An abundance of Division I options are at the doorstep of Belleville East girls basketball star Kaylah Rainey.
Even before the first dribble-drive of the point guard’s junior season, Rainey has received offers from 10 schools in seven difference conferences: Brown and Penn (Ivy League); Kansas (Big 12); Illinois and Iowa (Big Ten); Bradley (Missouri Valley); Saint Louis University and Dayton (Atlantic 10); Miami-Ohio (Mid-American); and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (Ohio Valley).
“It’s a lot of fun. I’ve watched those schools since I was younger, so for them to call me and have interest in me is really exciting,” said the 5-foot-6 Rainey, who averaged 15.3 points, 2.7 assists and 4.8 steals as a sophomore. “I feel honored to have that much attention from people.”
More offers are forthcoming. Northwestern, Ohio State, Louisville, Oregon, Missouri, Villanova, Princeton, Yale, DePaul, Marquette and Baylor are are in the mix. Missouri and Marquette watched Rainey play in open gym Wednesday morning, as did SIUE and Dayton.
Rainey was a third-team all-state selection in Class 3A-4A, a first-team Belleville News-Democrat all-area pick in Class 3A-4A and was named to the all-Southwestern Conference’s first team. According to ESPN, she is the 14th-best point guard in the nation in the 2019 class.
Rainey elevated her stock in May when she tried out for the USA’s under-16 team in Colorado Springs, Colo. Just 150 players were invited to the event.
Rainey didn’t make the team, but she was among the final cuts, which greatly enhanced her visibility in the eyes of Division I coaches.
“I didn’t get to go last year because I didn’t get accepted,” Rainey said. “This year, I got accepted and and made it all the way to the last cuts. That was cool to me. My name got bigger once I came back from there. I felt like I had something to prove. I just wanted (coaches) to know me and my game.”
“When she went to those USA tryouts, she just blew up,” East coach Amanda Kemezys said. “Every cut she kept making, she got more interest and more offers.”
Rainey, the daughter of Lawrence and Pamela Rainey, isn’t close to making a decision.
“I know I’m going to choose the right one some day and they’re going to support me for the next four years,” said Kaylah Rainey, who is leaning toward majoring in physical therapy. “Wherever I go from there, I’ll be set.
“I want to see how my last AAU season is going, then decide from there. I’ll chip away at the schools and see which one is best for me.”
Rainey competes for Chicago-based Midwest Elite and coach Ralph Gesualdo in AAU basketball. The team plays in the Elite Youth Basketball League.
“It’s very competitive,” Rainey said. “The competition you play against, there’s never a game where you’re not getting better. That’s the best thing about it.”
(Kaylah) is handling this the right way for someone who will be the biggest recruit Belleville East has ever had.
Amanda Kemezys, Belleville East girls basketball coach
Kemezys, an East graduate who played at Saint Louis University, also coached Rainey at Wolf Branch Middle School.
“Everyone loves her quickness. They just want to see more of an outside shot,” Kemezys said. “But I don’t think any coach would ever say, ‘I don’t want someone who’s as fast as her.’ If she ran track here, she would be pretty good.
“You can’t debate her speed and the things she can bring. Hopefully, she’ll be a high D-I (recruit) and some of the other stuff develops that can keep taking her up a tier.”
Rainey said developing her outside shooting is a priority. Last season, she shot 24 percent on 3-pointers (23-for-96) and 67 percent from the free-throw line (110-for-164).
“Probably just (improving) my outside range,” Rainey said of her objectives. “I would say I’ve gotten stronger. I used to be real small. I’m small now, but I’ve gotten a little bigger. I’m a lot different from my freshman year.”
It’s a lot of fun. I’ve watched those schools since I was younger, so for them to call me and have interest in me is really exciting.
Kayla Rainey, Belleville East junior
Kemezys said Rainey is “a very good face to have for our program and our school.”
“Not just because of how successful she is, but the type of kid she is. She puts her team first,” Kemezys said. “One of the things I think is very cool is her and her dad, any time they get an offer, have always said (on Twitter), ‘Hey, we just got an offer from so-and-so. It’s a great day for the Lancer program.’
“They’re the type of family you would want for this situation to happen. They’re not getting big heads, but they’re handling it all with grace and they’re very humble. (Kaylah) is handling this the right way for someone who will be the biggest recruit Belleville East has ever had.”
David Wilhelm: @DavidMWilhelm