Before Notre Dame opens its season Saturday against Toledo, junior center Ruth Riley stopped by for an ESPN.com chat on Tuesday.
Riley, who led the nation in field-goal percentage last season, said Lisa Leslie is her favorite post player in the WNBA, noted that her ankle is improving every day and talked about her team’s wishes to be in Philadelphia in 2000.
If you missed Riley’s chat, check out the edited transcript below.
Joseph S.: Hi Ruth, I have just a few questions for you. Besides Muffet McGraw, what other women’s coaches do you like and why? Who are your favorite post players in the WNBA and in the NCAA? I have been a huge fan of women’s basketball for a long time, but get ribbed by some of my friends — what do I have to do to convince them the women’s game is as athletic, entertaining, and challenging as the men’s?
Ruth Riley: I think Geno Auriemma and Pat Summitt — just because of what they’ve done with their teams and because of their intensity. And Carolyn Peck, with what she did with Purdue last year and because she’s a fun coach to watch. She also brings a lot of intensity to her players.
My favorite post players? Leslie Leslie is one, especially with her ability.
I think that women’s basketball gets looked down upon because there aren’t a whole lot of women dunking in the games, and that seems to be a major emphasis. But if you watch a lot of teams play, we play the basic fundamental basketball that many people enjoy watching, and it is just as intense and physical as the men’s game.
Joe Harjung: Hi Ruth, I chatted with you last night after the game you might remember me I commented on your toe ring?? My question is related to this seasons outlook. Of course you have to take one step at a time and hope the team stays healthy, but do you ladies talk openly as a team about winning the national title this year. As a fast break junky, I really feel you ladies will win it all. What’s you honest thoughts?? See you against Butler good luck!!
Ruth Riley: Joe, I think that winning a national championship is every team’s goal going into the season. It’s one of ours. We have been plagued by injuries in the past, but we have been focused on what we want to accomplish this season. Winning the national championship is one of those goals. Yes, we’ve talked about it.
Tommy Ferrara: Hi, I’m Matt Carroll’s roommate at ND. I was wondering if you think you could beat him one-on-one. Would you accept a challenge from him?
Ruth Riley: Hi, Tommy. As for Matt, I think that we play different positions (he plays a two-guard), but it would be an interesting matchup. I think I could take him in the post, but he could definitely light me up from the 3-point line. As for the challenge, sure.
Chris: How does it feel to go to such a great school? I have been out there twice and love the atmosphere. Such a great campus. Does it get annoying with all the tourists all the time?
Ruth Riley: It’s such an honor to be here at Notre Dame, with the world-wide reputation that it has. The campus is definitely beautiful, as you know since you’ve been here. The atmosphere here is amazing, especially with the tradition that it has.
Gene Bastedo: Ruth, what made you decide to attend Notre Dame and has the experience at ND lived up to your expectations?
Ruth Riley: I chose Notre Dame for many reasons. It’s close to home (I live an hour and 15 minutes away). I wanted my family to be able to come up to my games. The coaching staff here is also great. The program itself was building as I was coming up and I wanted to be a part of that process. And the academic and athletic combination here is one of the best in the nation. It definitely has lived up to my expectations.
Eric Bargerhuff: Ruth, as a fellow graduate of North Miami, I’d like to know what is it like to graduate from a high school that didn’t have a lot of intense competition and step into the big leagues of the NCAA?
Ruth Riley: North Miami HS is a small school, we had 83 kids in my class. So obviously the competition wasn’t as close as it is in college. So it was a big transition for me to go from the high-school pace I was at to a more fast and physical pace we play at college. Freshman year was a struggle for me in just making the transition, but my coaches and teammates helped me out a lot.
Irishfan: How important has Tony Rolinski been to your progress as an overall basketball player?
Ruth Riley: Tony is our strength and conditioning coach at ND, and he is a vital part of our program. He has helped us out tremendously, getting us stronger and quicker, and we appreciate what he has done a lot.
Sara C.: Ruth — you have said that one of Notre Dame’s team goals is to win a national championship. What about your personal goals? What would you like to see yourself accomplish this season?
Ruth Riley: I just want to get better from last year and keep improving. I see myself as more of a leader out there since I’m an upperclassman now. I haven’t thought about what I’m going to do when I graduate.
Shaun: Ruth, do you think about someday playing in the WNBA?
Ruth Riley: I think it would be an honor to play in the WNBA with the talent they have in the league right now. It is an incredible opportunity to be able to play in the US, whereas most women had to go overseas for professional leagues in the past.
Jason Yocum: what are the strengths of this years team and do you have depth? good luck
Ruth Riley: I think the strength is that we’re more experienced. We have a lot of players coming back and we only lost two seniors and one starter from last year. As for depth, yes, we have it. I feel like anybody can come in and have a big game on any night. We have a lot of good athletes, very talented players, and I feel that we complement each other well.
The Band of the Fighting Irish: Hey Ruth, we love playing for you and the team and love watching you dominate the post. We especially like the part where we get free trips to tournaments because of your hard work. Let us know if there is anything we play that you’d like to hear more of. Keep it up — you rock!
Ruth Riley: First off, I want to thank the band for all the support they’ve given us. And as for songs they can play more, I would have to say the Irish fight song is the best song they can play — and they can play it over and over.
Kevin L.: I was wondering what your thoughts were about the upcoming Big East season, and about Rutgers??
Ruth Riley: The Big East has become a dominant conference and every game that we play is going to be tough. As for Rutgers, it’s obvious that they’re one of the best teams in the nation right now, and we’re just going to play them as hard as any other team in the conference.
Irish Fan: Ruth, with the program having the success it has had in the past 5 years. How does this year’s team stay focused and handle being the hunted instead of the hunters? And do you feel with the addition of Alicia, ND has reloaded, for another run at the national title?
Ruth Riley: Last year we were ranked in the top 10 most of the year. So I feel like we’re going to go out and handle the pressure the same or even better than last year. We just have to stay focused every game, knowing that teams are going to come in and try to knock us off. I think Alicia has proven in the first two games that she’s going to be an impact player. After losing Sheila last year, our 3-point specialist, Alicia is doing a good job of coming in and filling that role.
IRISH FAN: DO YOU HAVE ANY OTHER FAMILY MEMBERS THAT PLAY BASKETBALL?
Ruth Riley: My sister, Rachel, and I played basketball together in high school, and my brother, Jacob, whose a senior in high school, plays basketball as well and is looking to go to a small college to play. My sister is about 5 feet 7, and my brother is about 6-4.
IRISH FAN: I know you played with USA basketball at the international level over the summer. Are there a lot of differences, between that and playing at ND?
Ruth Riley: There are a lot of differences. My role on Team USA was obviously a different type of team as in college. The USA team that I played on has 12 outstanding college players, and so my impact was a little different, but there are some similarities, too.
Gene B.: Ruth, How is your injured ankle? Will you play against Toledo?
Ruth Riley: My ankle is getting better. And hopefully I will be playing this Saturday against Toledo.
Allison Zangrilli: Ruth, What advice can you give to a young girl that dreams about someday playing Division I basketball?
Ruth Riley: Allison, I would have to say just keep working hard. Make goals for yourself and just try to achieve them to the best that you can. Don’t get discouraged.
Irish Fan: Ruth, do you feel that this is Notre Dame’s year? And have you been doing your back exercises?? Good Luck, Your Friend –BC
Ruth Riley: As for being our year, I think we have as good a shot at the championship as anyone else. As for my back, it’s feeling better thanks. Thanks, Bill.
Jackie Webster: Ruth, we have enjoyed following your great accomplishments over the past few years at Notre Dame. I remember once reading that your team did not feel that they were getting a great deal of support from your university membership at games. Although it may be too early to tell, do you think that has changed from last season? If not, what do you think would help to get students out to your games?
Ruth Riley: I feel like the university as a whole does a good job supporting all athletic programs here. I think that the support gets better every year, and as for the students, I’m not really sure what would make them come to more games. We lost only one game at home last year, so I’m not sure what we need to do to get more students out at our games.
I want to thank everyone for their questions. I’d like to thank the Knott guys, Kevin Lin and everyone else who’s written in for their support. And go Irish!