Two months later, Rasheed took the court for Princeton’s first game against St. Joseph’s and excelled from the start. Playing 36 minutes, the junior scored 17 points to avenge her most recent loss as a player. The next time out, she scored 22 points on 13 shots in a blowout victory. After that, Rasheed posted back-to-back double-doubles in big home victories over Villanova and Marist, who both finished the season in the top 50 of the RPI rankings.
If Rasheed’s previous injury ever affected her play, it did not show up in her effort or in the box score, as she played with intensity every day. In the Tigers’ most disappointing game of the season, a double-digit loss at Navy, Rasheed hustled for 11 rebounds — as many as all of her teammates’ combined — and scored 16 points. In a 78-67 loss to No. 21 DePaul the following week, the junior posted 23 points and 18 boards, drawing national attention.
“What makes Niveen so special is her motor,” Banghart said. “She changes directions quickly, she jumps quickly, she reacts to the ball quickly — she’s relentless. Fortunately, she’s on our side, because it’s very hard to stop someone that relentless.”
In a Feb. 11 contest at Harvard, Rasheed scored 24 points to reach 1,000 career points and avenge her team’s only Ivy loss in three years. It was that sort of season for Rasheed, who led the league with 16.9 points and 8.8 rebounds per game and was unanimously named the Ivy League Player of the Year.
Despite playing a tough non-league schedule, Princeton finished 24-5 for the second straight year and went a perfect 14-0 in conference play. At the end of the regular season, the Tigers became the first Ancient Eight team ever to crack the national top 25, and they became the highest-seeded Ivy League team in the NCAA Tournament.
On the biggest stage, Rasheed stuffed the box score once again, scoring 20 points with nine rebounds and six assists in Princeton’s most competitive postseason game yet, a three-point loss to Kansas State in the first round of the tournament.
Rasheed’s talents may stand out more on the offensive end, but she was also an asset to the Tigers on defense, Princeton’s stronger unit. Rasheed led the league in defensive rebounds and finished second in steals, and when the Tigers’ starters were on the floor, Princeton was nearly impossible to score on.
“As talented as she is, she always wants to get better. When we challenged her to get better and more sound positionally, defensively, she answered that call,” Banghart said.
Rasheed still has one year left in her career, but if it goes as expected, the forward could go down as one of the best players in Ivy League history — and she could extend her basketball career even further.
“We’ve talked to some people, and she has a legitimate shot at being drafted in the WNBA, which is very rare,” Banghart said. “She’s a really unique and special player, and I think, three years in, people inside the Jadwin community are starting to realize that you should get out and see her because she’s a really special one to watch.”
For her talent and intensity and her contributions to the most successful women’s basketball team in program history, Rasheed is The Daily Princetonian’s Female Athlete of the Year.
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2012/05/14/30968/