By ENOLA G. MOSLEY, Ed. D.
English Department, Statesboro High School
“When she raised her little head up only minutes after she was born and looked at me, I knew then she was going to be a special daddy’s girl,” said Dennis Bennett, her father, a 20-year army veteran. Named Shaniqua Monnette Bennett, but lovingly known as “Mo” by all, she was coached at age 3 by her dad in basketball, which became her favorite sport. However, she would excel in softball and track.
Monnette has achieved what other female basketballers’ only dream of — scoring 38 points singlehandedly with an average of 16.7 points per game. Moreover, Monnette had her jersey (No. 12) retired at Statesboro High School as a result of scoring more than 1,000 points between 2003 and 2008. In 2008, the then 5’10” senior was ranked 29th in the country.
Notably, Monnette is the niece of 6’2” Mary Bennett, who was the first black female athlete to play basketball at SHS in 1970 and is listed in the SHS Hall of Fame. Her father also was a great baller. It must be in the Bennett genes!
A sports phenomenon
On August 9, 1990, in Alabama, her mother, Veronica McCeldery Bennett, birthed this sports phenomenon.
“Monnette always loved the outdoors, sports, and people,” said older brother Justin.
Moreover, 90-year old Grandma Letha Mae Rich adds that “Monnette was easy to raise; she was always respectful.” Supporting Mo, her family (Dad Dennis and wife Angel, Justin, Aunt Brenda, and Grandma) traveled 1,100 miles to Des Moines, Iowa, to watch her play, bringing with them Mo’s favorite dessert — Grandma’s homemade brownies. Now that’s love!
Why is she so gifted?
“She learned fast and was always asking questions. This is what made her great: She was a student of the game,” said her dad. Just as in athletics, Monnette excelled academically as attested by QUEST classes, honor graduation, and a four-year scholarship to Georgia Tech where she majored in sociology while playing guard on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket’s team.
Monnette dominated three sports. At William James Middle School, she played basketball, softball and ran track. As a track star, Monnette competed in several track and field meets between 1997 and 2001, excelling in the standing long jump. In high school it was both softball and basketball.
In 2004, high school softball coach Karry Parker said, “Monnette is probably the fastest kid I have ever coached in the outfield.”
In high school, she was the only freshman on the varsity girls basketball team. Amazingly, she was the captain of both the Lady Devils softball and basketball teams.
Monnette played on the high school Ladies Night Out (2004 LNO) All Tournament team, a rare honor for a freshman; she was voted Most Valuable Player (MVP). In February 2008, Monnette was named Region 3-AAAA Player of the Year. In addition, she was named All-American Honorable Mention by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, which included her as one of the Top 40 players in the country.
Freshman honors at Georgia Tech
In May 2008 while a Tech freshman, Monnette was named “Rookie of the Week” by the Atlanta Coast Conference Women’s Basketball Association. She drew the association’s attention when she scored 27 points in her first two games.
In her freshman year, as a result of her dedication and natural talents, Monnette was selected to be a member of the 2008 Georgia Athletic Coaches Association North Girls Basketball All-Star Team.
Monnette said that being able to play in that all-star game opened up the door for her to play in the National Collegiate Athletic Association Sweet Sixteen Madness College Basketball game. Only a few female college players ever get a chance to play in it.
After graduating from Tech, an unfortunate knee injury while practicing precluded Monnette from playing pro-ball in Romania. Therefore, she taught preschool for three years while coaching middle-schoolers.
When asked what she learned from coaching, she says, “You can’t coach somebody to love something. If you want to be great at a sport, then you must love it and have a passion for it.”
Military life on the court
Later, Monnette joined the Coast Guard, playing basketball for the All Navy Woman’s Team.
In 2018, she won the gold medal in the Women’s National Military Championship game and two other silver medals. In addition, she played for the USA Armed Forces Team, winning one silver medal.
In 2019, Monnette worked as assistant girls basketball coach in California at Oakland High School. Like her father, her coaching skills paid off since her team won the state championship.
Currently, Monnette is awaiting graduation from California’s Police Academy.
According to her high school coach Jeff Seier, besides being the hardest working player he ever coached, Monnette “was always a good teammate and friend to her fellow SHS students.”
Truly, being a “people person” and a hard worker will ensure that Monnette will be the MVP on California’s police squad. Who would believe otherwise?
Her advice to anyone interested in pursuing a life goal is this: “You must follow your heart. Find your passion. Sleep it! Eat it! Practice it! And never give up on it!”
And definitely, Monnette has taken her own advice — she is still a player.