Women's basketball update

Whitney D. provides an update on the Vanderbilt women's basketball program, including roster notes, recent facility improvements, and a Jenni Benningfield update.

The Women's NCAA Basketball Selection Committee announced on Thursday that Vanderbilt's Memorial Gym has been selected as one of the sites for the first and second rounds of the 2006 NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament;

The first- and second-rounds for the 2005 and 2006 tournaments will be held at eight sites with eight teams at each location. This marks a change in the format of the tournament. Previously, the first- and second-rounds were held at 16 sites with only four teams at each location.

The change in format makes the women's tournament more similar in format to the men's tournament, with two teams advancing from each first round-site. However, the women's tournament still allows teams to play on their home courts.

The reasoning behind the change in format is to facilitate logistics for television coverage since ESPN now televises every game in the women's tournament, to increase the number of neutral sites and to reduce expenses.


Summer evaluation period begins.The July evaluation period for women's basketball began this week. In June, college coaches can make their first phone calls to prospects who have completed their junior year in high school, but they can't travel to observe prospects in action. So when the July evaluation period arrives, the coaching staff begins a three-week whirlwind of travel to camps and tournaments across the country. Official visits can begin when the fall semester begins, and home visits take place in September.


New players arriving. When the second session of summer school begins July 13, two new faces are expected to be seen around campus. Katie Eggers, a native of Nelson, New Zealand, is a 6'1 guard forward who will be entering Vanderbilt as a freshman. Liz Sherwood, a 6'4 center from Castle Rock, Colorado, has transferred to Vanderbilt from the University of Connecticut. In accord with NCAA regulations, Sherwood will sit out the 2004-05 season, after which she will have three remaining years of eligibility.


Locker room renovation. The women's locker room in Memorial is getting a facelift. Renovation began this week and will take 5-7 weeks to complete. The men's locker room will also be renovated, with work beginning in August.

Jenni's back in town. Former Vanderbilt star Jenni Benningfield has returned to Nashville for the summer. After being released by the Charlotte Sting just before the WNBA season began, Benningfield spent a couple of weeks at home in Louisville while assessing her options for the future, then returned to Nashville to work at Vanderbilt's basketball camps in the month of June.

After deciding against an offer to play volleyball at the University of Louisville for her fifth year of NCAA eligibility, Benningfield set her sights on professional basketball in Europe. After researching the possibilities and narrowing the field to Greece and Spain, she signed a contract with Club Estudiantes de Baloncesto in Madrid.

"The competition's supposed to be really good," Benningfield told VandyMania, "and the team's supposed to be good. I have no idea how much playing time I'll, but I think it's a step for me to take and see how that goes.

"And who knows, this might be the only time I do it, but I don't want to look back 20 years from now, and go, why didn't I do this when I've always dreamt about doing it? So the opportunity came, and I just felt like Spain was the best fit for me personally."

Benningfield will join the team on September 1. In the meantime, she's in Nashville training and keeping her skills sharp in the regular pickup games in Memorial Gym. In addition, she's giving private lessons and still has some openings available. Anyone who's interested in further information can email whitneyd@aol.com.


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