Friday, January 21, 2011

Here's our rundown on Richmond's Rachael Bilney

The first question you have to ask Richmond junior Rachael Bilney is why the "a?" I mean, who spells Rachael that way? The answer's got to be Jody Bilney, Rachael's mother, right? Well, not exactly. The story goes......

The nurse at the hospital I was born at asked my mother how she wanted Rachael to be spelled. My mom said, 'I just delivered twins. I don't care how you spell it. I’m exhausted.' So I have an a. Like Michael Shafer. 

Samantha Bilney was the other baby born on May 24, 1990, and she's also a Spider. Rachael has the ACL injury this season, but it's Sam who has endured the share of the knee problems in the family. Sam has torn her the ACL in her right knee three times. She has torn the ACL in her left knee once and sat out all of last season due to the injury. Rachael tore hers two days before the start of practice.

The knee problems prevented Sam from being heavily recruited. So when Shafer offered Rachael a scholarship, she dropped a not-so-subtle hint about her sister being a pretty good player, too.

Do you know about Sam? she asked.

Shafer thought to himself, "She has a brother?"

Send us some tape, he told the family. Shafer knew if he wanted Rachael, he'd have to take Sam. "We felt like we had the scholarship and it was worth the shot. When she rolled in here as a freshman, it was unbelievable how good Sam Bilney was. Oh, my gosh! Aggressive. Attacking. It killed us when she went down. She was a leader, a captain as a freshman.

Sam has started every game this season and continues to be the calming influence she was on the floor before her season ended 22 games in. She's also someone who can relate to Rachael, who was devastated by her injury after putting in a terrific summer.

Says Rachael: "I was a rah-rah person when she was going through it, but she's almost like an encyclopedia for me."

It's easy to become disconnected with the team when you're sitting on the bench, knowing you're not going to be on the floor the entire season. Instead, Rachael has become the social media butterfly for Richmond. For starters, she writes a blog, and it's not a sophomoric effort. She described in exquisite detail the team's trip to Scandanavia over the summer.

We boarded a boat that would take us through the fjord. Everyone was able to get a seat outside and we all just sat in complete awe of what we were seeing. Cliffs that made skyscrapers look like tinker toys surrounded us and waterfalls were sprinkled throughout the mountains creating a beautiful contrast with the rocks. This same stunning scene lasted the entire two hours we were on the boat and continued on throughout the following bus and train rides. 

Rachael also takes folks inside the team with "Rach's Rundown," a regular video feature focusing on the Richmond freshmen. (Haven's seen her piece on Becca Wann? It's a scream.) She's a natural on camera, a field that has interested her since she was small. 

When we were 5, we moved to Texas, and Sam and I didn't like it. We were in this big house and we had our own room, but I didn't want to sleep up there, so I slept on the floor of my parents' bedroom. Every morning to wake us up, my mom would turn on the TV and it would be "The Today Show" and Katie Couric. At the age of 7 I decided I wanted to wake people up in the morning. I wanted to be the first voice they heard.

These days Rachael still loves broadcasting, though her passion has evolved.

Erin Andrews is my woman. I think the opportunity to do what she does is terrific. Go to every game. That's so unique. Journalism and broadcasting set people up to have experiences nobody else has.

As much as Rachael loves her behind-the-scenes role, she's looking forward to playing again, too. She knows she likely won't be completely uninhibited due to the knee injury.

It's unfortunate, but I think it's something that will always be in the back of my mind. Any time I go on a fastbreak layup from now on, I will always think about it. You have to be confident in how diligent you worked during your rehab and be confident in how you play. If it happens, it happens.

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