In college basketball, recruiting is one of the most difficult and important parts of the job. Coaches spend countless hours on the road evaluating talent and working to build a successful team. In recruiting, schools often get good players whose play helps the team win games, but every once in a while, a program strikes gold and gets a player who not only helps win games but also impacts every person that she meets. Rashondra "Tootie" Rankin is one of those rare players who has left her mark on Southwest women's basketball.
Rankin came to Southwest Mississippi Community College from Wayne County High School in Waynesboro, Mississippi. As a freshman for the Lady Bears, she played a limited number of minutes. Despite this, she never once complained about playing time; instead, she came to practice every day ready to make everyone around her better and, when game time came, she was constantly the loudest player on the bench cheering for her teammates.
Even though she played less than eight minutes per game during her freshman season, when Rankin's number was called to go in, the Lady Bears knew they could count on her to do her job. She was often asked to guard the best player or take a charge at a key moment in the game. Her impact was constantly felt whether she was on the court or on the sideline. As a sophomore, Rankin dedicated herself to the game and earned a starting position as well as the role of team captain.
In addition to guarding the other team's best player nearly every game, Rankin led the Lady Bears in scoring numerous nights. Unlike many players who would have had a negative attitude and given up after their freshman season, she persevered and became an impact player for the team during her sophomore year.
Just as Rankin inspired people with her performance on the court, her off the court achievements taught us so much more. She arrived on campus at Southwest and knew she wanted to make the most of her time as a Lady Bear. She joined the Bear Trackers, Student Government Association, Phi Theta Kappa, Student Athlete Advisory Committee, and volunteered her time to become a Chemistry tutor in the Student Success Center.
While balancing all of those activities and the demands of being a college athlete, Rankin maintained a 4.0 GPA as a Biochemistry major. Often times, athletes run away from classes like Chemistry or Calculus because they are demanding, but that is not who Rankin is. She accepted the challenges of those courses and achieved greatness. She will graduate from Southwest with highest honors and will move on to the University of Mississippi to pursue a degree in Biochemistry.
Because of her academic achievements at Southwest, Rankin has earned the Lyceum Scholar Award at Ole Miss. This prestigious award is given to 15 transfer students from across the country. In order to receive the Lyceum Award, a student must be an excellent leader who has excelled both in and out of the classroom. In addition to receiving the Lyceum Scholarship, she will also receive the Phi Theta Kappa Transfer Scholarship and she will be one of thirty-two students who will be a member of the Chancellor's Leadership Class.
The Southwest Athletic Department is incredibly proud to see players hit the game-winning shot and sign scholarships to move on and play basketball at four year schools, but just as delighted when our student-athletes achieve academic success and inspire those around them to do work harder and strive for greatness.
Southwest is grateful that Rankin chose us as her home and gave us the opportunity to learn what it truly means to be a champion both on and off the court.
By: Michael Gunnell