Feeling bitter in spite of the fact that this year's Arizona basketball team is favored to win the National Championship? Well meet Rachael Schein, a 5-11 forward from Vegas who, on July 23rd, pledged the next four to five years of her life to Joan Bonvicini and to graduating as a Wildcat.
Schein's Centennial High School team was in its third year of existence in 2001-02 when she led it to an undefeated 34-0 mark and the Nevada State 4A championship. In one game during the middle of the perfect season, Centennial won a game 99-12. Contrary to what many might think about running up the score or going "Steve Spurrier" on that poor team, Schein said it was a great opportunity to "practice what we needed to work on against someone other than ourselves". Think Dajuan Wagner could say the same after dropping 100 points on that seven-man South Camden Polytechnic team a couple years ago?
Instead of coming into Arizona next year (Schein is a class of 2003 student) with her mind clouded with thoughts of the WNBA, agents and potential millions, Schein has her priorities right where they should be: on graduating with a degree in Physical Therapy.
"I'm going into Physical Therapy and (Arizona) has a great physiological sciences program," says Schein, who maintains an impressive 4.2 grade point average through her junior year. "I loved the coaches, they were all wonderful, but mostly Arizona fits my educational needs."
Imagine these "one-and-done" guys from men's basketball saying something like that. Do you think Kendrick Perkins chose to play for Memphis because of its wonderful philosophy department?
On Schein's unofficial visit to Tucson, which coincided with Bonvicini's team camp this July, she spent a whole day touring the campus and meeting all the people that would be around to help and support her if she chose to attend the University. It would be a tough sell, academics-wise, because Rachael was being "recruited" by the likes of Penn, a prestigious Ivy League school where her father graduated from while a member of the Lacrosse team.
"I loved everything about my visit to Arizona," said Schein, who averaged 16 points and four steals per game a year ago. "There was nothing about it I didn't like. Everyone I met took an interest in me and made me feel welcomed. Going to Arizona, I know that their number one goal is to get me to graduate. Getting to play the sport I love also is just amazing."
Once Schein sets foot on the court for Arizona, she'll be easy to notice. She has played in a system at Centennial under head coach Karen Weitz, a close friend of Bonvicini's, that is exceedingly similar to the one deployed by the Wildcats. That was one of the main reasons that Arizona offered Schein a scholarship in the first place: familiarity with the system.
"Joan loves my team and my coach," Schein said. "She saw me for the first time at a Nike tournament this April in Phoenix and she said she really liked watching my team because we all hustled and played together so well. When I was at Arizona for their team camp, I got to see how the team worked together and it was just like how we play.
"For me personally, I've had to work hard to get where I'm at as far as my game goes. I think that (Bonvicini), as a coach, recognized that. She noticed the effort and the hustle and how we made defense so important."
Schein's defense is her trademark. In fact, she is the female version of Shane Battier (although far more likeable than the former Dukie, of course) because of all the charges she draws. As a junior, she drew 29 charges. Imagine Tack Minor drawing a charge for his high school team. It ain't happening.
When she finally arrives at Arizona, Schein will play a combination of the two wing positions, "I'll be a guard that goes inside", she says. She mostly played in the post for her high school team this past winter but said her strength is flashing through the lane offensively.
"But defense is definitely the favorite part of the game for me," she said. "It's amazing how drawing a charge can change the entire game."
Funny but didn't Isaiah "J.R." Rider say that same thing before committing to UNLV? Nah.
Contact Ben Hansen at AZPointGuardU@yahoo.com