Don’t get me wrong, Ruth Riley is a fine player and a winner in every sense of the word. Having said that, I would say that it is safe to surmise that Riley has never reached the apex of what was predicted to be a stellar professional career. Once again, Riley has been a more than solid professional. However, solid and stellar, are certainly not the same thing. Even with that, many players would give their eye-teeth to have had a career like Riley’s.
One thing I will say about Riley is that, although she doesn’t perform like an all-star player many times during the regular season, she is absolutely lights out come postseason time – and hey, I guess that’s when it matters most.
As I said, Riley is a winner and has won titles with her Notre Dame team which won the NCAA women’s championship in
2001 and her Detroit Shock team which won the WNBA championship in 2003. Again, Riley was the Most Valuable Player in both series, becoming the first woman to win both awards. She has also played on teams that won the NWBL championship and the gold medal at the Olympic Games.
On April 20, 2001, Riley was selected by the Miami Sol as the fifth overall pick in the WNBA Draft.
Her second season (2002) was a difficult one. After playing well in the preseason, Riley broke a finger the day before the regular season started. She could not play for the Sol’s first several games – the first time in her career she had missed a game because of an injury. She returned, playing with a splint on her hand, but lost her starting spot.
After Riley’s second season with the Sol, that franchise folded and on April 25, 2003 the WNBA held a special one-round dispersal draft, in which the remaining WNBA teams could select players from the Sol and from the Portland Fire, which had also folded. The Detroit Shock, by virtue of having the worst regular-season record in the WNBA in 2002, received the first pick in the dispersal draft, and used it to select Riley.
In Riley’s first season with the Shock (2003), she was a key member of the team. She bettered each of her previous WNBA season totals in points, rebounds, blocked shots, and assists and the Shock went from a 2002 season with the worst record in the league (9-23) to a 2003 season with the best record (25-9) and a victory in the WNBA Championship. In the finals, the Shock defeated the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Sparks to win Detroit’s first WNBA title. Riley was named the MVP of the WNBA finals.
Riley has continued her steady – but unspectacular -play for the Shock the past two seasons and was selected for the Eastern Conference team in the WNBA All-Star last season. Thisseason, Riley is averaging 9.2 points per game and 5.5 rebounds to go with her nearly two blocks oer game.
Riley may not go down in history as one of the greates female players of all-time, but she will certainly be remembered as one of her sport’s greatest winners.