Playing in her third year on the Rice women’s basketball team, junior guard Shani Rainey has proven to be a crucial component of the Owls’ success.

After Rice’s victory against the University of Southern Mississippi on Saturday, Rainey held season averages of 11.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 0.9 steals per game. She has also posted career highs in field goal percentage, 3-point percentage and free throw percentage.

Rainey’s versatility and overall contributions have helped the Owls surpass last season’s total win mark just over halfway into the season, and she said that her development has been part of a team effort spearheaded by head coach Tina Langley.

“Coach Langley has stressed individual player development in the offseason,” Rainey said. “We had meetings to determine what each player needed to work on. I needed to work on my field goal percentage and our coaches helped me improve my shot.”

As the Thresher outlined in a November article, many Rice athletes have struggled to balance life, academics and athletics. Rainey said her ability to juggle Rice’s academic vigor with athletics made a key difference in improving her performance from last year to this year.

“This year it has gotten a lot better,” Rainey said.“Coming into Rice it was difficult to manage academics and athletics. But we have amazing coaches who work with us on and off the court, and it has really helped.”

Whether she is focusing on her shot, balancing academics and athletics, or watching Netflix (which she frequently does before games), Rainey has continued to improve alongside the women’s basketball team. The Owls marched to a 9-2 clip during their nonconference season, easily higher than their 2-11 nonconference record the previous year. The team has dipped during the conference season, however, holding only a 2-5 mark thus far. Rainey said it is important to remain mentally tough after recently losing two games in overtime.

“We know that we are right there in all of our games, and we can beat all of those teams,” Rainey said. “We have to get locked in, remain focused, and trust in the process.”

Rainey also said the players need to trust in their coaches and teammates.

“We have to get together and learn how each player can help us win,” Rainey said. “We have to trust our coaches and believe in what they teach us.”

No matter the outcome of a few recent games, this Owls’ basketball team is replete with heart and grit. According to Rainey, Rice students and fans should be confident about the prospects of their team.

“I think we can win the [C-USA] tournament championship,” Rainey said. “What happened in the past few games we cannot change, but we are learning and improving. I am very excited about our upcoming games and the rest of the season.”