Katie Benzan’s time with the Washington Mystics likely will be short, but that hasn’t stopped the guard from making the most of the moment.
The 5-foot-6 rookie was signed to a training camp contract after going undrafted out of Maryland. While she was released just hours before the opening game, she was picked up on a replacement contract.
When Benzan made her WNBA debut for the Mystics on May 8 against Minnesota, she became the first Dominican to play in the league.
“It’s been a lot of fun, but it’s also been a bit crazy,” Benzan said Thursday. “I just appreciate all of the support and love that I’ve received both technologically but also in person with the locker room, the warm embraces that I’ve experienced here. I cannot be more grateful. Even with this coaching staff, I always get pats on the back, high-fives. That constant physical touch really shows their love and support for what I have within this organization.”
Mystics forward Alysha Clark went so far as to coin the term “Benzanity” for the guard’s play, comparing her to former NBA player Jeremy Lin.
“I was joking earlier and I was like, ‘Do you remember the Linsanity era in New York? What about Benzanity?’ You know what I’m saying?” she said. “I know how hard it is just to make it in this league. It took me three tries to even be able to get a spot.
“So to see a young player come in and just be in the moment, and take advantage and enjoy being out here, and then making the impact that she’s made and seeing the work behind the scenes that she puts in, I love that.”
While Benzan clocked in for just two minutes and recorded just one assist in her first game against the Lynx, she contributed 12 points and two rebounds in 15 minutes in Tuesday’s 89-76 win against the Las Vegas Aces. In that game, she went 3-of-4 from behind the 3-point line, continuing to flash the range she was known for in college.
Following Tuesday’s win, Myisha Hynes-Allen called Benzan “awesome,” and Ariel Atkins agreed. But Benzan’s performance also didn’t come as a surprise to those that have been there with her in practice.
“I could keep talking about Katie,” Hynes-Allen said. “I remember when she first walked in the training room. I’m like, ‘Who is this?’ And I find out she was the leading 3-point percentage [shooter] in college basketball. I was like, ‘Oh, she a shooter, let’s see it.’ And she was going swack, swack, swack, swack, swack.”
“Every day,” added Atkins.
.@Mooks_22 was asked about Katie Benzan after tonight’s win. #Mystics25 | #WNBA pic.twitter.com/YQexlhCJJf— The NBS Sports Hour (@NBSSportsHour) May 11, 2022
.@Mooks_22 was asked about Katie Benzan after tonight’s win. #Mystics25 | #WNBA pic.twitter.com/YQexlhCJJf
Yet while the Mystics have nothing but positive things to say about Benzan, her days with the team seem numbered.
Clark has not played since March 2021, when she suffered a Lisfranc injury while playing overseas in France, but she is expected to play Friday for the Mystics. As a result, Stephanie Jones will be released from her replacement contract with the team.
So Benzan, who set a program record for career 3-point percentage at Maryland (47.4 percent) and led the NCAA in 3-point percentage in 2021, will get another opportunity. But with Kennedy Burke expected to arrive in Washington by May 16 from her overseas stint in Spain, Benzan could be next on the chopping block.
Still, she tries not to let the circumstances phase her.
“As a smaller guard, the odds have always been against my favor,” Benzan said. “Ever since I was growing up I’ve had haters and doubters, doubting that I could play at the college level. I wasn’t worried about the odds. I knew when I got this chance I was going to go out, have fun and compete no matter if it was a couple of days or a couple of weeks.
“I can’t control the business side of the WNBA. So I’m just focusing on what I can do each and every day.”
While Mike Thibault has said he wishes he could keep Benzan – amid a larger outcry for larger rosters around the WNBA – her time with the Mystics could come to an end soon. But if she continues to make a name for herself, her time in the WNBA could just be beginning.