Grace College hosted the NCCAA National Basketball Championship banquet at Warsaw Community Church Tuesday night, welcoming all 16 teams that will compete in the four-day tournament.

The event featured a meal, awards and a keynote speaker with deep roots in Indiana and basketball alone.

Kent Benson, a New Castle native, spoke to the student-athletes about what helped him achieve his dreams and gave the young men and women a challenge on how to be great.

Benson has a long list of accomplishments from his youth days to adult years. He won the 1973 Indiana Mr. Basketball for New Castle High School. He was a member of the 1976 undefeated and national champion Indiana Hoosiers, and he scored over 1,700 career points.

In the 1977 NBA draft, Benson was selected as the first-overall pick by the Milwaukee Bucks and played 11 seasons in the league with four different teams.

The father of four and grandfather to seven started out his speech by reading from Ecclesiastes 9:10, “whatever thy hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” Benson mentioned this verse to show how people need to use their abilities as best as they can and to not waste them.

The two-time NCAA All-American listed six things that has helped him in his quest for excellence, not only on the basketball court, but in the game of life.

“You as tremendous athletes have an awesome responsibility to use your God-given talents and abilities to glorify God,” he said.

Benson follows six words to be excellent: desire, determination, dedication, discipline, direction and decision.

“We have to have a desire to be the best that we can be,” the 1976 NCAA tournament MVP said. “A desire that supercedes just wanting to be the best. A desire that becomes a magnificent obsession. If you don’t (have it), I encourage you to get that obsession to be the best.”

He went on to explain the other five words he uses in his life to be a better person and recalls having a study hall monitor, who was also an athletic trainer, in high school that helped him realize his true goals. Benson was caught drawing a picture in class and not studying. He was a drawing a picture of his future, a basketball player wearing the number one on it, with “IU” scribbled across the chest.

The teacher sat down with Benson and talked about what he needs to do to become that player drawn in the picture. The six words came up during the small lecture and motivated the basketball standout to become a better athlete.

After speaking about the six words he lives by, he gave the student-athletes a challenge.

“Make a decision to strive for excellence as you move forward in whatever it is that your hand finds to do and do it with all of your might,” he said.

“An Indiana basketball player never realizes when the odds are stacked against him. He can only be defeated by a clock that happens to run out of time.”

The NCCAA Championships begin today at the Manahan Orthopaedic Capital Center and run through Saturday. A total games will be played in the four days, with each team playing in three. The No. 4 seed Grace College womens basketball team will play at 5:15 p.m. today against fifth-seeded Emmanuel College.