Congratulations to the 13U Bay State Jaguars Girls on winning the 2012 GymRat Challenge.  The tournament organizers had the following to say about the 13U Jaguars in their Tournament Summary:


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — The Bay State Jaguars’ 13-under age-bracket championship of the 8th annual GymRat CHALLENGE girls’ basketball AAU tournament might have been earned on Father’s Day,  but it was most definitely both a celebration of and a tribute to a mom’s influence.

Kim (Kelley) Benzan, a standout point guard at Holy Cross from 1984-1987, now coaches the Jaguars’ program, a team that includes a budding approximation of herself.

That would be daughter Katie Benzan, a slightly built 5-foot-4 dynamo point guard whose feisty on-court leadership, floor generalship and ability to also produce some points on her own can be recognized as a chip-off-the-old-block image of her mom.

It’s more than mere genes, though, that has helped the younger Benzan become a budding standout on the court. Being around mom, who recently resigned as the varsity coach of the Needham (Mass.) girls’ team in order to have more time to watch her daughter play, was a clinic-like experience for Katie.

“She has been around basketball, through me, her whole life,” said the elder Benzan. “And, she has developed a terrific basketball IQ. She always sat behind our bench, and she’d often be trying to give me some instruction. By the time she was eight years old, she’d be whispering things in my ear, during games. Things like `Time to get out of that 1-3-1 zone.’ She is a real student of the game.”

Katie Benzan’s work running the Jaguars on the court here helped lift the Wellseley, Mass.-based squad to a 45-36 victory over the Boston Show Stoppers in the division’s championship contest Sunday at the Saratoga Recreation Center.

Annie Barrett led the winners with 12 points in the contest, while Benzan added 11 points and several nifty assists.

Mostly, though, the youthful point guard ensured her team played as a unit. Her all-around work throughout the event resulted in her being named the division’s MVG – Most Valuable GymRat.

“Mostly I tried to make sure everyone gets open shots,” said Benzan, about her play.

“She’s always trying to make the right plays,” said mom/coach Kim Benzan. “She plays with a lot of intensity. She’s a vocal leader. If someone isn’t doing the right thing, she’s not afraid to tell them.”

The younger Benzan is quick to recognize the positive influence of having a mom whose playing career is one she would like to emulate.

“It helps a lot to have a mom who played the same position as I do,” she said. “She’s always giving me tips here or there. We talk after games and she tells me if I made the right reads and decisions on plays. She helps me work on my on-court IQ, and she helps me be a leader.”

The coach said there’s more to her team than a daughter who is already a standout point guard.

“We’ve got a team that does everything well,” said Kim Benzan. “I’m fortunate in that I’ve coached most of these girls since they were in fifth grade, and have moved along with them.

“The kids know that we stress team play, rebounding and defense. It’s not hard to get them to buy into those things, because they know that’s what I demand from them.”

That type of unselfish, winning style of basketball is what defined the elder Benzan a player during her own career.

And, now, those lessons are being passed down not only to an entire AAU team, but most directly to a daughter who is off to a good start of a basketball playing career that looks like it will continue to be reminiscent of her mom’s.


Katie Benzan (5-4 PG) Bay State Jaguars/Noble & Greenough H.S.: She showed true point-guard skills, rare for such a young player. A very smooth floor general that does a great job of controlling the tempo of the game. She is like a coach on the floor, which isn’t surprising considering the influence of her mother, a successful high school coach. She is a pass-first guard with tremendous court vision and decision-making ability. She gets teammates the ball at the perfect time. Also got into double figures in scoring in a number of games here. Just a true leader.


Vanessa Udoji (5-10 F) Baystate Jaguars/Northfield Mt. Hermon: A very athletic wing player that is at her best finishing around the basket. Her long arms allow her to play bigger than her listed size. She is a very mobile wing and is able to get up and down the floor with ease.


Annie Blackburn (6-3 C) Bay State Jaguars/Noble & Greenough H.S.

Annie Barrett (5-5 G) Baystate Jaguars/Brown, Buckingham & Nichols

Olivia Ware (5-10 F) Baystate Jaguars/Westwood