December 5, 1998
by Lisa Nelson
Notre Dame senior guard Paul Rainey is used to being lost in the shuffle. Growing up in a family with 15 brothers and sisters, Rainey, who is the 15th of 16 children, often was overshadowed and compared to his siblings. Rainey tells stories of going through the halls of school as “so-and-so’s little brother” or constantly being referred to as “one of the Rainey boys.” He had to share a bedroom with three or four siblings at a time, not to mention a dinner table with 10 brothers and five sisters now ranging in age from 16 to 40. Thanksgiving or Christmas holidays bring up to 60 relatives, including 25-30 nieces and nephews (although it is hard to keep count) running around his mother and father’s five-bedroom house in Hattieville, Ark.
Growing up in a basketball family where his brother, Julian, played college ball at Ouachita Baptist University and his brother, Tim, played at Hendrix (Ark.) College, Rainey felt the pressure of having to play basketball too. Rainey, an all-state player, averaged 23 points and 10 rebounds a game as a senior and broke many of his brothers’ records in becoming the all-time leading scorer at Wonderview High School with 2,642 points. Showered with many scholarship offers to play college basketball, and also blessed with tremendous academic smarts, Rainey had some decisions that he needed to make.
How he ended up from Hattieville, Ark., to South Bend, Ind., is a story in itself. Luckily for Notre Dame, the relationship between big business, specifically Coca Cola, and the university system played a huge role in Rainey’s college plans.
During his senior year of high school, Rainey applied for a number of scholarships to different universities around the country that were sponsored by Coca Cola. As Rainey filled out the application and applied for the different university-specific scholarships, he left blank the Coca Cola scholarship given to a Notre Dame student because he had no interest in attending Notre Dame. As Rainey’s high school counselor reviewed his application, Rainey’s counselor went back and checked the box for the Notre Dame scholarship figuring it couldn’t hurt Rainey to at least try for the scholarship.
Rainey, much to his chagrin, soon learned that he was a finalist for the Notre Dame Coca Cola Scholarship except for one problem – to be a finalist for the scholarship you must apply for admission to the university and Rainey had missed the deadline date. After much badgering, his counselor explained the situation to Notre Dame admissions and the school agreed to Rainey apply late. Reluctantly, Rainey filled out the lengthy application to Notre Dame thinking that he would apply just to make his counselor happy, but knowing in his heart that he would never leave his family and go to Notre Dame.
But the luck of the Irish was playing tricks on Rainey as he was soon accepted to Notre Dame. Still sure he didn’t want to go to Notre Dame, but feeling the pressure of his counselor to at least consider the golden dome, Rainey made a deal with his counselor that if he won the Coca Cola scholarship he would come to South Bend and attend Notre Dame. Thankfully for Rainey, he didn’t win the Coca Cola scholarship and the threat of having to leave his family and attend Notre Dame was quickly over. But was it? The Notre Dame admissions people saw something in Rainey’s application as he was bombarded with phone calls offering him other academic scholarships to attend Notre Dame if he still wanted. Taking it as a sign, and still receiving constant prodding from his high school counselor, Rainey decided to take a long hard look at Notre Dame and soon was packing his bags for South Bend.
“If you would have told me before my senior year that I would be going to Notre Dame, I would have laughed at you and told you I don’t play football, I play basketball,” Rainey joked. “But I knew that I wasn’t going to play basketball forever and that my education was what was going to take me through life. After much reflection and consultation with my family, I realized that Notre Dame was the best option for me and was going to provide me with what I needed to be successful in the future.” Once in South Bend, Rainey realized that he wasn’t ready to give up basketball yet. He arranged a meeting with head coach John MacLeod and decided to walk-on the team. He saw limited playing time as he played in only 22 games and averaged 2.8 minutes a game in three seasons. Off the court, though, Rainey has made great strides as he has already graduated with a 3.52 GPA in finance and computer applications last spring and is currently working on his master’s degree in accounting. He is involved with the League of Black Business Students, the Student Alumni Relations Group and the Black Student Union. He was also named a member of the University’s Academic Honors Program which matches top achieving student-athletes with faculty members as he currently works with economics professor William Leahy. He has served as a computer science tutor while at Notre Dame and has had the auspicious nickname of “computer thug” bestowed upon him by a former Irish teammate. Once he completes his masters in the spring, Rainey has a job waiting for him in Cincinnati at General Electric in their finance management training program. Thinking that his basketball career was about over, Rainey was ready to move on with his life, when he received a phone call from MacLeod over the summer offering him a scholarship to come back for a fourth year and be one of four captains for the 1998-99 season. “I wouldn’t have come back to play basketball if coach didn’t offer me the scholarship, but I was even more surprised that he asked me to be a captain because I haven’t had that prolific of a career on the court,” Rainey honestly says. “Coach MacLeod talked about the leadership qualities that I would bring to the team this season. I appreciated the fact that he recognized what I could offer. I am grateful and excited about the opportunity to be a captain this season.” Knowing what his role is, Rainey is counted on to work hard and hustle, not light up the scoreboard. This season, he has played in four games totaling eight minutes. He has failed to score, but that doesn’t phase Rainey.
“I go out there and work hard and give my best effort all of the time,” Rainey says. “It is a unique situation being a captain and not seeing a lot of playing time. It comes down to attitude in practice and on the bench. Attitude and how you carry yourself commands respect. I hope that my attitude is something that the younger players can look up to and carry on the court with them.”
“Paul is a great leader- a lead-by-example type of guy,” senior guard Dennis Carroll says. “He does whatever is asked of him and we all look up to him. He is kind of the old man on the team and we give him a hard time about that, but he works hard every single day and goes about his business. He has earned his spot on this team.” As Rainey’s successful career ends at Notre Dame, the “old man,” as he is referred to now, or “so-and-so’s little brother,” as he once was called, has worked hard building an identity of his own. Paul Rainey finds himself not so lost in the shuffle anymore.