by Andrew Garda

For Montclair High School senior Janyia McGainey-Rodgers, the girls basketball team’s 40-34 win over crosstown rival Montclair Kimberley Academy in the first preliminary round of the Essex County Tournament was a big moment.

“It feels really good to get our first tournament win,” she said after the game. “We tried to get one last year, but we didn't make it. So, to win something like this, especially in my senior year, is really good.”

McGainey-Rodgers said the difference this year has been team chemistry, though that has taken a while to get together this season.

“With a different coach, we're all kind of fresh and stuff like that,” she said. “It was just, [at first] we weren't playing together as well as we should. But now we actually know each other. We all trust each other and not just certain people on the court, but like everyone on the court.”

McGainey-Rodgers is hoping her team can finish the season strong, and feels that recently the team has begun to hit its stride.

“We've been putting in a lot of work into it. In the beginning of the season, we weren't winning so much. [Now] we've had closer numbers against teams. So, we're getting a lot better, which is really good and our work is paying off.”

McGainey-Rodgers took a few minutes out of her post-game celebration to talk basketball and more for this week’s Athlete Spotlight:

How did you end up focusing on basketball? I started playing in fifth grade. I've done cheer, I've done gymnastics, volleyball, and track but basketball is something I feel like I'm also good at. I like running, so I can run up and down the court [and] it's a good way to get physical and get my aggressiveness out and stuff like that. And it's good for my mind.

Are you looking to play like some club ball or anything at the next level? I want to play in college and I'll probably play AAU ball this year, and then hopefully get a scholarship.

Do you have any favorite colleges? I want to go to Clark-Atlanta University or Rutgers. So I'm applying to both of those.

Do you know what you might want to study? I want to be a teacher and major in African American black studies.

What draws you to teaching? My mom was a teacher and I work with kids right now, and I work with kids over the summer so I just really enjoy working with kids and teaching and stuff like that.

What do you like to do for fun? I usually just hang out or I like a run or write. Just writing narratives about my life and stuff like that.

What do you like about writing? It's [another] way to get everything out. Sometimes it feels good just to get everything out of my head verbally, but not having to talk to someone.