Long hair, wild energy: Avery Benson brings his Texas Tech passion to Texas with Chris Beard
Benson admitted that transferring to Texas made him nervous: ‘I couldn’t be happier in a place like this.’
Avery Benson has the long hair, the tattoos and beard, and suddenly, you think all this guy needs is a guitar. Benson could be a country superstar with three chords and the truth.
“When are you going to cut that?,” Texas guard Jase Febres asked his new teammate. “Will you ever cut that?”
“Yeah, I will,” Benson said while running his hands through an ultra-long brown mane. “It gets in the way a lot, but I’m currently engaged so it’s got to wait until after the big day. Once we’re hitched, she can’t leave. As long as I cut my hair, it’s all good.”
Texas players were used to seeing Benson running wild for Texas Tech. He was the Red Raiders’ emotional catalyst the last three seasons. Now, Benson is wearing burnt orange after transferring to UT to follow Chris Beard — the one coach who’s believed in him from the get-go.
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“The story with Avery is sometimes misunderstood,” Beard said. “Yes, we’re glad he’s here for leadership. Yes, we’re glad he’s here because he’s my guy. But don’t get it twisted. He’s at the University of Texas. He’s a good basketball player.”
Start from the beginning.
Benson bounced around in high school in Arkansas wearing a hat and cowboy boots practically everywhere when not playing basketball. As Beard tells the story, he first saw Benson at the Peach Jam basketball tournament while scouting Arkansas players as the coach at Arkansas-Little Rock.
“Avery was involved in a collision on the court. It was pretty heavy, man. They had to stop the game,” Beard said. “There was thick blood on the floor. People in the stands (looked away), people are getting up and leaving the gym. Avery laid there for a while, and they got him up. Couldn’t mop up the blood with just one towel because it was so thick.
“He’s over there, and the game starts back up and the same kid’s in there. Avery’s back in the game, missing like two teeth.”
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Beard turned to assistant Wes Flanigan and said, “This will be our first (scholarship) offer at Little Rock.”
Beard got the Texas Tech job, and the dynamics changed. In the Big 12, coaches are recruiting different types of athletes than they would at Little Rock. Still, Benson agreed to come to Lubbock as a walk-on.
“We’re going to come down there, and we’ll bet on ourselves. We’ll get one sooner or later,” Benson told Beard at the time. “And that’s exactly what he did.”
Benson scored 11 points total as a freshman during the 2018-19 season at Tech. He worked a job in construction for extra money. Then as a sophomore, the Red Raider Nation went wild as Benson scored 10 points and grabbed four rebounds in a 70-57 win over No. 1 Louisville.
Benson averaged 1.8 points as a sophomore and 1.3 as a junior. But his contributions to the Tech program in energy and spirit were unmeasurable as the walk-on became a scholarship player.
“He took a chance on me coming out of high school,” Benson said of Beard. “I was, you know, just like 165 pounds. White boy. Had no business really being there, but he saw something in me, took a chance on me at Tech. So, when he came here, it was my turn to return the favor.
“I took a chance on him in a place that I have no idea about,” Benson added. “It’s uncomfortable. So far, it’s paid tenfold. I couldn’t be happier in a place like this.”
Benson said he phoned new Tech coach Mark Adams and athletic director Kirby Hocutt to tell them about his transfer plans. “I definitely owed it to them, and they deserved it and I respect them greatly,” Benson said.
Now at Texas, Benson can carry Beard’s message throughout the locker room. He can convince skeptical players to buy into a defensive-first mentality and sell Beard to recruits.
“I mean, you better be ready to work,” Benson said. “A big point of his whole (initial) press conference is he’s here to win and so are we. It’s not like we sit around all day.”
Benson gave a thumbnail description of what the Longhorns do “sunup to sundown.” He’s all in, for sure.
In describing the coach, “I mean, that fire breathing dragon’s the real deal,” Benson said.