Benningfield Debuts in Fever Scrimmage

By John Clayton | August 26, 2004
Just a few days ago Jenni Benningfield was waiting for a call that would land her back in the WNBA.

By Wednesday night, Benningfield was on the court at Conseco Fieldhouse with her new teammates, taking part in a scrimmage that was open to Fever season-ticket holders and sponsors. The intrasqud scrimmage was held as the team prepares for the resumption of the WNBA season after the Olympics. The Fever return to action at Washington on Sept. 1 and host the Mystics at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 4.

“This is a tremendous opportunity and I’m so very, very happy to be here,” said Benningfield, who was selected in the second round (No. 22 overall) of April’s WNBA Draft by Charlotte, but released during the preseason. “It’s a great chance to work with this team and try to add something to the team. It’s been fun so far and I know it’s going to be an awesome experience.”

Benningfield got her first taste of action with the Fever by scoring six points on 3 of 3 shooting for the White team in Wednesday night’s 20-minute scrimmage. The Blue team, led by Niele Ivey’s 14 points on 5 of 5 shooting, defeated the White 43-27. Rookie Ebony Hoffman led the White team with nine points.


It was a fine welcome back for the 6-3 forward, who was named All-SEC and a third-team All-American as a junior at Vanderbilt. Injuries, including a stress fracture in her foot, dogged her throughout her senior season at Vanderbilt and she is still attempting to return to the form that made her a star for the Commodores. Even with the injury-interrupted senior season, Benningfield was one of the top 3-point shooters in the history of the Commodore program.

“I can play outside and inside – they say I’m a versatile player,” said Benningfield, a native of Louisville, Ky. “Whatever they need me to do, I’m going to be able to do. . . . I like to bring energy to the game and show the passion I have.”


The availability of Benningfield coupled with an empty roster spot and a need for depth by the Fever made her signing an easy call for Fever Chief Operating Officer Kelly Krauskopf. Benningfield is signed through the end of the 2004 season, but the Fever could retain her rights for 2005 if the staff likes what it sees.

“We’re always looking for depth and we’ve had a couple of injuries with Astou Ndiaye-Diatta’s knee and Kelly (Schumacher) turned her ankle,” said Krauskopf. “My philosophy is that you can never have too many big people. . . . She is a rookie, but she’s a player that we did keep our eye on and watch a little bit. It’s an opportunity for us to see her at the end of the season and get to know her a little bit better and see what she can do.”

The events for Fever Season-Ticket Holders in August also included a "Read to Achieve" program for kids on Aug. 23 on the Conseco Fieldhouse Main Court. Read-to-Achieve is a year-round, league-wide initiative that promotes the values of reading and literacy and encourages families and adults to read regularly with young children.

Here are some highlights from the program:

  • Kate Starbird read "There was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly" by Pam Adams
  • Astou Ndiaye-Diatta read "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" by Laura Joffe Numeroff
  • Astou and Kate discovered that three of young guests, originally from the Philippines, spoke Spanish. (One of the girls had only been here for a month). Immediately after the discovery, Astou and Kate requested a book in Spanish and decided to read it to all the children.
  • The book was "Clifford Goes Back to School" by Norman Bridwell - it was the Spanish version
  • Kate and Astou took turns reading pages in the book, as the children attentively listened (for real)
  • After the book, Kate mentioned the importance of learning another language and said it was easier to start at a young age.
  • The reading time was followed with a drawing for autographed items - these included team autographed shirts and notebooks.
  • The event concluded with all children receiving a goodie bag filled with books, including one autographed book signed by a Fever player, Read to Achieve items, Fever trinkets and bookmarks.
  • Spanish-written books along with English-written books were placed for the three Spanish-speaking girls.