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Bennett's choice of U of L goes against family loyalty

By James D. Horne jhorne@paducahsun.com

She probably didn't realize it when she made her verbal commitment to the University of Louisville over the summer, but Jasmine Bennett put her family among the split households throughout the state tonight when Kentucky faces Louisville in the NCAA's Sweet 16 in Indianapolis at 8:45.

The McCracken County junior picked Louisville as the place to continue her volleyball career when she graduates next year.

"It's definitely exciting knowing I'm going to be a Cardinal next year," said the 6-foot-2 outside hitter, who helped guide McCracken County to the KHSAA State Volleyball Tournament in Louisville, where they went 1-1 and advanced to the quarterfinals. "But it just gives me the motivation to work harder next year to get to where I want to be."

Bennett knows the level of play will accelerate once she gets to Louisville, which will be a part of the ACC next year, but is looking forward to the chance to do something special.

"It's definitely going to be a big step for me going from high school to playing  the Division I college level," she said. "But I'm really excited and hope I can make a statement for Paducah, Kentucky, and be a major role model for kids around here to know they can go and follow their dreams."

But by pledging to the Cardinals she becomes an instant rival of and will watch the game with her father, who seriously bleeds Kentucky Blue. Former Wildcats player and assistant coach Winston Bennett  played under Joe B. Hall and Eddie Sutton from 1983 to 1988. He was an assistant for Rick Pitino from 1995-97, helping UK win the 1996 national championship and the runner-up spot in 1997.

She says they'll try to get along.

"It's definitely going to be hard, because my mom and dad are both UK fans and I'm U of L so we're probably going to be going at it head-to-head the entire game," Bennett said.

For Winston, he is proud Jasmine knows where she's going to go to school, won't have to face the rigors  of recruitment in her senior year and be able to focus on helping the Lady Mustangs go as far as they can.

"I think it's vital for a young person like her to not be distracted by outside influences, whether it be recruiting, schools or anything else," he said.

And Bennett, who played in the NBA with the Cleveland Cavaliers (1989-92) and the Miami Heat (1992), realizes for the first time he and Jasmine will be adversaries because of the UK-U of L game and that he'll once again have to root against his former boss.

"That's going to make it a very competitive evening in our household," said the former Boston Celtics assistant under Pitino and former head coach at Kentucky State and Mid-Continent University. "When Louisville is not playing Kentucky I support them as well. But this Friday night I'll have my 'Big Blue' on

"Having the opportunity to share something with my daughter who has accomplished so much is special," he said. "I'm some proud of her academically, which means more to me than anything. She's been blessed to grow to 6-2 and have some athleticism, and all those things are a bonus. We want her to be well educated and go out there and do her best."

Said Jasmine, "My dad and I have gotten closer as I've gotten older. He goes to all of our volleyball games and has become the mascot for our team. He's really someone I look up to. I am a daddy's girl and will always want him by my side. It's always great to be able to look up in the stands and see him at my games. He's a real motivator and it's fun to have him around."

Call James D. Horne, a Sun sports writer, at 270-575-8661 or follow on Twitter @psunsports.

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