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The Journal Gazette

  • Benson

Thursday, October 11, 2018 1:00 am

IU great spreading gospel of basketball

REGGIE HAYES | For The Journal Gazette

Indiana University basketball great Kent Benson won't just talk about “D,” as in defense, when he speaks as part of the Bible for Ballers 3-on-3 youth basketball tournament today at Concordia High School.

He'll talk about the six D's of excellence.

“It's desire, determination, dedication, discipline, direction and decision,” Benson said.

The decision comes in how you approach not only basketball, but everything in life, Benson said.

“I'll be speaking from the context of Ecclesiastes 9:10 and it says, 'Whatever thy hand finds to do, do it with all thy might,'” Benson said. “Whatever you do, do the best you can. Use your God-given talent and ability and be the very best you can.”

Benson is best known to basketball fans for helping lead IU to an undefeated NCAA championship in 1976 prior to playing in the NBA. He has been part of the Bibles for Ballers afterschool program in southern Indiana since it started in 2012. Benson has teamed with Bibles for Ballers founder Bob Petty and Dustin Ritz to expand the program to include camps and 3-on-3 tournaments. This will be its first event in Fort Wayne.

The Bibles for Ballers 3-on-3 tournament is open to students in grades 3-8, boys and girls, and starts at 4 p.m. today at Concordia. Cost is $50 per player or $75 per family. Participants will receive a Bible and a T-shirt. Benson said about 50 players have signed up and he expects a few walk-up participants.

It is a Christian-based program but has been run in public schools, too, Benson said.

“It's neat to see how these kids respond to having a Bible,” Benson said. “I'll sign the Bible and put Ecclesiastes 9:10 in there. It's neat to see these kids' faces and the fact they have a Bible of their own. ... It's more than just basketball. We're using basketball to share the gospel. We don't force it on them in any way, shape or form, but they also know and understand where we're coming from.”

The day will start with around 45 minutes of fundamentals, then include a message from Benson before the players are divided up for the tournament.

Whether it's a multiday camp or a one-day event, those running Bibles for Ballers stress basketball fundamentals heavily. Benson said he couldn't agree more with that philosophy.

“Kids here in Indiana have really taken a slide in their fundamentals,” Benson said. “Fundamentals are so important. Every camp we stress and spend time on fundamentals, so, hopefully, grade school and high school coaches understand the importance. It's more than just winning, but teaching these kids how to play the game properly.”

Benson said the Fort Wayne addition to the program came about when he was here to speak at a Emmaus Lutheran School fundraiser and talked with Concordia assistant coach Greg Rehberg. He then met new Concordia coach Phil Brackmann and found out Brackmann played with Benson's nephews at Indiana Wesleyan University.

“I love being around the folks there in Fort Wayne, Garrett and Auburn,” Benson said. “I hunt up in DeKalb and Steuben counties, LaGrange. I always enjoy coming back and seeing people and meeting people and I have a great friendship with the Indiana contingent up there who have supported Indiana University over the years.”

Benson, like Hoosiers fans, anticipates a fun winter ahead with the IU program. He said the addition of freshman Romeo Langford should continue to help in-state recruiting.

“The good part is we now have a coach that knows how to coach and is doing a great job,” Benson said of IU coach Archie Miller. “I expect to be a contender in the next two to three years, not only in the Big Ten, but the NCAA as well.”

Benson also said he enjoys watching coach Matt Painter's teams at Purdue as well as the Notre Dame men's and women's programs.

“The state of Indiana is really blessed to have such great college institutions with great basketball on both the men's and women's side,” Benson said.

As passionate as Benson is about college basketball, his heart gravitates toward teaching and directing younger players in the Bibles for Ballers program.

“I believe in what we're doing and how we go about sharing what we believe with the kids,” Benson said.