Pro basketball player Benally will speak at Bloomfield basketball camp
FARMINGTON — Bloomfield High School's girls basketball team will be holding a camp Monday, June 13 for students which will feature former Division 1 women's basketball player and current professional player Analyss Benally, who will serve as a guest speaker for the event.
The 24-year-old Benally, born and raised in Shiprock and currently living in Farmington, played her high school basketball in Wichita, Kansas before attending San Jose State University, where she played all four years, appearing in more than 80 games before graduating in 2021.
From there, Benally, a 5-foot, 7-inch guard, took her game to the next level by playing for Romania's Liga Nationala on the ClubulSportiv Municipal (CSM) Alexandria team, where she appeared in 27 games this past season, averaging nearly 10 points per game as a rookie and helping her team reach the Romanian Cup Semifinals before being eliminated on April 21.
Playing professional basketball, Benally achieved a career goal that too many female basketball players rarely experience.
According to a 2020 study conducted by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, it is estimated that 21 percent of draft-eligible Division I women's basketball players competed professionally (WNBA or internationally) in their first year after leaving college.
Of the nearly 400,000 high school students playing girls basketball across the country, only a bit more than four percent actually get to experience the challenge of playing college basketball.
"It's an important message to send to young girls in this area that no matter how hard the challenge is, you can achieve it," Benally said. "Native American girls are almost forgotten. We don't grow up seeing too many girls from this area going on to do the things I wanted to do."
Benally hopes her message and her experiences will motivate kids to follow through on their dreams.
"Hopefully seeing someone from this area who's actually played at the professional level will motivate another to make sure I'm not the last girl from this area to do it," Benally said.
Benally was playing basketball most of her life, and was anticipating playing locally at the high school level. At the age of 11, Benally and her family relocated after older sister, Patience, was recruited to play college basketball in Kansas.
"When I found out we were moving to Kansas, I was a little disappointed because I wanted to have that experience of playing at home in front of my own people," Benally said. "But playing in Kansas was a great experience, and I fit in very well out there."
As a senior at Heights High School, Benally was one of the leading scorers on the team in 2016 when the team finished the season with a record of 15-6, averaging more than 13 points per game.
"It was a different experience," Benally said of playing high school basketball in Kansas. "The training and the coaching was very different from what I was getting used to in New Mexico, but it was a necessary change for where I was headed."
Benally was recruited by the University of New Mexico when attending high school, but was told she would have to work her way up the system.
San Jose State offered her an opportunity to play right away.
"That was a big motivator for me," Benally said. "I felt I was ready to play and to contribute right away."
Benally's collegiate career included a trip to the Mountain West Conference postseason tournament semifinals during her junior year in the 2019-20 season. The Spartans opened the tournament winning over the University of Nevada-Las Vegas before being eliminated by Fresno State.
Playing professionally in Romania was an eye-opening experience for the local product.
"The chance to play professionally really came about because I worked with an agent, Valentina Fabbri, who found a perfect place for me," Benally said. "It taught me a lot about myself and my game, and it was something I really needed."
Benally will be joined at the camp by her father Brian, who serves as an assistant coach for the Bobcats girls basketball team. During the all-day event, Benally will tell of her journey from Shiprock to Eastern Europe, as well as provide instruction and motivation for those who seek to achieve success both on and off the court.
"Getting kids out of the house, and keeping them involved in sports or whatever it is that they'd like to be doing," Benally said. "That's the real message I want to send, is that all of this is possible, even from out here."
The camp is free of charge and runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. to third grade through 12th grade students, but space is limited. For more information about the camp, contact head coach Brady Rivers at (757) 532-2139.
Steve Bortstein can be reached via email at SBortstein@Gannett.com, via Twitter @DTSBortstein or on the phone at (505) 635-2680. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.