This will be Benningfield's second professional season in the Liga Feminina, the highest level of women's professional basketball in Spain. In the winter of 2004-05, she played for the Club Estudiantes de Baloncesto in Madrid, leading the team in both scoring and rebounding with 16.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game.
"I know what to expect in the Spanish League, so I feel more
comfortable going back to there and playing again," Benningfield said. "I saw
what I could do in that type of league. I had offers to other places, but
I figured that Spain was probably the best fit for me at this point
There will be a big difference between this year and last, however.
After the Estudiantes'successful season, which featured their
first-ever appearance in the mid-season tournament and their second straight
trip to the playoffs, the team's head coach, Alberto Ortego, left the team
to take the head coaching position with Arranz Jopisa (formerly known
as Arranz Acinas) in Burgos.
Ortego wanted Benningfield for his new team and made her an offer.
After considering her alternatives, she signed on the dotted line. "I
already know what kind of philosophy he has and what he wants out of his
players," she said, "so that'll be good for me. It'll be a good
Besides the comfort level that familiarity with the coach and his
system offers, another factor in Benningfield's decision to go to a
different organization was the limited availability of the gym in Madrid.
The Estudiantes sponsor many different basketball teams of different
age levels and ability, but all the teams share a single gym for
practice. That means that gym time for team practice and individual workouts
was sharply limited.
"I loved Estudiantes and I loved Madrid," she said. "It couldn't have
been a better experience for me.
"But I think at the same time I want to be a part of a team that can
practice a lot more, to try to get to a higher level. Not that they
weren't at a high level, but I just want more. I want to be able to practice
more. I want to be able to improve on my game a lot more than I was
able to at Estudiantes because of the constraints of so many different
teams, gym time, and that kind of thing."
The fact that Kelly Schumacher, Benningfield's teammate on the Fever,
had played in Burgos last year and had a good experience there helped
her make the decision, too.
"She enjoyed it," said Beningfield. "The organization was good, the
people good. So I was like, I'll give it a shot."
With Indianapolis currently in second place in the WNBA's Eastern
Conference, there's a good chance that the Fever will extend their season by
making the play-offs. But even if they're playing in the championship
finals, Benningfield's contract provides for at least 10 days off before
she reports to Spain in late September.
Benningfield to return to Spain
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