Quiet game leads to loud exit for Ray
With 1:54 left in the game, senior guard Brittany Ray checked out of her final game at the Louis Brown Athletic Center and walked toward a standing bench to embrace head coach C. Vivian Stringer and her teammates.
Ray exited to the loudest standing ovation of the evening, as chants of ‘B-Ray' rained down from the crowd, marking the beginning of the final chapter of her career as a Scarlet Knight.
"I'm a very emotional person but I didn't cry today," Ray said with a smile. "I was filled with joy. It was a great moment, just being here for four years and this is the last time around. It was a great feeling walking out with my parents and seeing Myia and Rah next to me."
Ray finished her final home game in quiet fashion, scoring nine points along with a pair of steals and assists.
It took nearly 18 minutes against the Cardinals before Ray came around a screen and drained a no-doubt jumper, prompting the call Rutgers fans came to expect over the guard's past four years: "Brittany Ray for three."
Ray sits third in the Knights' all-time record book in three-point baskets made, trailing Tomora Young by only one with 179 shots made.
When it comes down to it, Ray's iconic shot will be remembered almost as much as the plethora of points it generated. A bizarre-looking, but deadly accurate, jumper combined with a double-clutch is something that looks ever stranger than it sounds.
But it works.
After tonight's game, Ray sits 25th all-time in the Knights' record books with 1,098 career points.
"Her family work ethic is incredible. I remember when she first came she never had her head up, she always looked down," Stringer said. "But she was an 'A' student and she went about her business. She was never a very vocal person.
"As a perfect example when we discussing how each person needs to get better, we were asking her how it was that she began to put the ball down ... and she said I got every tape that I had last year, and I studied. And I shot, and I shot."
The road for Ray was a long and winding one. Coming off the bench against Tennessee in the National Championship her freshman year, Ray saw her minutes steadily increase. By her junior year, she was the outside shooting complement to guard Epiphanny Prince, the Knights' leading scorer, and expected to reprise that role in her senior year.
When Prince unexpectedly jumped ship to play professionally in Europe, it thrust Ray into the spotlight — ready or not.
But the senior saved the best for last, leading the Knights this season with 14.7 points per game. Ray delivered a memorable performance against Tennessee at Madison Square Garden, dropping a career-high 29 points against the Volunteers on 5-of-6 shooting from beyond the arc.
From a freshman who averaged 19 minutes per game to a senior that leads the team this season with just under 35 minutes a game, Ray blossomed into the team's most visible star and unofficial spokesperson.
"I think it's just been a road of progression, it's all about how you're going to get better each year," Ray said after practice Friday. "I just made sure I continued to work each year and continued to develop my skills as an overall player.
"Coach Stringer always told me, ‘Just make sure you work hard because your time will come and stay positive and don't worry about everybody else, worry about the team.' I think by following that I've been pretty successful here."
While Ray's aspirations of becoming a doctor after graduation are well-known, the guard plans to put her dreams on hold to test the waters of playing professional basketball first. But regardless of where she ends up after putting on her cap and gown in May, Ray said she will always remember her time at Rutgers and, most importantly, her team and coaches who became a second family.
"No matter what happens [this season] coach Stringer continues to tell us that we're going to stay together," Ray said. "We continue to be a family and a team, and I think that she really emphasizes that because she wants to send us in the real world prepared. To make sure we mature as young ladies and hopefully become young women that will be leaders in the future."