By Molly Hulsey
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
In college athletics, it's easy to forget the first part of the term "student-athlete." Players are most often recognized for their achievements on the field or court, and seldom for those in the classroom.
For RaeShara 'Rae Rae' Brown, a junior guard for the Missouri Tigers, the academics and athletics are equally important and demanding.
"Because I've been doing it for so long, it is not so much of a burden now," Brown said. "Ball and school take up a lot of time, especially when you want to get the best outcome out of both."
Brown is as used to the rigors of a student-athlete's life as anyone. She attended Parkview High School in Little Rock, Ark., which is an arts/science magnet school. While there, she was ranked in the top five percentile of her class all four years, and received nominations for Who's Who Among High School Students and the National Society of High School Scholars.
Not only did she stand out from her peers academically, Brown was also a force on the basketball court. Scoring over 1,600 points and grabbing more than 800 rebounds, she led the Lady Patriots to three state championships, as well as four conference titles and a 108-8 four-year record. Although she received offers from other schools, Brown found Missouri the perfect fit.
"I've always wanted to play in the Big 12," Brown said. "My family is also very important to me - they've been watching me play since I first started playing ball - so I wanted them to be able to come see me and visit me. Mizzou was far enough from home to allow me to experience college and being on my own, but still close enough to my family."
In her freshman season, Brown played in all 31 games and saw limited action behind veteran MU guards. She made the most of her minutes, placing second on the team in field goal percentage (.424) and dishing out six assists against Robert Morris, a personal best. As a freshman, Brown spent her time learning from older players and perfecting her game for the future.
"My freshman year was, in a sense, a complete learning year for me," Brown said. "Of course I wanted to come in and make an immediate impact, but at the same time I knew I had a lot to learn on the collegiate level."
Brown found a friend and mentor in fellow teammate and guard Antoinette "Toy" Richbow, who helped her adjust to college ball.
"As a freshman you want to just come in and focus on doing everything so right that you sometimes forget to just play ball and enjoy it," Brown said. "My teammate and now one of my very close friends, Toy Richbow, did a great job of walking me through and preparing me for things to look for. I used her words and her examples of leadership on the floor to guide me through my freshman year."
Richbow's advice paid off, and Brown enjoyed a stellar sophomore season. She started 28 of 30 games, leading the Big 12 conference with 2.7 steals per game. Her 71 assists led the team, and she was also recognized for her academic achievement as a first team Academic All-Big 12 player.
If Brown excelled in her sophomore season, she has soared as a junior. She leads the Big 12 in steals and Missouri in assists. Averaging 10 points and six rebounds per game, she has established herself as one of the most well-rounded players on the court.
"I believe those stats say that I'm a team player and hard working," Brown said. "I'm just a type of player that wants to make a play that's going to help my team in any way possible."
She has certainly helped her team thus far. The Tigers achieved one of their best starts in recent years by winning eight of their first 10. Suspensions of two starters (who have been reinstated) tested the Tigers' tenacity but Brown says those struggles have only brought the team closer together.
"Every team has its ups and down, but it is all about how you respond," Brown said. "I believe our team has already proven that we are a great team from the first to the fourteenth player. It's our job as a team to protect each other and have each other's backs, and that's exactly what we do. We pick each other up and make sure that everyone is ready to perform each day."