coaching collegiately since 1999, Benton comes to the Crusaders after coaching most recently in the Atlantic 10 as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Duquesne from 2013-2016. Benton helped guide the Dukes to a program-record 28 victories in 2015-16, a season that culminated with a win in the school’s first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance, as Duquesne defeated Seton Hall in the opening round before playing UConn in the Round of 32.
“One of the biggest things I bring to the table is that I know what it takes to be successful and win,” Benton said. “Every program I’ve been in, we’ve won. You have to be relentless in your preparation. If you do that, you’ll be rewarded with the wins. I’m equipped to deal with a lot of different people and make everybody come together.”
Benton, a former professional player who was inducted into the University of Vermont Hall of Fame in 2006, has also spent time as the head coach at LaRoche College (2004-2012) and as an assistant at Saint Francis University – Pennsylvania (2012-2013) and Robert Morris University in Moon Township, Pa. (2001-2004). He started his coaching career at LaRoche College as an assistant on the men’s staff from 1999-2001 after serving as a student assistant at the University of Vermont during the 1996-97 season.
Benton helped guide Duquesne to the WNIT back-to-back years, including a WNIT Sweet Sixteen appearance in 2014-15. That set up the memorable 2015-16 season that saw the Dukes earn a national ranking for three weeks, finish with the second-most road wins in all of Division I and win the A10 regular season title.
The newest member of Valpo’s staff was named the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference Coach of the Year for the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons. In both of those years, Benton guided LaRoche to an automatic berth in the NCAA Division III Tournament and the conference’s tournament and regular season titles. LaRoche enjoyed a 30-game conference winning streak spanning those seasons.
Before beginning his coaching tenure, Benton enjoyed an accomplished playing career. He adds another ex-professional player to a staff that already includes former WNBA forward Megan Leuzinger and another veteran presence to a group of assistants that already features Justin Rees, who is entering his 19th season as a collegiate coach.
Benton won the 1996 Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award, given to the top point guard in the country under six feet. He also earned the 1996 Bob Cousy Award, given to the top point guard in New England. He left Vermont as the school’s all-time leading scorer (2,474) and individual single-game scoring record-holder (54). His professional career included time with the Venezuela Punta Fijo (1999) and the Isreal Carmiel (1998).
Benton has two children, his daughter NyAsia (12) and son Eddie III (10). Dorow said the family atmosphere at Valpo will make Benton and his children feel right at home.