Texas State basketball player Brent Benson has played on a lot of courts in a lot of places between high school and college.
His basketball career has become more of a journey — one that has taken him more than 1,400 miles away from his hometown of Gainesville. On the way, he’s used his scoring ability from the 3-point line to leave legacies at the places he has played.
But when the 2004 Gainesville High grad comes back to town this holiday, he returns to the place where his journey, and his legacy, began.
"I love to come back to Gainesville. That’s where I’m from," Benson said. "You never forget where you’re from. I’ll always come back to Gainesville."
Benson is best remembered at home as one of the Red Elephants’ greatest players in school history. He holds the school record for single-season points (819), 3-pointers in a season (289), and 3-pointers in a game (10). The four-year Gainesville letterman was part of teams that won more than 20 games each year while he was in high school. He won a Lanierland title his sophomore season, and made four playoff appearances, including an elite eight berth his senior year.
Benson’s high school career is one fans will never forget.
"I was always pumped up for playing any team from Hall County, because any given night, any team could sneak up and get you," he said. "Everybody was ready to play Gainesville at that time."
Fast forward to 2008. Benson is still dropping jaws with his game on the court. But instead of hitting 3-pointer after 3-pointer against crosstown rival East Hall on any given Friday night in Hall County, he’s scoring 18 points against sixth-ranked Texas on Dec. 13.
"I’m having a lot of fun," Benson said. "A lot of hard work in the offseason is paying off."
This season has been a breakthrough year for Benson, especially from his favorite place to shoot, behind the arc. He is currently ranked fifth in the nation in 3-point percentage (53.2 percent) and seventh in the nation with 35 3-pointers. His 17.8 points per game leads his team, and he has scored in double figures in nine of 10 games, including a game-high 32 points and nine 3-pointers against Wyoming on Nov. 26.
"I like the 3-ball a lot," Benson said. "I just look at it as ‘I’m going to score,’ and if it’s a 3, I’ll take it."
But Benson hasn’t been owning the arc for the Bobcats since his freshman year. Before making the move to San Marcos, Texas, he played his freshman and sophomore season at Coastal Georgia College.
His presence was even stronger there. After two years with the Mariners, he left the junior college scene as second all-time in 3-pointers and a two-time first-team selection to the Georgia Junior College Athletic Association all-league team.
It was after those two dominating years that Benson had to make a tough decision to leave Georgia to pursue his basketball dreams, something that wouldn’t be an easy adjustment.
"It was a really big step for me," he said. "Coastal was four hours away from home, so I could go home anytime I wanted to.
"Texas was a different situation. I trusted my instincts to come out here and play, trusted the coach and his system, and just went for it."
The decision has turned out in Benson’s favor. Although he’s now four states away from home, playing at Texas State has pointed him toward a bright future, which includes a chance to play in the NBA.
"Right now, my options are wide open," Benson said. "After I graduate, I’m going to get an agent and take it from there.
"I’m not really focused on that right now, but my coaches are really looking forward to me and some other players playing professionally in the U.S. or overseas."
Should the NBA not be an option, Benson says he would be content with returning to Gainesville after earning his degree in kinesiology with a minor in business management next summer.
"I worked with some kids over the summer, and I really enjoyed it," he said. "So I’m looking to go into coaching."
If that’s the route he takes, Benson could see himself right back where he started, at Gainesville, to pick up where he left off with the Red Elephants. Only this time, he’d be a coach.
"I would love to do that," he said. "I would definitely look into going back to my roots."