Lady Rebels player puts education first to be a smarter mother

It was March 2011, and the Lady Rebels had just beaten Utah in their regular-season finale. Three days later, they would play Utah again, in the first round of the Mountain West Tournament.

Rmanii Haynes, a Lady Rebels’ freshman point guard, was in bed, sick to her stomach. Really sick to her stomach.

She called her mother in California. Her mother said to drag herself out of bed, to go see a doctor. She did. And when she called her mother back, she was crying.

Because Rmanii Haynes found out she was nearly five months pregnant.

She was 17 years old.

This is when you hear the world come crashing down.

“It was a very shocking day,” she said. “It changed my life tremendously. It changed my life for the better, though.”

She can say that now. Now she is 20, and she’s pretty, and she’s intelligent, and she’s a college graduate. She received her degree in criminal justice at the semester break. Soon she will begin studying for her masters.

She’s still playing point guard for the Lady Rebels.

And she’s a mom.

Before Saturday’s game against Utah State, she went over to where her mom and dad and her daughter, Peyton, were sitting at Cox Pavilion. She handed her little girl a little basketball.

“Was I going to survive as a teen mom?” That was the question Rmanii Haynes asked herself after she got back from the doctor’s office in 2011, after she had stopped crying.

I would say that she has.

■ ■ ■

Calvin Haynes Jr. was sitting in the row of folding chairs on the floor across from the Lady Rebels’ bench on Saturday. He’s a big guy. He wore No. 22 when he played basketball for Texas-San Antonio and for seven years as a pro overseas, during which time he met and married his wife, Shawishi.

Their son, Calvin Haynes III, wore No. 22 when he played for Oregon State from 2007 through 2011. Rmanii wears No. 22. Their youngest son, Maleke, is a senior point guard for El Camino Real High School in Woodland Hills, Calif. He also wears No. 22.

Calvin Haynes Jr. and his wife, Shawishi, had difficult decisions and sacrifices to make. On some nights, all three of their offspring were playing basketball on the same night. How can you be there to support all three?

Then Rmanii got pregnant.

Then Calvin Jr. got laid off from his job as commercial sales manager for Home Depot.

It was a good job; he had it for 22 years. Shawishi has a good job, too. She’s a regional director for Kaiser Health; she’s also studying for her Ph.D. in industrial organizational sociology.

So it was decided that Calvin would stay home until Rmanii finished her UNLV career and could care for little Peyton full time. That was a bigger sacrifice than deciding which of their kids’ games to attend, because Calvin thought he and Shawishi were done being parents, or at least raising little ones.

Rmanii refers to her mother and father as supergrandparents. One word. Better than grandparents, as great as grandparents are.

“While I’m in season playing basketball, my parents are primary caregivers for my daughter,” she said. “We made the decision as a family. Instead of me struggling, being out here by myself, trying to raise a newborn, my parents took over that role. They decided to step up for me and be supergrandparents.”

Does she regret not being there every moment to watch her daughter grow up?

Of course she does.

They speak every day, and there’s Skype and Facebook, and Rmanii says if she doesn’t see Peyton’s smiling face before every Lady Rebels game, “My whole deal is off.”

“Seeing her smile is my constant reminder to continue doing what I do,” she says.

She said Peyton’s father still comes around, that they still are friends. “Really, really good friends?” I ask.

She know what I’m getting at. She laughs. No, she said. She and Peyton’s father will not be getting married.

But by staying in school and by not forsaking her scholarship, she was able to graduate at age 20, and now she can start on another degree. By staying in school, she’ll be able to provide for Peyton in other ways. That’s important, too.

“The most difficult thing is not being there every day,” she said. “I know I was a teen mom, but I’m a mom, regardless. That’s the hardest thing, not being there. And that she might not know who I am. But she knows who I am. I talk to her every day, before every game.”

Shawishi Haynes told me she wouldn’t have allowed Rmanii to drop out of school, anyway; Calvin said he is proud of the decision that his daughter made, and that she graduated at 20. He also says he is proud of the way she gets after the other point guards in the Mountain West; he’s a dad, after all.

And now that Peyton is almost 3, she’s in preschool. Calvin doesn’t have to take her to the park as much. But sometimes he still does, and his pals don’t give him such a hard time about being Mr. Mom, because, as I said, Calvin Haynes Jr. is a pretty big guy.

In more ways than one.

■ ■ ■

Kathy Olivier, the Lady Rebels coach, stood by her point guard. They, too, have been through this together; they have earned each other’s respect. “She’s the one I lean on,” Olivier says.

With time running out Saturday and the Lady Rebels having frittered away a 14-point lead, it was time to lean.

Rmanii Haynes stole the ball from one of the Aggies at midcourt, drove to the basket, was fouled, and made two free throws to give UNLV an 81-79 lead. The Lady Rebels won 82-80.

After the game, 13 big Lady Rebels and one little one sat a table at midcourt in front of the benches, signing autographs for schoolkids.

The darling little one with the round cheeks snuggled tightly against her mom, only looking up, bashfully, when one of the schoolkids or one of the big Lady Rebels held out a palm for her to slap.

Her mom just looked happy.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski.

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