Rookie Benningfield, Part II
Fever rookie Jenni Benningfield has appeared in three games this season, scoring her first pro basket in a loss at Seattle, and appearing at Conseco Fieldhouse for the first time while hosting the L.A. Sparks. A graduate of Vanderbilt University and a 2004 draft pick of the Charlotte Sting, Benningfield hails from nearby Louisville. After signing with the Fever late during the 2004 season, she spent the 2004-05 offseason in Spain where she played overseas with roommate and former Fever teammate Kate Starbird.
Benningfield sat down recently with Fever media intern and website contributor Joe Gombach to discuss her first season in the WNBA. Below is Part II of Benningfieldís interview. Part I was posted on Sunday, July 3.
Fever Website: You had a good college career and going into the WNBA, you were drafted and then waived by Charlotte Ė before being signed by Indiana. Last year, you never made the active roster. What was that like emotionally, and what did you do to try and stay positive and stay focused?
Jenni Benningfield: ďI think that everything happens for a reason. Obviously, I was disappointed when I got waived by Charlotte. I kept working in the summer time, and it paid off when I got picked up by the Fever. Although I didnít get any playing time, it was a great experience to get in and practice against veterans and learn. I knew that I was going overseas [in the offseason]. I learned what it was actually going to take to make a team. It was very motivating. Once Charlotte waived me, I was even more determined to get on a team.Ē
FW: Did you ever think that maybe the WNBA wasnít in your future?
JB: ďEverybody has doubts, but thatís a dream Iíve had since I was little. I wanted to give it another shot and see what happened. You never know what will happen, so I just wanted to be prepared.Ē
FW: Since there was no WNBA when you were a kid, did you see yourself playing after college?
JB: ďI always wanted to play in college, and there were people who played overseas. I thought that would give me a chance to see the world and play basketball at the same time.Ē
FW: How did you feel about making the team coming into this yearís training camp? Were you at all worried?
JB: ďI felt good. For one thing, Iíve been through training camp and kind of knew what to expect, even though that was with a different team. Also, being in practice the last month [of the 2004 season], I kind of knew what they wanted of the players and what they expected. I just focused on going out and having fun and just playing basketball. I feel like this year Iím more relaxed, and Iím just letting the game come to me. I felt more confident. I knew the people on the team better. Itís nice to know that youíre friends with them, and I think that helped. I just wanted to give it a shot and see what happened, and it worked out.Ē
FW: How do you feel about your role on the team this season? What do coaches and other players expect from you?
JB: ďIím just expected to do the little things, whether itís cheering hard on the bench or pushing people around and making them work really, really hard in practice. Everybody has their own role, and itís all about how you accept it. Iím willing to do whatever it takes. Iím happy to be on the team, but at the same time Iím going to be competitive because I want to get on the court too. Thatís the good thing about our team. Everybody understands their role and accepts it and helps each other. We donít have any problems. Our team is so close.Ē
FW: How did it feel to play in your first regular season game in Seattle?
JB: ďIt was exciting. Itís funny. I wasnít really nervous, just really excited. I remember as soon as I stepped on the court, I was like, ĎWow. This is it.í I played in the preseason, but thatís not the real thing. I got chills. I just remember flashing back to when I was at home watching WNBA games and thinking, ĎThatís what I want to do.í When I stepped out there it was awesome. I felt like I was a part of it.Ē
FW: You played in your first home game in Conseco Fieldhouse against the Los Angeles Sparks. How did that feel? Was some of the excitement gone?
JB: ďNo. I was pumped. It made it special because my parents and my brother were here. Any time I go in, Iím going to go all out. It was great that my parents and brother were able to experience it with me.Ē
FW: The team is doing well this year. How do you feel about the teamís chemistry?
JB: ďItís been great. Everybody competes. A team is only as good as its weakest player, and no one on our team wants to be the weakest player. We compete. We make each other better. We stay after practice and shoot. We talk to each other and make sure that everyone is feeling good. Everyone has their ups and downs and thatís the great thing. Whenever someone has a bad day, it seems like someone else picks up their game to balance it out. Itís been great. Like I said before, everyone accept their role, so thereís no drama. Everyone just does what they want to do because we all have the same goal. Weíre having fun, we get along, and itís been fun, and I think it will continue to go well.Ē
FW: Who are you closest with on the team?
JB: For the most part Natalie [Williams] and Tully [Bevilaqua], but itís funny because when we go on road trips we all go to the same places. There arenít really cliques. You hear of so many teams that have problems because there are cliques. Itís cool. Outside of practice you get to know your teammates better. People donít just stay to themselves. They try to get to know each other.Ē
FW: Being from Louisville, had you been to Indianapolis before?
JB: ďYeah, I had been to Indianapolis before. I had been to a Pacers game and a Fever game. I actually played here when I was on the Kentucky All-Stars. I love the gym. I knew what kind of excitement the fans would bring, so I was excited to be a part of it.Ē
FW: Are there any restaurants or other places around town that you like to visit?
JB: ďI like to go to the Circle because it has wireless Internet. I like to go out there and just sit in the sun. I also like to sit by the pool at the apartments and just relax.Ē
FW: How do you like living in Indianapolis?
JB: ďItís good. I live in the apartments near the other players. Somebody takes a night to cook, and we go over there and eat and watch a movie or just hang out. I kind of like that. Itís like a family. Everyone in Indianapolis has been nice to me.Ē