When Ben Stover was growing up, he loved basketball: Stopping and popping, draining one from the corner, hitting a banker off the backboard.
Then during fifth grade, he discovered lacrosse and a new world burgeoned for the Canton resident.
Now, the 19-year-old Stover is reaping benefits from switching sports. Fresh off his fourth season on Plymouth’s varsity boys lacrosse team, he earned selection from US Lacrosse as as an All-American player. He is the first lacrosse player from Plymouth-Canton Educational Park to collect that honor.
Plymouth head coach Brian Walsh nominated the hard-nosed defender for All-American consideration.
“I was honored that he nominated me, with everything he’s done for me,” Stover said. “When I came in I wasn’t the most confident kid and he always believed in me and instilled in me that I could be great if I wanted to.
“With his coaching I feel like it’s really what took me to the next level.”
Stover, who will play club lacrosse while pursuing a business degree at West Virginia University, said the honor humbled him.
“I wasn’t really expecting it,” he said. “I knew I played really well in the season, but my goal was for our team to do well this season, not for my own personal accolades.”
With Stover’s steady and sturdy presence in the lineup, Plymouth enjoyed a winning record (9-8) in the KLAA Kensington Conference.
“I think I did a lot for our program growing it,” Stover said. “When I came in as a freshman it wasn’t a very organized team, we weren’t very good at all.
“And, through all the seniors, I think we instilled a work ethic to our team, that you have to constantly be trying to get yourself better.”
That stance continues for Stover, as he gears up for the next chapter in his life. It’s a message he deftly slings to every young lacrosse player he sees, just like a basket-to-basket feed.
The son of Randy and Janet Stover helped coach a youth boys box lacrosse team out of Heritage Park in Canton. Box lax features seven-player teams getting after it on a smaller chunk of turf.
“It (box lax) really focuses on your stick skills, because it’s a smaller, more condensed field,” Stover explained. “Everyone’s closer together. … It forces you to have a much sharper, quicker stick and be able to handle the ball better. So that’s kind of the benefit of it.”
As for coaching for the first time in his life, it has been pure elation for Stover — like looking in the mirror and seeing himself when he was a youngster discovering lacrosse.
“I found I really have a passion for it (coaching),” he said. “I grew up loving lacrosse, and to be able to give that back to kids who are just coming into the game I find a lot of joy in seeing them fall in love with lacrosse, just like I did.
“I can see myself in so many of these kids. It’s just fun to be out there playing lacrosse.”
Stover remembered what it was like when he started getting into a sport that finally is starting to make inroads in the Midwest. Although he loved playing basketball, he longed for something more physical.
“I started playing because my mom didn’t want me to play football and I wanted to play something physical,” he said, smiling. “I knew she knew nothing about lacrosse so I asked her if I could play and she agreed.”
During his elementary and middle school years, Stover played for Canton Youth Lacrosse, later mixing in playing time with GBL Lacrosse (a club program run by University of Michigan coaches).
After Stover moved from Pioneer Middle School to Plymouth High School, he still played basketball and lacrosse. But a transition was looming.
“Basketball was my first love, and then over time it just got overbearing,” Stover emphasized. “I was playing basketball all the time and I wanted something new. In high school, I got hurt (during 10th grade) and I came to a point where I realized I didn’t want to ruin my lacrosse season by getting hurt playing basketball.”
With Division I scouts already watching Stover excel in lacrosse, first as a long-stick midfielder, it was the prudent course of action to take.
More recently, however, he had to make another important choice. Did the owner of a 3.5 grade-point average want to pursue the dream of playing D-I men’s lacrosse if that meant not being able to study for a business degree?
Stover, who wants to work on Wall State someday, found the answer in West Virginia University. It helped that his sister, Grace (a 2012 Plymouth grad), attends nursing school at the Morgantown campus.
“I chose West Virginia for academics,” he continued. “I had to make that decision, I knew what I wanted to do with my career.
“I want to go into investment banking and go into finance and a lot of the schools that I was looking at, that I had (lacrosse) offers from didn’t even have business schools.”
That there is club men’s lacrosse at WVU further alleviated any anxiety about the decision. “I realized I could still play lacrosse there at a high level but also get the education I wanted.”
There also is a lacrosse-business connection that Stover expects will help him following college.
“Because of lacrosse I became a very driven and confident person,” Stover said. “And that’s what you need in the business world, especially in a place like Wall Street. You’re going to have to be confident, and be able to be under pressure situations and be able to handle those pressure situations.
“And I know I’ve done that time and time again on the lacrosse field, so why is the business world any different?”