Still in uniform, Ronjanae DeGray walked off the Jack Stephens Center floor Thursday and toward the locker room where she was met by a handful of students -- her students.
Not only is DeGray the University of Arkansas at Little Rock women's basketball team's leading scorer and rebounder this year, but the senior forward is also an up-and-coming teacher.
Two or three times a week, DeGray doubles as a special-education teacher at Bale Elementary School -- just a short drive down the street from the Jack Stephens Center -- to fill her internship requirements as an outgoing senior majoring in special education.
The Trojans' annual "School Day" was Thursday, where hundreds of students from nearby schools are invited to attend a UALR women's home game.
DeGray invited her students so they could see their teacher's other side -- the one that plays Division I basketball.
The students showered DeGray with colorings and artwork after Thursday's game -- an 80-51 victory against Georgia Southern in which DeGray had 10 points and five rebounds in a quiet afternoon, by her standard -- and were given a locker room tour by their teacher.
"It was awesome," said DeGray, who leads the Trojans with 14.2 points and 6.7 rebounds per game this season. "They got to see me in a different light. They got to see I'm not just a teacher, and I'm pretty chill and relaxed. I was happy they were able to see me in my other element."
Although DeGray's teaching stint began as a shadow in the fall of 2016, she realized teaching students with learning disabilities was her passion well before attending UALR from Mt. Juliet High School in Mt. Juliet, Tenn., four years ago.
Once her basketball career concludes this month, becoming a full-time teacher is next.
"Whenever I can work, yeah," DeGray said. "It's something I've been passionate about for a long time. Even in elementary school, I always had a buddy who would have a specific disability. It would be the two of us all the time.
"I would help that student walk the halls, or get lunch. It was just always something I've been passionate about for a very, very long time."
DeGray's routine is to swing by Bale three days a week when the Trojans are at home, and twice before UALR leaves for road games on Thursdays and Saturdays during the Sun Belt Conference season.
Her students took some time to warm up to her, but once they did, DeGray began leading her own reading and math groups in a self-contained classroom, where all subjects are taught in one place.
DeGray and the Trojans, the current No. 2 seed in the Sun Belt, will conclude their season with a two-game road trip in Louisiana. UALR (17-10, 13-3) will meet Louisiana-Lafayette at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. The Trojans' regular season will end at 2 p.m. Saturday at Louisiana-Monroe.
DeGray and her twin sister, Raeyana, are the only two of the Trojans' four seniors who played during all four seasons at UALR.
Ronjanae DeGray is ranked No. 6 in UALR history in field goal percentage at 50.9 percent. She has started 65 of 111 games for the Trojans, and she has averaged 10.4 points and 4.9 rebounds in her career.
"It's that time," UALR Coach Joe Foley said. "I know they're ready to move on to other parts of their life. But, still, it's been pretty special."
UALR senior forward Ronjanae DeGray averages 14.2 points and 6.7 rebounds per game to lead the Trojans this season.
Sports on 03/06/2019
Print Headline: DeGray's passion extends to teaching