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Eagles, Rams alumni game - Boys
Benton, Gilstrap bring talents home for alumni game at Newton
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Typically Newton and Eastside basketball players don't have to travel very far to play each other. But on Saturday with players returning to their old colors in the 2012 alumni basketball game, the distance to Newton's gym was a little longer than it had been back in their playing days.

Players not only returned to where they were raised but for one Newton and one Eastside player, the distance they traveled since they took the court as prep stars spanned continents.

Mike Benton, who graduated Newton in 1999, has since played basketball in Columbus of the NBA Development League before playing professionally in Greece, Spain and Turkey.

Marquis Gilstrap, who graduated from Eastside in 2005, played college ball at Iowa State, before earning a spot on the summer league team of the Charlotte Bobcats and then finding a home in a league in Slovakia.

After all that traveling, the two returned to the Newton High gym for the first alumni meeting between Eagles and Rams.

The Rams came out on top 106-104 in what was the first double-overtime finish. The contest was knotted up 99-99 after two 30-minute continuously running halves. After a brief two-minute overtime period it, was a 102-102 tie.

Gilstrap led the way with a pair of powerful dunks and several in-your-face style 3-pointers. However, a furious second-half rally by Newton, which trailed 43-32 at halftime, brought home the Newton sweep.

For Gilstrap and Benton, the game was not only a chance to see old friends, but also to get back on the court. Both were coming back from knee injuries keeping them off the court in Europe and bringing them back to Newton County.

Benton currently lives in DeKalb County but while playing, spent much of his time learning the cultures of German, Turkey, Spain and other countries. Along with the game of basketball itself, Benton, a College of Charleston graduate, said the thing he enjoys about his career is getting to learn different cultures.

"Of course you have to learn the language, and the food is different everywhere," Benton said.

Off the court, Benton's favorite place to play was Germany, and on the court was Turkey.

Turkey was also the hardest culture for him to get adjusted too.

"Less people speak English there," Benton said. "The food was a little more greasy."

Saturday's game was also a learning experience for Benton, who didn't play with many of his alumni teammates while at Newton, but competed with them in pickup games as he was coming up to high school.

It was also his first time playing against fellow European professional Gilstrap.
Gilstrap signed on to Charlotte's NBA summer league team, before playing in the NBDL, and then Slovakia last year.

"It was a great experience," Gilstrap said of playing in Europe. "It was different; it was closer to the college game."

Both Gilstrap and Benton are looking toward continuing to play basketball professionally and if Saturday was any indication both looked ready to compete once again at a high level.