In mid-August, 2022 guard Ben Shtolzberg chose to continue his basketball journey with the Creighton Blue Jays over Maccabi Tel Aviv, Northwestern, Butler, Virginia Tech, and Rutgers. A skilled point guard with excellent size, now standing at 6’5, Shtolzberg plays for Notre Dame HS (CA) and for the Oakland Soldiers (CA) on the EYBL circuit. As a junior, he averaged 18.7 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and 1.4 steals per game. Looking ahead, he is the first commit in the class of 2022 for Creighton and brings a combination of scoring, facilitating, positional rebounding, and leadership on the floor.
As part of the Pro Insight Q&A series, Shtolzberg reflected on his basketball experiences, discussed training with peers like Amari Bailey and Tre White, what he’s looking forward to at Creighton, and more.
For the next installment of the Pro Insight Q&A series, we present Creighton commit Ben Shtolzberg, from Northridge, California:
Pro Insight: Talk a bit about your background.
Ben Shtolzberg: My name is Ben Shtolzberg. I’m a 6’4-6’5 point guard out of Northridge, California in the class of 2022. I was born and raised out here. I live with my parents and my sister. My sister is a gymnast so she’s technically the real athlete in the family. We compete over everything. I love my family. They’ve taught me and molded me into the man I am today on the court and off the court. So I can’t wait to transition to later parts of my life and go to college and get ready for that.
PI: How did you get to where you are today?
BS: I guess my story is a little different. I started off playing recreational baseball. My dad wanted me to get into hockey, too, because he was a hockey player in Canada. Didn’t like either of them. Thought baseball was too slow. I had a friend down the street, and this was when I was about eight years old, who played basketball at a local park and I started playing recreational basketball and kind of just fell in love with it, fell in love with the game, everything about it. It’s like a team game. Everyone gets involved. I just really enjoyed it and it just kind of was love at first sight. And it turned into its own little journey from there into what it is today. So that’s kind of how I got started.
PI: That’s very cool that your dad played hockey in Canada.
BS: Yeah, so my dad grew up in Toronto. He went to the University of Ottawa for his undergrad so he played hockey throughout the whole time. If you don’t know, hockey in Canada is like the real deal. It was unfortunate he couldn’t keep going on with it because of different personal reasons, but it was good that I have some athletic background in my family.
PI: How tall are your parents?
BS: So this is kinda funny, my dad is 6’0-6’0.5. My mom is like 5’1.5-5’2 and I’m almost 6’5, so I don’t know how I got it. I never had the genes. When I was younger, I’d do the height calculator on my phone and it would always turn out to 5’11 and I would just start crying. I used to stretch all the time. We bought an inversion table. I used to use that all the time. I just hang upside down, hang from my arms. I literally did everything in my power so I can be as tall as I can and I think it worked out. I think I’m about to hit 6’5. It’s really a blessing and I thank God for that every day.
PI: You’re 6’5. What is your weight and wingspan?
BS: Okay, so we measured it a couple days ago. So I’m about 6’5-6’4.5, 185 pounds, and I think a 78-inch (6’6) wingspan.
PI: For those who aren’t super familiar with your game — what are your greatest strengths?
BS: I’m a point guard who can kind of do a little bit of everything, in my opinion. I have many different strengths — of course what most people see is the scoring. I can score at all three levels. Really well known for my shooting. Can shoot it from pretty much anywhere. But that’s not what I think is the best part of my game. I think it’s my leadership, my IQ, my ability to make my teammates better, essentially — and lead the team both by talking to the players and by putting them in positions to succeed. So I think that’s a big part of my game that’s really kind of special in its own way. Also, I’ve become a dog on defense, getting rebounds because of my size. So I can do a little bit of everything and I think that’s made my game more dynamic.
PI: What do you feel you still need to improve on the most? What have you been working on?
BS: So I’d say it’s two things. One thing is really on my body. Working on getting stronger. Filling out a little bit more. Getting more athletic. Those are two things that I think will take my game to the next level. And another thing is just learning the game. I think I’ve become really skilled and in order to understand how to use my skill set, I gotta start watching a lot of film. I gotta start understanding, start having the mind of a point guard so I’ve just been studying a lot of players like Steph Curry and Steve Nash to help me understand the game more.
PI: So you try to model your game after Curry and Nash?
BS: Yeah, those two right there. My dad and I made a joke of it, “Steve Curry.” I wanna be able to be an offensive threat like Steph and kind of understand how to create for myself as a finisher and as a shooter. And then be able to lead a team and create for others like Steve Nash. So kinda that mold.
PI: Do you have a training regimen?
BS: So my summer routine was usually I’d get up at 6 AM and do a skills workout and the workouts would vary based on the week. My trainer would manage that so every week we’d work on something different. One week would be pick-and-roll shooting, pick-and-roll reads. One week would be finishing through contact. One week would be coming off of different routes to shots. So we’d come and that would be the main workout. Then, we’d come later in the day and just shoot around, just spot shooting, keep that consistency. And then, depending on the day, three or four times a week, I’d lift after and work on my body. That would be it. In the summer, it’s really a grind. You really have to get after it, you really have to do a lot to get better. And the biggest thing is just taking care of your body. So I’ve used a lot of different physical therapy stuff. I use it everyday. Roll-out, stretch, all that, and just try to make sure I don’t get hurt.
PI: How did you stay healthy and in shape during COVID?
BS: So COVID was a blessing in disguise for me. I never got to work out that much, that little 2-3 a day regimen that I was doing. Just had so much time on my hands. Everything that I was doing was about me getting better. That really helped me, it evolved my game. For me, I was talking to my dad about it. We were kind of happy I didn’t get a 16U EYBL because now going into 17U, I’m going to be even better than I would have been if there wasn’t COVID. I never really had to do anything because COVID gave me so much time. And I was just using up that time to get better on my game, so it was great.
PI: Who has been the toughest individual matchup you’ve ever faced?
BS: I would probably say…so you know Ziaire Williams who went to Stanford, who now is in the NBA. He was at my high school, Notre Dame, when I was a freshman. He was probably one of the toughest players I’ve ever had to guard. I wasn’t used to guarding someone with that type of length. Me being a freshman and still learning the game, I just wasn’t used to that. So there was a little bit of growing pains and understanding that. Now if we played I think it might be a different story, but when I was a freshman, he was definitely one of the hardest players I’ve ever had to guard.
PI: It seems like being around these high-level players and competing against them would be super beneficial while learning the nuances of playing defense.
BS: Just like being around other great players, like I went to an academy or even this summer, I trained with different recruits like Amari Bailey and Tre White. With our trainer, we all just worked out together and learned from each other...it just helped all of us evolve our games and pick up new and different things. So that’s another way you can get better and that was great for my development, as well.
PI: How was your experience with the Oakland Soldiers?
BS: It was great, man. It’s really a family. In the games that we’ve had, we developed a lot of chemistry. It’s a group of great guys who really wanted to do something special this year so I’ve loved it. They kind of gave me the keys to the car. I was the lead guard for the games and I performed and made my teammates better, made us better. It’s been great and it was a fun summer for all of us.
PI: Who’s someone you have enjoyed playing with?
BS: So I’d say it’s two players. Mor Seck, he’s a 7’2 big from NorCal. Being able to play with him is great: he’s mobile, he’s smart, he’s skilled. He just makes the game really easy and I’ve really enjoyed playing with him. I’d also say Jordan Pope from Prolific [Prep], that kind of one-two guard, that relationship that we’ve built so far has been great since we both kind of have similar games, both shoot it so well...so that’s been fun, as well.
PI: With COVID essentially wiping out AAU in 2020, what do you think you showed coaches in July?
BS: I’m really happy that the dead period ended and coaches finally watched us. What I was most excited to show them was my competitiveness on the defensive end and my competitiveness as a whole. I really have this big chip on my shoulder to just show what I’ve worked on so hard during quarantine and prove to everyone that I should be in the talks for when they talk about these different things. And that’s it. I wanted to compete against everyone. Doesn’t matter who it is and I’m gonna do my best, no matter who it is.
PI: What are some things you bring to a team off the court?
BS: I’d say I’m a funny guy, I’m pretty good at 2K, great relationships. We can talk about anything really from video games to college to whatever. I can have a relationship with anyone. It doesn’t matter.
PI: Who did you rely on for guidance throughout the recruitment process? What advice did they share with you?
BS: It was a little bit overwhelming at times, and I'm truly blessed to have been recruited by all these teams that believe in me so much. I talked a lot with my father, my parents and my high school coach. And we would have long discussions about the idea of this fit. “What is the fit” pretty much, what it should be, what makes it a good fit for me? Like style of play. Whether there's an opportunity for me right away. Whether there's a great relationship with the coach who believes in me, like different things like that. I was guided by these kinds of mentors and my father and my high school coach and they've taught me those types of things that I should ask and the type of things that I should look for in a college and a program.
PI: That’s awesome to have that circle of people you can trust and have your back.
BS: And it's just two people. It's two people, that's all I need. And I trust them. My trainer as well, Dash, he's really guided me a lot in what I should look for in a college as well. But, I have a close group and they're family to me, and they've helped me through everything in life.
PI: What did you learn on your visits?
BS: So for me, I'm a big energy guy. I feel like when I go to a place, there's gotta be this right energy. That feeling that you belong at this place, you can see yourself at this place. And that could be how the relationship, how the discussions with the coach and the players go. If your goals align with their goals, there's a mutual trust that can be a 40-year relationship and not just a four-year relationship. Those would be big things for us and different things like that. Of course, seeing the facilities is great, but all these schools have so much to offer and I just wanted to find the right place and the right staff to lead me into this.
PI: Congrats on your commitment. What are you most looking forward to about Creighton?
BS: I’m looking forward to grinding and competing in one of the best conferences in the country. The Big East has had a lot of success with some great teams. I’m excited to work and use the resources Creighton offers so that I can show what I can do against the best of the best. I am also very excited to play under Coach Mac and his NBA-style offense. The freedom he gives his player is something I’m really excited to have as a guard.
PI: What are your short term goals you have for yourself as a player?
BS: So right now, like I've mentioned before, just getting better, getting better so that I'm ready to be a pro as soon as possible, I want to be ready to achieve my dreams of being a pro basketball player at the end of high school so that I can play like that in college, which is important to me. Another short-term goal is winning state. I really want to bring a state championship to my school. It's something I haven't done yet and it's a big goal for me. And I think we can do it, especially in a state like California, where the competition is competitive. I'm excited for the road we have ahead.
PI: If you weren’t pursuing a career as a professional hooper, what do you think you would choose to do?
BS: (Laughs) I haven't thought about this much. So I would say either a chef or maybe I'd make music. I have a good ear for music. I like all different types of music. I'm pretty smart and I'm good with word play. So once I've kind of ran some stuff, I've kind of made some beats on my iPad and they didn’t come out too bad, I think. So maybe that and a chef, I don't know. I cook a lot in my house. Not a lot, but I cook here and there and I can whip it up a little bit. You know, I can make a pretty mean salmon with some pasta. So, you know, maybe a chef.
PI: Who are your favorite music artists?
BS: So I'll say I like a lot of different artists from different types of genres. Hip hop, of course. I really like Lil Durk, guys like that, Lil Baby, Drake. Those are the three guys who are out right now, who I've been listening to a lot. I guess I listened to some old school guys as well, like Dr. Dre and Tupac and stuff like that. Yeah, as of right now I’m in the hip hop section, I'd say those are the people who I've been listening to a lot.
PI: For sure, hip hop is definitely the vibe these days.
BS: Yeah. I dunno. My dad and I always had fights about it. It's like, he thinks his hip hop in the past, like NWA and Ice Cube, was better than what we have now. And I'm like, I don't know. I don't think he's right. (laughs) Yeah. I mean, I'd say maybe the quality was better back then. Now people are just like, “oh my God, it's like music, music back-to-back-to-back. And they make just like click songs.” But I think the good artists that we have now are much better than the good artists that were back then. So except for maybe a couple, but you know, we'll see.
PI: How would you define the word ‘success?’
BS: Success…so I had a big thing last year. This was a big thing that we did in our high school. I always thought success was winning. And my coach, we did a lot of John Wooden stuff and it kind of put it in perspective to me what success really was. And success was really just giving your all and putting everything you have into something that you really believe in or something that you really want to do. And regardless of the outcome, I think you'll be successful. If you really, truly believe that you gave it all you had, and you have no regrets, at the end of the day, I think you were successful in your own way.
PI: Who’s someone you really look up to?
BS: As a role model, everyone's going to probably say their parents, but I'm gonna go with my dad. My dad really came from nothing. His mom worked two, three jobs, he had to pretty much raise himself. And he really, with all the distractions he had, he was able to push through and build a better life for his children so they didn't have to experience the things that he experienced and his dedication, his perseverance through everything that he had to overcome really motivates me. It helps me believe that I can do it just like he did and he's achieved a lot in his life. So he's definitely someone I look up to and ask for guidance in anything that I do. Everyone needs that one person, someone who they can talk to no matter what it is and just that's been my dad for me. For other people, it's their coaches or something like that.
PI: Name four words that best describe you.
BS: Four words. I would say personable, competitive, good-hearted, and funny. I don't know, it’s off the top of my head. I would say those as a person. Yeah. I'd say those four. On the court, people would say I'm a little bit of a mean guy, but I'm really competitive, but off the court, I can have a good time.
PI: At the end of the day, what do you hope to be remembered for?
BS: So this is kind of a different thing. So I'm Jewish and there's not a lot of Jewish basketball players and there's been kind of a rise of, I guess, anti-Semitic hate. So I kind of want to be an example for my community that I have, or an example of someone who can excel in the classroom, excel as an athlete, and be a good person and help others. I want to be a person people can look up to and say “I want to be like that person.” And they can point out all these different things that I did to help others and impact the lives of others. And not just this personal success I had. So that's a big thing that I'm trying to achieve and it's a lofty goal, but I'm going to put my mind to it and I'm going to try my hardest to achieve it. We've got lawyers, we've got doctors, but we don't have any real ballers out there, especially in high school. So I'm trying to be the first one.