In honor of Women’s History Month, UA Little Rock is featuring stories about the “Outstanding Women of UA Little Rock,” faculty, staff, students, and alumni who are serving as leaders and making a difference for the university and their communities.
Twin sisters Ronjanae and Raeyana DeGray have made a name for themselves as star players on the University of Arkansas at Little Rock women’s basketball team.
After finishing their fourth and final season at UA Little Rock, the student-athletes are set to graduate in May and ready to take the next step in life.
Not only is Ronjanae the Sun Belt Conference’s Co-Player of the Year, the senior forward is also a future educator who interns as a special-education teacher at Bale Elementary School.
“Special education has been a passion of mine since high school. I enjoy helping students that have difficulties that most students have not had,” she said. “I’m reminded every day that life is precious.”
Some of Ronjanae’s students saw her in action in March when they took a school field trip to the Jack Stephens Center to watch the Trojans play.
“The students came to the locker room and took pictures and got to meet the other players,” she said. “The next day in school, they were all excited and talking about the game.”
Raeyana will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in mass communication and minor in marketing. After graduation, she plans to stay in the sports world by working as a sports analyst.
“I’ve always been into sports, and I love to talk about sports and watch sports,” she said. “Being a student-athlete, I thought it would be fun to stay involved in sports in a different way.”
The DeGrays are finishing their basketball careers on an incredible season. The Trojans ended the season as Sun Belt Conference champions, finishing atop the conference and making an NCAA Tournament appearance for the second straight season. The sisters are the only two of the Trojans’ four seniors who played during all four seasons at UA Little Rock.
“During my freshman year, I saw the boys go to the NCAA tournament and saw how fun it was for them,” Raeyana said. “Being able to experience how they felt when they went to the NCAA tournament as a junior and senior was the most memorable experience for me at UA Little Rock.”
The DeGrays are the daughters of Ronald DeGray and Donelle Harris and have a younger brother, Ronald, and a younger sister, Ramiyah. Since their mother worked in corrections, the family often traveled for her work, and the sisters lived in Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, Colorado, and Tennessee while growing up. Both sisters identify their mother and grandmothers as the women they look up to the most.
“My mom and my grandmothers have shown me that no matter what your circumstances are, it’s always your job as a woman to get the job done without making any excuses,” Raeyana said.
“A lot of the women in my family are very strong, especially my mother and grandmothers,” Ronjanae added. “They are in the church constantly. When the odds are stacked against you, they always lean on God, and I do that because of the example they have given me all my life.”
The DeGrays have been playing basketball with their family since they were kids and said a love of basketball runs in their blood.
“We started playing basketball competitively when we were in the fourth grade,” Ronjanae said. “Basketball is in my family. Our parents played basketball at the community college where they met, and our mother played at the University of Texas at San Antonio.”
While some people find the idea of playing basketball at the college level with your twin sister interesting, the sisters say it’s not as exciting as people might think.
“We’ve been playing together pretty much all our lives,” Raeyana said. “It’s cool to have someone to share your experiences with, but it’s like having another teammate you go home to.”
As student-athletes, the DeGrays and their teammates are active volunteers who give back to the community that supports Little Rock’s Team.
“We do a lot of volunteering with children,” Raeyana said. “We play basketball with children with special needs. We’ve visited the Arkansas School for the Deaf. Giving back to our community lets people know that we appreciate their support and that we are not just people with jerseys running up and down the court. We appreciate the community!”