One of these nights, Journey Benjamin will cost her coach, Michael Nightingale, his job. But it’s not because she plays poorly. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
“I consider Journey to be an assistant coach who plays due to her high basketball IQ,” said Nightingale, the head coach of Washtenaw Community College’s women’s club basketball team. “She’s able to take a big picture of the game and position herself to where she’s needed for her teammates to get her the ball.”
Benjamin competes well enough that she’s more than a long shot to get a good look as a walk-on at another school when she returns to her native Florida, according to Nightingale.
“I’d love to be a walk-on at Florida State,” she said.
While Benjamin dreams of one day being a Seminole, she realizes that an education is necessary regardless of how basketball turns out.
“Basketball is something I can do either for fun or if I decide I want to go further with it, I have the availability to,” said Benjamin, 21, of Ann Arbor, a radiography major.
Radiography was not a random choice for Benjamin. Having suffered two serious knee injuries in her basketball career, she chose her major because of a “fascination with broken bones.”
Her left knee has worn cartilage around the kneecap and in her right knee, she tore her ACL. But Benjamin didn’t let the injuries slow down her basketball career.
She’s also a crusader for a certain cause.
Typically sporting pink basketball shoes, pink under-armour and a pink knee brace, Benjamin plays to highlight breast cancer awareness. Her backpack has embroidered, “RIP Auntie: Sept. 25, 1966-Jan. 26, 2010.”
“My aunt, who was my life-line while growing up, lost her battle in 2010 and whenever I play, it’s in remembrance of her,” she said. “It’s just all about supporting breast cancer awareness whether it’s female or male.”
Benjamin learned a lot from her aunt.
“She taught me everything. She taught me to control my anger, patience and that there’s always a silver lining, even if you can’t see it,” she said.
While her basketball acumen and flashy attire stand out, it’s not the only quality that gets her noticed.
“She’s my 3-point shooter always. Her shot, however, is a little different,” Nightingale said. “She shoots with a really high arc. The ball is almost hitting the ceiling sometimes – that’s how high her arc is, and it’s something I haven’t tried to correct because it works.”
Although her shot is unconventional, it was born out of necessity.
“I used to have really tall brothers growing up, so I had to figure out how to get the ball over their jumping ability and into the basket,” she laughed.
Point guard Colby Griffin, 20, a business major of Ypsilanti, thinks that Benjamin has a great future in the game beyond Washtenaw’s club team.
“Her shot is unbelievable. She gets the game,” Griffin said. “She knows where to go without being told and how to play certain people, how not to play certain people.”
Nightingale also admires Benjamin’s work ethic, the critical skill in her toolkit that will take her wherever she wants to go.
“She’s the type of player that works on her craft constantly,” he said. “She spends a considerable amount of time working on her basketball skills, and does that all by herself.”