by Beau Wicker Sports Editor
---- — Former North Miami and Notre Dame basketball great Ruth Riley announced her retirement Wednesday on WNBA.com.
Riley, 34, was the No. 5 overall pick in the 2001 WNBA draft and enjoyed a 13-year career playing professional basketball.
The 6-foot, 4 1/2-inch center played for five WNBA teams, the Miami Sol (2001–2002), Detroit Shock (2003–2006), San Antonio Silver Stars (2007–2011), Chicago Sky (2012) and Atlanta Dream (2013). Her Detroit Shock team won the WNBA championship in 2003 and 2006. She was named the MVP of the 2003 WNBA Finals. She played in the WNBA All-Star game in 2005.
Riley averaged 6.3 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game in her WNBA career. Her best year statistically was in 2004 for Detroit when she averaged 11.1 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game.
She has also played on teams that won the National Women’s Basketball League (NWBL) championship and the 2010 EuroCup Championship.
Riley was a member of the 2004 United States Olympic team that went undefeated and won a gold medal.
In her collegiate career at Notre Dame, Riley was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four when the Fighting Irish won the national title in 2001.
In the championship game, Notre Dame was trailing Purdue, 66-64, when Riley scored the tying field goal. Then, with 5.8 seconds left and the score still tied, Riley drew a foul. She made both free throws to give Notre Dame its final 68-66 edge and its first women’s national championship.
Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw, when asked about the critical play on which Riley was fouled, said, “It’s the same play we’ve been running all season. It’s called: ‘Get the ball to Ruth.’”
A four-year starter at Notre Dame, Riley consistently ranked high in the nation among women basketball players in field goal percentage and blocked shots. In both her junior and senior years she was an Associated Press First Team All-American selection. As a senior, she won the Naismith Award and was the Associated Press Player of the Year. In addition, she was the 2000-01 Verizon Academic All-America Team Member of the Year.
Riley graduated from Notre Dame in 2001 with a degree in psychology, having made the Dean’s List every semester. She finished her Notre Dame career with 2,072 points, and school records for rebounds (1,007), blocked shots (370), and field goal percentage (.632).
Riley hails from Macy, population 209, in northern Miami County located 27 miles northeast of Logansport.
She was 6 feet tall by the time she was 12 years old.
During her four years at North Miami she scored 1,372 points, acquired 1,011 rebounds and blocked 427 shots. She averaged 26 points a game as a senior, and had her jersey number (25) retired by the high school. She was an Indiana All-Star in 1997.
North Miami won its second ever sectional title Riley’s junior season in 1996. The Warriors lost to No. 14-ranked Logansport in the sectional final her senior year in 1997.
Said Riley on WNBA.com: “Success in life is never an individual accomplishment — it is always a culmination of those who inspire you to chase your dreams, encourage you along the long road of achievement, and who impart the necessary knowledge. There are also those who give you the physical tools, who grant you the opportunity, and last but not least, those who work alongside you every day in pursuit of mutual goals. What started in the fourth grade with a little orange ball, a lot of height, a tad bit of coordination, and a huge dream of playing in the Olympics has transpired to an amazing journey from Macy, Indiana to some of the greatest stages professional basketball has to offer.
“While I have cherished every moment of preparation and competition that this game I love has allotted me, my life as a professional athlete has always been about something greater than the sport itself -- it is the bond that I built with my teammates, the experiences of living in foreign countries, and the platform to make a meaningful contribution to this world. As I think back over all my years playing basketball, I see the faces of my teammates, hear the voices of my coaches (some louder than others), feel the love and encouragement of my family, friends and fans, and I am consumed with gratitude. Reflecting over my career, my mind wanders back to the summer of 1997 when I was sitting in my living room in our little farmhouse outside of Macy, Ind., watching the inaugural game of the WNBA. About to head off to Notre Dame for my freshman season, my class was unique in the sense that we were the first class to enter college knowing there was the opportunity to play in the WNBA after we graduated.”
Riley added she will continue her life in basketball.
“Retirement just does not seem to be the appropriate word to use at the age of 34, because I am not getting out of the game, just changing my association to it. I am excited to take on a new role as a NBA/WNBA Cares Ambassador, continuing to globally utilize the platform of our sport to address important social issues. For the first time since elementary school, I will be a student and not a student-athlete. I am looking forward to heading back to grad school at Notre Dame, where I will be starting their Executive MBA program this fall.”