Kent Benson

Photo: IU Archives

Kent Benson Biography

Kent Benson is a former basketball player from New Castle, Indiana that played for the Hoosiers between 1973 and 1977. He was the 1973 Indiana Mr. Basketball and won the 1976 NCAA Championship on the undefeated Indiana University Hoosiers basketball team coached by Bob Knight. Benson was named as the Final Four’s most outstanding player. Benson eventually became the first overall pick in the 1977 NBA Draft. He spent 11 years in the NBA across four different teams. Benson was known for his intensity on the floor, despite being a “gentle giant” off the court.

  • Name: Michael Kent Benson
  • Position: Center
  • Nationality: USA
  • Age: 69 years old
  • Birthday: December 27, 1954
  • Hometown: New Castle, Indiana
  • High School: New Castle Chrysler (New Castle, Indiana)
  • Height: 6’10″ (208 cm)
  • Weight: 300 lb (136 kg)
  • Seasons: 4 (1973-1974, 1974-1975, 1975-1976, 1976-1977)
  • Jersey: #54
  • NBA Draft: 1977 / Round: 1 / Pick: 1st Overall (Selected by the Milwaukee Bucks)
  • Professional Player Career:
    • Milwaukee Bucks (1977-1980)
    • Detroit Pistons (1980-1986)
    • Utah Jazz (1986-1987)
    • Cleveland Cavaliers (1987-1988)
    • Vismara Cantu (1988-1989)

Awards and Accolades

  • 1973 Indiana Mr. Basketball
  • 1976 Consensus first-team All-American
  • 1976 Helms Foundation Player of the Year
  • 1976 NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player
  • 1976 NCAA Champion
  • 1982 J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award
  • 1999 Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame

Kent Benson Seasons with the Hoosiers

1973-1974 Indiana Basketball Season
Bob Knight (3rd Season)
23-5 (12-2 Big Ten)
🏆 1st Place Big Ten
🏆 CCA Tournament Champions
1974-1975 Indiana Basketball Season
Bob Knight (4th Season)
31-1 (18-0 Big Ten)
🏆 1st Place Big Ten
🏅 NCAA Elite Eight
1975-1976 Indiana Basketball Season
Bob Knight (5th Season)
32-0 (18-0 Big Ten)
🏆 1st Place Big Ten
🏆 NCAA Champions
1976-1977 Indiana Basketball Season
Bob Knight (6th Season)
16-11 (11-7 Big Ten)
4th Place Big Ten

Kent Benson Indiana University Statistics

1973-1974 27 691 113 0.504 24 40 0.600 222 25 55 81 250
1974-1975 32 960 198 366 0.541 84 113 0.743 286 40 61 97 480
1975-1976 32 1088 237 410 0.578 80 117 0.684 282 52 75 93 554
1976-1977 23 828 174 346 0.503 108 144 0.750 241 29 62 62 456
Career 114 3567 722 1346 0.536 296 414 0.715 1031 146 253 333 1740

Kent Benson High School (Chrysler High School) Career

Benson was one of the most prolific bigs in Indiana High School basketball history. He played for New Castle Chrysler High School, which was eventually renamed to just New Castle High School in 1979.

“Benny,” which was his nickname at the time, tallied 1,496 points and 1,585 rebounds in 3 varsity years at New Castle High School.

During his senior year, he averaged 27.6 points and nearly 30 rebounds per game on a team that finished 20-5 and reached the regional final. Benson’s season performance won him the 1973 Indiana Mr. Basketball award.

Benson ultimately decided to stay at home and play for Indiana University despite being recruited by a number of national programs. He would go on to spend his four years under the coaching of Bob Knight in Bloomington.

Kent Benson Indiana University Basketball Career

Photo: IndyStar

Benson was immediately used as a freshman after joining Bob Knight’s roster. He averaged 9.3 points per game and made over half of his attempts taken. That season, the Hoosiers won the Big Ten and finished with a record of 23-5. In the post season, the Hoosiers took the CCAT Championship.

During the 1974-1975 season, Benson supported the Indiana team that went undefeated in conference play, going a perfect 18-0. Indiana would eventually move on to the Elite Eight, where they lost to Kentucky as their only loss on the season. Benson scored 33 points and had 23 rebounds in Indiana’s 92-90 loss to the Wildcats.

Photo: Alchetron

In 1975-1976, the Quinn Buckner and Scott May-led Hoosiers won the national championship in a historic undefeated season where Indiana won all 32 games, which is the last team to ever accomplish this feat. Benson was selected as the 1976 Most Outstanding Player in the NCAA Tournament. On the season, he averaged 17.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, and shoot 67.8% from the field.

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Kent Benson’s 1976 NCAA Tournament Statistics

  • vs St. John’s: 20 points, 13 rebounds
  • vs Alabama: 15 points, 5 rebounds
  • vs Marquette: 18 points, 9 rebounds
  • vs UCLA: 16 points, 9 rebounds
  • vs Michigan: 25 points, 9 rebounds
Photo: IndyStar

During his senior season at Indiana University, Benson became the primary star given the fact that Buckner and May both graduated. Indiana went on to achieve an 16-11 record, which was unfortunately short of any postseason consideration. Benson was named the Big Ten’s 1977 Player of the Year for his 19.8 points and 10.4 rebounds per game averages. He also received All-American honors.

Benson finished his college career with 1,740 points and 1,031 rebounds in totality for the Hoosiers.

Kent Benson Career in the NBA

Upon graduating from Indiana University, Benson went into the 1977 NBA Draft where he was selected number one overall by the Milwaukee Bucks. Benson joined Walt Bellamy as the only two Hoosiers that have been selected with the first pick of any NBA draft.

In his first game as an NBA player, Benson would make a name for himself. He elbowed Los Angeles Lakers’ center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the torso, which caused Abdul-Jabbar to fight back with a punch of his own. The result was a broken head for Abdul-Jabbar and a broken jaw for Kent Benson.

As the number one pick overall, there were a lot of high expectations held for Benson. Throughout much of his career, the constant criticism of his performance relative to his draft selection loomed over his head. His skills at the high school and college level did not translate well against bigger and quicker NBA players.

Benson spent eleven seasons in the NBA where he played across a number of different teams including Milwaukee, Detroit, Utah, and Cleveland. He finished with an average of 9.1 points and 5.7 rebounds during his time in the NBA.

After his short two-game stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Benson tried to play overseas in Italy before retiring. Benson mentioned that he wanted to test out the European leagues before retiring, but he knew that it was time for him to leave the sport he loved. He stated that he felt like he could have played for another five years, but ultimately he decided it was time to leave.

Kent Benson Post-Basketball Career

After his professional basketball career, Benson worked as a car auction commentary, worked in life insurance and estate planning. He spent time with companies such as Kruse International and The College Network.

Kent Benson Personal Life

Benson has four daughters: Andrea, Ashley, Elizabeth, and Gennie. Ashley Benson played volleyball for Indiana University where she was an All-American for the Hoosiers and finished in the NCAA Sweet Sixteen to end her career at IU. Ashley played professionally overseas in Germany and Peru and became a volunteer coach at Indiana University. Gennie Benson played volleyball for Vincennes University.

In 2019, Benson suffered a series of unfortunate events including the passing of his brother and his wife. His younger brother Kim died unexpectedly after a blood clot in his lung traveled all the way to his heart. Just shortly after, Benson’s love of his life Ann passed away after a long battle with cancer. She suffered from multiple myeloma, a blood cancer that accumulates in the marrow of bones. Ann kept her hopes high but the deadly disease eventually took her life on December 1, 2019.

Kent Benson Highlights and Other Videos

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