Ben Bentil is no stranger to travel. The Ghana native has been around the world and back thanks to his amazing basketball talent.
It’s been a long journey for Bentil since the six-foot-nine-inch hoopster first left his hometown of Sekondi-Takoradi. From academic basketball leagues in the US to pro ranks in China and Europe, he has pursued basketball across the globe.
Numerous Africans are playing in the NBA, however, Bentil holds a special distinction. His stellar career on the hardcourt includes a stint as the first Ghanaian player to ever appear in the NBA.
Bentil’s career has no end in sight. The 25-year-old currently plays for Panathinaikos of the Greek Basket League and Euroleague.
From Ghana to the US
Bentil’s precocious athletic ability earned him international attendance at an early age, which provided the fledgling star with opportunities to advance his sports career.
One of Bentil’s more aggressive pursuers was the prestigious Haverford School in Pennsylvania, a learning institution with a history of producing pro-level athletes. Bentil heeded the call. In 2010, he relocated to the US to study and play sports on a scholarship at Haverford, where his skills on the court quickly developed during his year of attendance.
Soon, the Ghanaian craved a new challenge and transferred to St. Andrew’s School in Middletown, Delaware. Although Bentil excelled at basketball and soccer for the St. Andrew’s Cardinals, hoops proved to be his ticket to the next level.
A College Star is Born
US college recruiting services Rivals and Scout pegged Bentil as one of the top-100 basketball players in the class of 2014. The designation grabbed the attention of NCAA college programs, including Bentil’s eventual choice–Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island.
Bentil made an immediate impact as a freshman for the Providence Friars. The big man started 23 of 34 games while averaging 6.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 21.5 playing minutes per game.
He achieved a tremendous sophomore campaign in 2016, earning conference honors as a First-team All-Big East selection and being named Big East Most Improved Player. That season, he led the Big East in four scoring categories: points per game (21.1), rebounds per game (7.7), field goals (246), and free throws (194).
In other highlights, Bentil posted 31 points and 13 rebounds in a January overtime win at eventual NCAA champion Villanova. He scored a career-best 42 points against Marquette several weeks later.
Bentil forewent his final two years at Providence and declared eligibility for the 2016 NBA Draft after the Friars were eliminated in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
The First Ghanian in the NBA
The Boston Celtics saw Bentil’s potential and selected him with the 21st pick of the second round (51st overall) in the June draft. While making the pros was cause for celebration, he wouldn’t stay with the Celtics for long.
Bentil appeared in three preseason games for Boston before jumping to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, the NBA Development League affiliate of the Indiana Pacers. After playing a single game with the Mad Ants, he seized an opportunity in mid-November to join the Xinjiang Flying Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association–Asia’s answer to the NBA.
Eager to prove himself at the game’s highest levels, Bentil enjoyed a breakout stint with the Flying Tigers while averaging 24.3 points and 8.5 rebounds per contest over 11 games. He returned to the Mad Ants in January 2017 before earning a trip to the NBA within weeks.
Bentil then inked a 10-day contract with the Dallas Mavericks. On March 1, 2017, he officially became the first Ghana-born player in the NBA in his debut game against the Atlanta Hawks. He appeared in two more NBA contests with Dallas.
Despite a short stay, Bentil’s time at the height of North American basketball came with a highly celebrated franchise. The Mavericks, which are owned by globally famous billionaire Mark Cuban, are a popular pick at US sportsbooks with NBA betting, and one of the most competitive teams in the league.
Finding Stability in Greece
Bentil again spent the 2017-18 season as a globetrotter, splitting games between the NBA Summer League, Champagne Châlons-Reims of France’s Pro A league, and Bilboa Basket in Spain.
The proud Ghanaian has called Greece home since September 2018. He played in 35 games for Peristeri in 2018-19 while averaging 12.5 points and 6.7 rebounds. As usual, Bentil sensed he could contribute more and joined his current club, Panathinaikos, in June 2019. The move proved fortuitous when the team won the Greek Basket League title in May 2020.
Bentil finds himself in the midst of another championship run with Panathinaikos in 2021. The team sits second on the Greek Basket League table entering the final stretch of the season.
Naturally, the hardworking hoopster from Sekondi-Takoradi wouldn’t have it any other way.
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