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From Iceland to Vestal, Benonysdottir finds home away from home at Binghamton

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PHOTO SOURCE: Binghamton Athletics

VESTAL (WBNG) -- Binghamton University's Birna Benonysdottir had only been to America once before she began her college basketball career in 2019.

"Back home, people don't really go to college in America," said Benonysdottir. "Well now they do, but at the time they didn't. I heard of someone doing it and I was like 'oh, I want to do that.'"

A native of Keflavik, Iceland, the sophomore forward began playing basketball at age five.

"We have a couple clips of me playing when I was that young and I was doing cartwheels on the floor," she said.

As she grew older, she realized the game could take her far.

"I was like okay I'm tall I can do this…I was like it's pretty fun," she said.

Benonysdottir said when she was in high school, it wasn't as common to go to college in America. Now, she's part of the group that changed the norm.

Benonysdottir said her recruitment process happened fast, and she landed in Tuscon, Arizona, over 4,000 miles away from her home.

"It was definitely hard," she said.

After realizing Arizona wasn't the right fit, Benonysdottir decided to transfer.

"I fell in love with Binghamton," she said.

Benonysdottir said the family atmosphere pulled her into the Bearcats basketball program.

"When I was still in the process of deciding, I talked to a couple of the girls on the team. They just sounded like so willing to answer all my questions and talk to me whenever I wanted to," she said.

Fast forward six games into the season, and the Bearcats earned their first win Monday behind Benonysdottir's career-high 22 points.

"My teammates did a great job of finding me open in the middle and we did a great job of playing together," she said.

"She's a very dynamic player that can do a lot and when she sets her mind to it, scary," said coach Bethann Shapiro Ord.

Benonysdottir said she believes the Bearcats are just getting started.

"Our first game and the game we played yesterday (Monday), it's a huge difference," she said. "We're growing fast."

While Benonysdottir has found her home away from home at Binghamton University, her goals on the court this season are simple.

"I think it's just to enjoy myself and to play my game," she said. "To not put too much pressure on myself because I've done that before and it doesn't work out for me. So it's just to find myself and my game, and do my best."

While this year has made it difficult for her family to visit, Benonysdottir said she thinks they'll come often once it is safe. For now, she said they watch every game from Iceland.

The women host Hartford for a weekend series beginning Saturday at 3 p.m.

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Nicole Menner

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