Women’s basketball: Float like a butterfly, sting like a “T”

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Ohio senior Tenishia Benson talks about her career, her teammates and how she is shaping her legacy.

14.4 points per game…seven rebounds per game…46 percent from the field…

Senior guard/forward Tenishia Benson leads Ohio and ranks in the top ten in the Mid American Conference in all of these categories. Benson – known to players, coaches, and many fans as “T” – has been nothing short of a model of consistency for the Bobcats this season.

“Personally I think it’s the experience," Benson said. “As a fifth-year senior…knowing how games are, you have a little bit more insight, a little bit more maturity.”

"Tenishia is an outstanding basketball player," Akron head coach Jodi Kest said. The Zips are Ohio's next opponent, Thursday night at the Convocation Center. "She's played well against us every time we've played. Her work ethic is second-to-none. She's constantly rebounding, she's always moving without the ball. We're going to have to have a lot of different players try to contain her, but she's going to give a lot of teams in this conference problems because of her ability to play different positions."

The same could hardly be said about the rest of Ohio’s squad, however. After getting off to one of its best starts in recent memory, the team is now on a three-game losing streak with several key contributors recovering from injuries, including second leading scorer and rebounder Porsha Harris, and point guards Ashley Fowler and Kat Yelle.

But "T" has been through adversity before.

When asked to define her entire career in one word, Benson responded with “roller-coaster.”

It certainly has been a roller-coaster. After starting in 23 of 28 games as a freshman at the University of Cincinnati, Benson only played in 11 games her sophomore year while dealing with injuries. She would go on to miss the entire 2009-10 season due to NCAA Transfer rules before immediately stepping into a leadership role in an Ohio program that has been trying to rebuild since the 2007-08 season when it last finished above .500.

“I’ve been strapped in for five years, you know, going through ups and downs. I’ve been flipped over, upside down. It goes fast, and then it slows down, it speeds back up." Benson said.

Aside from "T"'s poetic nature as a speaker, she makes a lot of sense; she understands the game of basketball, and her coach, Semeka Randall believes her faith makes her a special player.

“She’s a warrior, she just stands firm on her word, she’s a living example,” Randall said. “You gotta respect a kid like that.”

Randall has no problem admitting she is a spiritual coach, and she believes Benson’s similar faith, commitment and determination set an example for young players like freshman Mariah Byard and sophomore Shavon Robinson.

“She’s going out there every day and she’s working hard, so they get to see what it means to totally commit yourself and buy into the program," Randall said.

Furthermore, even as the end of her career looms, "T" hasn’t checked out for a second.

“I’m a hundred percent strapped in on this ride, whether it looks good, bad, or ugly. This is it for me,” she said, before repeating herself. “This is it for me.”

This is it for "T". As much as the Bobcats have improved and competed this season, they are losing undoubtedly their best player after the 2011-12 campaign comes to an end.

“I’m a motivator, I’m an encourager…I’m calm,” "T" said, when asked about what she could give to her team going forward before she leaves. “The power and influence of my words.”

Benson’s roller-coaster career is coming to an end soon, but she is hoping to leave her teammates with something valuable that they can hold onto beyond this season – something more than 14 points, seven rebounds, and 46 percent from the field in Ohio’s 12 remaining regular season games.

“I can’t continue, physically, to be here later on, but my words can stick with [my teammates]. Possibly three years down the line, ‘I remember what "T" said to me three years ago.’ If that’s the extent, I’ve done my job.”