Last year during the Olympics, Academics Plus basketball player Rhianna Mooney saw commercials for Harding University in Searcy and thought that would be a great place to continue her education and play basketball. On April 25, she signed her letter-of-intent to play at the Division II school.
"I liked that they are a Christian-centered school and have a welcoming attitude," Mooney said. "Coach (Stephanie) Wortham called, and they asked to see video clips."
Mooney’s fate was sealed when she went to practice with the team at the beginning of April. She was able to show her strengths.
"I think what they like about her is her quickness, and the way she handles the ball," Wortham said. "She is quick on defense."
Mooney verified that observation and said that Coach Tim Kirby told her she was one of the fastest girls on the team. Playing guard, Mooney also said Kirby told her he liked her athleticism and skill level.
Another positive for Mooney is she is a 4.0 student. She will probably redshirt and use the time to get used to the academics and college life.
Mooney’s signing made her the first female athlete from Academics Plus to officially move to the collegiate level. Wortham is excited she will be able to watch her play.
"I know how excited I was when I signed and can’t imagine how excited she is," Wortham said. "It is a pretty big deal for her to be the first female and is something we can build on."
Always knowing she would play college basketball, the significance of being the first female from her school is not lost on Mooney. However, she does have a different perspective.
"I think of it as starting anew," she said. "I will meet more people and learn more."
Majoring in education and business administration, Mooney will spend the summer working out and attending team camp with her new team.