Michael Kent Benson (born December 27, 1954) is a retired American collegiate and professional basketball player. Having had a prolific career during the 1970s and 1980s, he scored a career high of 38 points, playing college basketball and later spending 11 seasons in the NBA for four different teams.
High school career
Kent Benson attended New Castle Chrysler High School, located in New Castle, Indiana, home of the New Castle Trojans. He was named Indiana's "Mr. Basketball" in 1973.
Kent attended Indiana University, located in Bloomington, Indiana, where he played college basketball for coach Bobby Knight. As a freshman, Benson averaged 9.3 points per game, while shooting 50.4 percent. He helped lead Indiana to the CCAT Championship, and to a 23-5 record and a Big Ten title.
In his sophomore season, Kent Benson helped lead the Hoosiers to an undefeated conference record (18-0) and on to an Elite Eight appearance, where they lost their only game of the season to Kentucky. Helping lead the team to a 31-1 record on the season, he averaged 15 points and 8.9 rebounds a game.
With seniors Quinn Buckner and Scott May, he led Indiana to the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship in the 1975-76 season. That season, they were undefeated throughout the entire regular and post season. That team was the last Division I Men's Basketball team to accomplish that feat. He averaged 17.3 points and 8.8 rebounds a game on the season with his college season high of 57.8 percent from the field. He scored his career high of 38 points against Michigan State.
After a perfect record during his junior year, "Benny" became the lone star for Indiana after May and Buckner both left after their senior years for the next level. He averaged 19.8 points and 10.4 rebounds a game his senior season. He led them to a 16-11 record but received no post season appearance. He was named the Big Ten's player of the year while being named an All-American for the second straight season.
Kent Benson ended his college career with 1,740 points and 1,031 rebounds, and finished with a 71.5 free throw and 53.6 field goal percentage. He is currently the third all-time rebounder in school history with 1,031 rebounds.
After graduating from Indiana University in 1977, he was the number one draft pick of the 1977 NBA Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks.
Two minutes into his very first game as a professional, however, Los Angeles Lakers center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar punched Benson in retaliation for an overly aggressive elbow, causing his jaw to be broken. Abdul-Jabbar broke his hand in the incident and was out for two months; otherwise, he could have potentially been suspended by the NBA.
Benson never quite lived up to the potential of a number one NBA draft pick. Twice in his career, he was traded for a player that helped his former team get "over the hump" and contend for an NBA title. In 1980, the Bucks traded him to the Detroit Pistons for Bob Lanier, who would help the Bucks to consecutive conference finals appearances in 1983 and 1984. In 1986, the Pistons traded him along with Kelly Tripucka to the Utah Jazz for Adrian Dantley, who would help lead the Pistons to the Eastern Conference finals in 1987 and the NBA Finals in 1988.
Benson spent 11 seasons in the NBA with Milwaukee, Detroit, Utah and Cleveland. He averaged 9.1 points per game in 680 regular season games. He wore jersey #54 for his entire career.