A junior middle hitter for Fordham, Ewing is 6 feet tall, powerful and “jumps out of the gym,” said Patrice Arrington, one of the coaches.
Her white practice jersey bore no number. But on game days, she is more recognizable as a Ewing playing in New York, wearing her father’s number: 33.
“I guess it was my way of almost being a tribute to my dad, giving him that,” she said of , whose Hall of Fame N.B.A. career included with the .
But Randi Ewing has tried to forge her own athletic identity. She is at peace with the challenge even though she acknowledges feeling occasional pressure to live up to her famous last name and continually having to explain why basketball is not her game.
“I think just playing volleyball, I can’t be compared to my dad,” said Ewing, 20, who played varsity basketball as a freshman and sophomore at Dwight-Englewood School in New Jersey. “But I’ll always, just because I’m an athlete in general, be compared to having him as a dad and having to deal with that. But it’s not something that I shy away from necessarily. I’m proud of my dad and have just got to make my own way doing what I can.”
After redshirting her freshman year because of shin problems, Ewing has developed into a factor at Fordham, which is rebuilding after losing six players to graduation. The Rams are 7-20 with three matches left in the regular season. Ewing stands second in the Atlantic 10 in blocks and third on the team in kills.
“She has the type of athletic talent to be the best player in the conference,” Coach Peter Volkert said. “She’s got all the physical tools. She’s a smart girl. She’s learning the nuances of volleyball. She’s getting better all the time.”
Ewing was born in Maryland and grew up primarily in Bergen County in northern New Jersey. Her father never pressed her to take up his sport, or any sport.
“I just wanted her to do whatever she wanted,” he said. “If she chose to be an athlete, that’s great. If not, then so be it. The only thing I asked her to do was to be a good person and a good student.”
She began playing volleyball as a high school sophomore after friends urged her to give it a try. Ewing fell in love with the game, eventually setting school records for kills and blocks and playing for a club team.
She gave up basketball. “I almost felt like I had to play,” she said.
“My brother played,” she added, referring to Patrick Ewing Jr., who plays for the New Orleans Hornets. “I think the pressure was maybe more for him because he was Junior. But I also felt like, I’m going to play. I’m going to go to the W.N.B.A. When I was little, I would tell my dad, ‘I want to be as tall as you, Daddy.’ He said, ‘You’re going to say that now, but you don’t.’ I think I realized that I just didn’t enjoy the game as much.”
She did enjoy her time at Madison Square Garden, eating cotton candy in the stands and watching her father play. At 11, she was also there on Feb. 28, 2003, watching his No. 33 and hearing the “Pat-rick Ew-ing” chants echo.
“I see my dad as my dad,” she said. “I see him as this big teddy bear, my protector. It was really humbling to be in an arena as big as Madison Square Garden and look at these thousands of people just cheering and getting emotional for this man that I’m so lucky to be able to call my father and to be able to have as a part of my life. It was very emotional for me.”
Her father and mother, Rita, divorced when Randi was young. He was also away a lot because of basketball. But Randi said, “He’s never strayed from his fatherly duties.”
Patrick Ewing has been an assistant with the Orlando Magic since 2007, but he still spends time at his house in New Jersey. He usually speaks with his daughter once or twice a day.
“I’m very proud of her,” he said. “I love her a lot. I think she’s doing an outstanding job. She’s not only an outstanding athlete, she’s an outstanding student, which makes me even more proud.”
Randi Ewing smiles easily and is a force of positive energy on the court, always encouraging her teammates, who feed off of that energy.
Sara Konkel, a sophomore setter, said, “She’s even more confident because she’s gotten so much better.”
Brittany Daulton, a senior outside hitter who considers Ewing her best friend, sees her as a happy, funny, talkative person.
“She definitely has a way with words,” Daulton said. “She’s never quiet.”
Ewing, who is majoring in communications and media studies, knows exactly what career she will pursue. She wants to be a broadcaster for ESPN, preferably as a game analyst, possibly for basketball or volleyball. She is also open to play-by-play or studio work.
“I definitely want to be on TV,” she said. “I want to be able to show that I have a lot of sports knowledge, that it doesn’t only take men who can do it.”