Bentiu drives to the hoop

A Slam Dunk

In his final season at UND, Bentiu Panoam, ’21, ’22, started all 31 games, achieving his dream of playing NCAA Division I basketball.

However, for Bentiu, the real win of his basketball journey is the education he acquired along the way.

“I’ve always been surrounded by good people making sure I was locked in on school,” Bentiu said. “That will lead me to wherever I end up because playing basketball will stop.”

Bentiu’s connection to basketball didn’t end with his playing days. After earning his MBA from UND in 2022, UND Athletics hired him as Director of Basketball Operations. “I like being around numbers and sports, and I’m doing both of those now,” Bentiu said.  

Here, he brings his expertise in finance and his love of basketball to a position that keeps him close to the court.

Playing at UND was a great experience. I met great people and had great teammates.

Bentiu’s Game Plan

Bentiu grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, as one of 10 children to South Sudanese immigrants. “We all love playing basketball and we worked out together when we were kids,” he said. “We’re super competitive.”

Bentiu was a standout player at Bartlett High School in Anchorage, earning all-state honors and being named Cook Inlet Conference Player of the Year. To prepare for college play, Bentiu attended Impact Academy in Las Vegas. He financed his training by working 16-hour days in a fishing cannery over the summer.

After he played one year at Northwest Kansas Tech, UND recruited Bentiu. In his first two years, the point guard played sparingly. He got his chance against in-state rival NDSU in his third year and started 42 consecutive games to end his career.

“Playing at UND was a great experience. I met great people and had great teammates,” he said.

Bentiu, the first in his family to get a four-year college degree, used his fifth year of NCAA eligibility to pursue a master’s degree. “After I got my finance degree and still had a year to play, I thought, ‘Why not get my MBA? It’ll put me in a good position for jobs.’”

For Bentiu and his siblings, basketball is a way to get an education. His older brother and sister both played junior college basketball. A younger brother will transfer from Tulane University to play for UND in the fall. “He’s following my lead – being a good basketball player and student,” Bentiu said. “He’s just making it happen.