Quite simply, she was the best player ever to put on a Keene State College women's basketball uniform. So it should come as no surprise that Laura Bennett would be inducted into Keene State's Alumni/Athletic Hall of Fame in her first year of eligibility.
Teammates and KSC fans knew they were watching someone special from the moment the Lake Luzerne, N.Y, native stepped on the Spaulding Gym floor in the fall of 1988. Well schooled in the fundamentals of pivot play by her Glens Falls high school coach Pete Davidson, Bennett from the start displayed the talent and poise of a player who was destined to leave her mark on the program.
Ironically, it was a career that almost never got started, when she had a bout of homesickness during her freshman season. "I had the trunk packed," recalls Bennett, who gradually recovered after being taken under the wing of teammate and friend Michelle Ziegler.
Bennett went on to give opposing coaches headaches. A four-time All- Conference selection who was named to the All-NECC team of the decade last year, Bennett rewrote the KSC women's record book. She still holds eight season and team records and is the Owls' all-time scoring (1,662 points) and rebounding (1,020 rebounds ) leader.
For all of her accomplishments on the court, there was more to Bennett's game than just putting up hall of fame numbers. A dominating center with the dexterity to bring the ball up the court, Bennett always wanted to downplay her contribution to the Owls, leaving it up to her teammates and coach to bestow the well deserved accolades.
"Laura had all the talents of a Division I player," said Ziegler. Keene State was very fortunate to have a player like her."
"She set the standard," said KSC coach Keith Boucher, who had the privilege of coaching her for three seasons. "Laura was the dominating player in one of the toughest Division II conferences in the country."
Surrounded by talented teammates, Bennett played during a golden era of women's basketball at Keene State College. During her freshman season, KSC captured its second consecutive ECAC title and followed that up the next year with its first NCAA Tournament berth.
"I'll never forget the day we found out we were going to the Tournament," Bennett recalled. "It was the greatest feeling I ever had."
Fortunate to have a career that included both personal and team accomplishments, Bennett left a basketball legacy at Keene State that was not confined to the perimeter of the court.
"Laura was not only an incredible player, but a caring person who put her teammates first. She just wanted to see the team win," said Ziegler, "Keene State will probably never have a player like her again."
"She was a greater person than she was a player," Boucher said. "She is why you get into coaching."
Taking a year off from coaching after directing the girls' basketball team at Glens Falls High School the past five years, Bennett lives with her husband, Gene Kules, in Lake Luzerne, N.Y.