Road to Recovery: Rainey Returns
As Shani Rainey laid under the basket clutching her leg during the final game of the 2017 Women’s Basketball Invitational, she already knew what was wrong.
“I knew what happened,” Rainey said. “Whenever you tear your ACL, you just know it. It pops.”
For Rainey, a senior guard on the women’s basketball team, the day of her injury was both heartbreaking and triumphant. On the court, Rice won the WBI championship for its first ever postseason tournament title. But she knew she faced a long recovery.
Rainey said after being carried off the court, she asked her dad to FaceTime her so she could watch the rest of the game from the locker room. After the win, she returned to the court and climbed a ladder to cut down the nets in celebration.
“It was emotionally overwhelming,” Rainey said. “Coming out on my crutches and having the whole court cheering was an overwhelming feeling, but at the same time, I’ve never felt more grateful.”
Rainey sat out for the entirety of the 2018 season to rehabilitate that injury — a tear of the ACL, MCL and meniscus in one of her knees.
“[The trainers] were like ‘We’ve never really seen this injury before,’ so I made the [recovery] timetable as I went along,” Rainey said. “I had to tell myself ‘It’s going to be a long ride, so I have to have the best mindset possible.’”
She said she vividly remembers a message her head coach, Tina Langley, delivered to her early in the recovery process.
“It was one or two days after surgery, and she told me, ‘You’re going to come back better than before,’” Rainey said. “That conversation I had, still on my medicine, nerve block still in, was something that would ring in the back of my head even during times when I was down.”
Rainey set goals throughout her rehab process, building off of her competitive nature to work toward achievements like a 90-degree range of motion and walking.
“You hit walls; it’s just a matter of how you respond to it and push through,” Rainey said. “Even though you might not make a set timetable or a set goal, that’s life. But it’s how you finish and how you reframe your mind. It’s not a failure; it’s just a roadblock you have to push through.”
On Dec. 12, 2017 — less than nine months after her injury — she tweeted a video of her first time running on a treadmill. Rainey made her return to game action for the Owls on Nov. 7, 2018, 592 days after the injury. She said she is thrilled to be back on the court.
“Honestly, it’s great being back out there with my teammates,” Rainey said. “It’s definitely a readjustment coming back from an injury I’ve never had before. But I have amazing teammates… it’s awesome being back out there.”
In 17 games, Rainey has averaged 4.6 points and 1.6 rebounds per game on 57.8 percent shooting. She said she has continued to feel more comfortable as the season has gone on.
Rainey said that while it was difficult not to be on the court, she values the chance she had to learn while she was sidelined.
“While I was out, I got to see the game from a different standpoint,” Rainey said. “You learn a lot while you’re out, and that carries over into this year in terms of how I’m able to see things now while I’m out on the court.”
After she graduates in May, Rainey is planning to start a job at a consulting firm. Although she has not played as much this season due to her ongoing recovery process, she said she has made sure that her impact has not been reduced. As a senior, she has taken on a mentorship role to younger players both on and off the court.
“Everyone has a role on the team, everyone has a purpose and everyone can impact the team in their own way,” Rainey said.
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