This story is amazing. I’ll start out with that and the fact that Avery Benson has earned everything he is getting right now. I’m sure that his Twitter is blowing up and there was even talk of a Twitter for his amazing hair in his post-game interview with Holly Rowe (to which my girlfriend looked at me and said, “Don’t even think about it”.).
I'm buying a cowboy hat just because of Avery Benson.— TJ Holyfield (@teejayy_22) December 11, 2019
I’ve always been a big fan of Benson’s to be completely honest. I know that he’s just a walk-on from the middle of nowhere Arkansas but I knew that Beard wanted him to be a scholarship player for him at Arkansas Little Rock before getting the awesome gig he has now.
I’ve always been a basketball guy. I know it, the people that know me most know it. My career goal is to coach it at a high level one day. How does this all relate to the guy with the awesome hair? Benson is the kind of guy every coach wants. He works relentlessly and when the team needed him most, he stepped up and delivered in a BIG way against the best team in the country.
His journey at Tech didn’t start that way, not even close. Coach Beard could not afford to put Benson on scholarship so he offered him a walk-on spot on the team. I specifically remember reading the tweet that Benson was coming to Tech and I remember watching his highlights from high school (I’ll put the specific video below).
He joined a walk-on crew of Andrew Sorrells that had been recruited by Tubby Smith and Parker Hicks that grew up not far from my hometown. In my opinion, Tech had the best walk-on crew in the country and these guys could get this team ready for any competition in practice.
His first season he red-shirted and was often known as the guy in the cowboy hat and boots walking around the locker room. That was Benson, working in the shadows, waiting for an opportunity to make an impact. He watched from the sidelines as Tech went on to make it to Elite Eight and make school history.
The next year came and this time, we would see Benson suit up for games. He didn’t make a huge impact at first but something happened during the Big 12/ SEC Challenge against his home state school Arkansas. He got in the game and got a huge steal that turned the momentum in a game the Red Raiders needed to win.
This moment altered his trajectory from someone who would solely be buried on the bench to someone that might one day be able to make plays for this team. He played sparingly the rest of the season, mainly in mop-up roles with the other walk-ons.
This season, Benson came back as one of the only three returners from a team that almost won the National Championship. They were all determined to finish what they had started and it looked like at the first of the season Benson would have an increased role but a still relatively small one compared to others on the team.
Early in the season, Beard wanted to go to younger guys like Clarence Nadolny and Russel Tchewa over Benson. This was until the injury to Jahmi’us Ramsey in the game against Iowa. In the next game, Benson played 20 minutes and had 4 points and 4 rebounds.
He played pretty well considering the team got off to a really slow start and played as good of defense as he usually does. His rise to prominence started in the overtime loss to DePaul. Benson was thrust into the game early on and hit a huge three-pointer to start the scoring for the Red Raiders. He later added a shot with a free-throw to increase his total to 6 points for the game. He also added 5 rebounds and played his tail off on the defensive end of the floor.
This led us to now, the aftermath of a young man emerging from a walk-on to being interviewed on National Television after knocking off the No. 1 team in the land for the first time in program history.
This journey for Benson has been fun to watch as a fan. It’s been incredible watching him from the eyes of someone that wants to coach the game one day. His rise has been very refreshing to watch. The walk-on that has helped lead this group of young, really talented newcomers to a huge victory over the best team in the land.
As Coach Beard said, “Don’t ever underestimate a guy from Arkansas”.