USA Pan American Games Workout Update

It's been a busy 24 hours for Vanderbilt senior forward Jenni Benningfield and her teammates on the USA Pan American Games women's basketball.

On Thursday, the twelve members of the team began to arrive in Boston from their scattered locations around the country to begin two weeks of training before the Games start on August 2 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

After the first team practice Thursday night at Northeastern University, there was a little free time for dinner with friends or family. Then Friday morning, it was back to the gym for a 3-hour practice. Then lunch, a bus ride out to the Reebok International Headquarters, and then practice again.

This time, however, they weren't alone. They were joined by the USA team that will compete in the Junior World Championship for Young Women in Croatia at the end of the month. In contrast to the Pan Am team, the USA Young Women have been training since July 7 and have already played two "friendly" games against Brazil and Australia.

For Vanderbilt fans, the presence of the Young Women's team brought another familiar face to the gym. Ohio State Head Coach Jim Foster, who is head coach of the Young Women's team, left Vanderbilt in the spring of 2002 after an 11-year tenure as the head coach at Vanderbilt.

For Benningfield, there was something else familiar about the combined practice. Instead of playing a full-blown scrimmage after only two practices, the two squads instead played "possessions."

"This was something that Coach Foster used to do at Vanderbilt," said Benningfield after practice on Friday.

"You have five-on-five, and the offense starts at half-court. Then you run transition. Once the defense gets the ball, they have the chance to go on offense. They go down the floor, still five-on-five, and the offense gets a turn to come back.

"Basically, it's up and back. You have offense and defense. You have transition offense and transition defense, and vice versa. You get to work on a little bit of everything you'd use in a game.

"Each team does it seven times. The offense will go seven times in a row, and then you'll switch and the defense will go seven times in a row. And you keep score. And it's a very competitive thing."

And on this particular occasion, the Pan Am team's 70-67 victory was also a confidence booster. The weekend's hectic schedule calls for "friendly games" against the Australian and Brazilian Young Women's teams on Saturday and Sunday, and with so little prior practice, the team wasn't sure what to expect.

"This gives us a lot of confidence going in," said Benningfield. "We didn't really know what to expect, but it's positive thoughts now.

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Photos by Whitney D for VandyMania. Click on thumbnail to see a larger image. Top Stories