Johnnies’ top player ruled ineligible — may miss final games

When the St. John’s women’s basketball team boarded their bus last Tuesday for a Wednesday evening match-up with Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., something valuable was missing.

It was not a suitcase, a wallet, or a playbook.

It was the Red Storm’s star player -senior guard Danielle Rainey.

On Feb. 11, St. John’s University announced that Rainey had been declared ineligible after the University’s Athletic Department discovered through an administrative error that Rainey’s eligibility had expired after the first semester of this season and immediately reported its findings to the Big East offices.

The Big East, which decided not to take away the Johnnies two conference wins – both games in which Rainey played – ruled that the oversight was incidental and unintentional.

Rainey did not make the trip with the team to Notre Dame and will remain ineligible pending a ruling from the NCAA

The Athletic Department also requested an extension on Rainey’s eligibilty for the rest of this year and also for the 2003-04 season, citing extenuating circumstances.

The NCAA requires student-athletes to complete their four seasons of eligibility within a five-year span.

Before the Johnnies departed for South Bend on Feb. 11, St. John’s Head Coach Kim Barnes Arico addressed Rainey and the team.

“I was shocked and this will certainly have a major impact on our program,” Barnes Arico said. “Danielle took the news very hard, but she understands the situation and we will be there to support her through this difficult time.”

The Los Angeles native transferred to St. John’s from Los Angeles Trade Tech during the summer of 2001.

In her two years at L.A. Tech, she was a two-time first-team All-State selection and led all of California in scoring, averaging 24 points per game from 1999-2001.

She was also the Orange Coast Conference Most Valuable Player and a first-team All-Orange Coast Conference pick in 2000-2001.

Prior to that, she attended one year at a community college in Monterrey, Calif., but she did not play basketball there.

Last season, Rainey missed all but the first game of the season with an ankle injury. Despite redshirting, the year counted against her eligibility.

Rainey had played in 18 games this season and started 17 of them. She leads the team in points, averaging 16.4 per game – 15.9 ppg in conference play.

She also leads the Storm in rebounds, averaging 4.9 per game, and is St. John’s most consistent free throw shooter, hitting 79 percent of her shots at the charity stripe.

“She was a major factor in our success and we hope that she can return to the court for us,” Barnes Arico said. “Not only is she our leading scorer and rebounder, but Danielle brings intensity to the team.”

As of Feb. 19, the NCAA had not ruled on the status of Rainey’s eligibility.