As Maryland honored its two seniors before Friday’s 69-60 win over Minnesota, Ivan Bender had a plan in mind that made his night even more memorable.
After the school recognized fellow senior Andrew Terrell, Bender came onto the court with his longtime girlfriend, Andrea Knezevic. The forward from Bosnia walked to Coach Mark Turgeon and followed Knezevic to center court. After waving to the crowd, he got down on one knee and asked Knezevic to marry him. Only about five people — none of whom included his teammates — knew of the plan Bender first thought about in September.
“I had a few ideas, this one seemed the best,” Bender said. “I always wanted to do it here because it’s my second home. Being here for four and a half years, being around my teammates, keeping them in the dark, it was hard, but it was priceless at the end to see their reaction at the end.”
The Maryland players stormed toward Bender and jumped up and down around him.
“The way they reacted to Ivan just shows you the love [among the players] and how young they are,” Turgeon said.
Bender and Knezevic first met in middle school and began dating when they were 16. Bender said the two plan to get married in July of next year.
Before the team’s shoot-around on Friday, Bender brought the ring to Turgeon’s office. Turgeon then handed it to Bender as Knezevic was directed to center court.
“[Turgeon] was so happy to be part of it, and I was grateful that he said yes and allowed me to do it here,” Bender said. “It was special moment.”
Knezevic is in town for four weeks and she has persistently asked questions about “when it’s going to happen, how am I going to do it,” Bender said. But Bender told her she’d have to wait, so Friday came as a surprise.
Maryland then stormed past Minnesota, and when asked where his strong performance came from, freshman Jalen Smith pointed back to Bender.
“I think it was Ivan’s proposal that kind of fired me up because I was already hyped from it,” Smith said. “I was like, might as well just carry this energy over.”