By Joseph Staszewski
After an extensive process and plenty of work in the classroom and on the court, Rayne Connell is where she wants to be.
The Christ the King senior guard, a 90-average student, said she took two SATs and five ACTs to get the score required for acceptance to the University of Pennsylvania, her dream school. She finally hit the mark last month and then had to start an extensive process of essays and interviews.
“From the second I stepped on campus, I knew I was supposed to be there,” said Connell, who took a visit in September.
It all culminated Jan. 25 when she took a trip to the Ivy League school to meet with its dean of undergraduate admissions. After the interview, she was accepted on the spot and verbally committed to play women’s basketball there next season.
Connell, a three-year starter, at Christ the King, chose the Quakers over Southern Methodist. She will get her tuition paid through financial aid since Ivy League schools do not give athletic scholarships and is overjoyed to get the school’s prestigious education.
“It’s the best feeling in the world,” she said. “I’m so happy that I’m finally in. I’m so happy.”
Connell said she grew up playing in the post and was more of a scoring guard her freshman year on the JV team. She was thrust into the point guard role as a sophomore and went on to excel, helping lead the Royals to the New York State Federation Class AA title. She’s had a propensity for big baskets, hitting a buzzer-beating jumper to win the CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens junior varsity diocesan title. Connell had 11 points and a key jumper in the Federation semifinals against Murry Bergtraum in 2010.
“If the jump shot is falling, she becomes a very tough matchup for anybody,” said Christ the King Coach Bob Mackey. “At that level, with her speed and her strength to get to the rim, she is almost an impossible matchup in the Ivy League as a guard.”
Her biggest contributions come on the defensive end. She said her mom joked with her that she needs to play more offense and stop killing herself on the other end. Connell’s strength and speed make her a tough cover going to the basket and one of the city’s top defenders. She missed the early part of this season for CK (5-8) after getting a benign cyst removed from her back.
“That’s pretty much what she has been for three years,” Mackey said. “‘OK, who is the best guard on the other team? OK, you got her.’ She’s done it and she’s done it quite well, guarding some of the best players in the nation.”
Connell will join the UPenn team that is currently 7-8 and went 11-17 and 5-9 in the Ivy League last year. Connell had high praise for third-year head Coach Mike McLaughlin and his staff, saying that they were real and showed that they really wanted her.
And she wanted them. Connell is where she hoped to be after a long, strenuous recruiting and admission process.
“I wasn’t going to stop taking all these tests until I got in,” Connell said. “It wasn’t like I was going to give up.”