July 22, 2004
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Former Notre Dame All-America center Ruth Riley has been added to the 2004 USA Basketball Women’s National Team, it was announced Thursday evening. Her selection rounds out the 12-member team that is expected to defend the USA’s gold medal at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, Aug. 13-29. Riley, who played in eight games during Team USA’s 2004 exhibition schedule (4.9 ppg., 3.5 rpg.), was chosen by the USA Basketball Women’s Senior National Team Committee as an injury replacement for DeLisha Milton-Jones, who suffered a knee injury earlier this month and will be unable to compete in Athens.
“It’s always an honor to have the opportunity to represent your country, especially when you’re playing the sport you love,” Riley said. “While I’m excited about this opportunity, it’s a little bittersweet because I feel sorry for DeLisha and wish her a speedy recovery.
“The ultimate goal of any athlete is to represent your country on the highest level,” she continued. “I’ve done that at the college and professional level and have never given up my goal of playing at the Olympics. It hasn’t gone exactly as planned – I didn’t make the team in 2002 (World Championship) and was an alternate again this year. But, I kept working hard and I have finally gotten the chance to compete at this level.”
“Ruth really deserves to be on the national team,” Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw said. “She’s been an ambassador for women’s basketball and wherever she’s gone, people love her. At Notre Dame, she was the poster girl for what you want as a coach. She’s a good person and does so many great things for the community. I have no doubt she will be a proud and humble representative of our country and our University at the Olympics.”
Riley currently is in her fourth professional season and second as the starting center for the Detroit Shock of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA). She is averaging a career-high 11.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per game this season, while ranking fifth in the league with 1.45 blocks per contest. Last year, she arrived in the Motor City and helped lead the Shock from “worst to first,” improving from 9-23 to 27-10 and winning the first league championship in franchise history. Riley was named the Most Valuable Player of the 2003 WNBA Finals after registering 14.7 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.3 blocks in the three-game series, including a career-best 27 points in the decisive third game. She is the only women’s basketball player ever to be named the Finals MVP at both the college and professional levels.
In four seasons at Notre Dame from 1997-2001, Riley carved her spot as one of the top players in school history. A two-time first-team All-America selection and holder of eight Irish career records, she is the only Notre Dame women’s cager to log 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds, finishing third on the school’s all-time scoring list (2,072) and first on its career rebounding chart (1,007). In 2001, she was the consensus National Player of the Year after leading Notre Dame to a 34-2 record and its first national championship, earning Most Outstanding Player honors at the NCAA Final Four. Off the court, she was a two-time first-team Academic All-America choice and was the 2001 Academic All-America Team Member of the Year.
Should Riley and Team USA win the gold medal in Athens, Riley would be one of only five American-born women’s basketball players ever to win an NCAA title, a WNBA championship and an Olympic gold medal. The only current players in this elite group are Cynthia Cooper (USC ’83, ’84; Houston Comets ’97-00; Team USA ’88), Sheryl Swoopes (Texas Tech ’93; Houston Comets ’97-00; Team USA ’96, ’00) and Kara Wolters (Connecticut ’95; Houston Comets ’99; Team USA ’00). Riley’s teammate on both the Shock and U.S. National Team, Swin Cash, also could join this prestigious club, having added college titles at Connecticut in 2000 and 2002 to last year’s WNBA championship in Detroit.
The addition of Riley gives Team USA a decided BIG EAST Conference flavor, with four players coming from the league. A trio of Connecticut alumnae – Cash, Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi – will join Riley on the national team, while Rutgers head coach C. Vivian Stringer will serve as an assistant on the staff of American head coach Van Chancellor.
Three other former Notre Dame basketball players previously have been named to compete in the Olympics. Vince Boryla (1948) and Adrian Dantley (1976) won gold medals, while Bill Hanzlik was tapped for the 1980 squad that did not participate in the Moscow Olympics due to a boycott.
Riley is one of three Irish women’s basketball players who have taken part in international competition, having previously played for the 1998 USA Select Team and the 1999 USA World University Games Team, winning a silver medal with the latter squad. Former Notre Dame All-Americans Beth Morgan (’97) and Katryna Gaither (’97) also saw time with national teams, playing together on the 1997 USA World Championship Qualifying Team (silver medal) and 1999 USA Pan American Games Team (bronze medal). In addition, Morgan played on the 1997 USA World University Games Team that won a gold medal.
Should Riley and Team USA participate in Athens as expected, she will be part of a school-record five former or current Notre Dame female student-athletes slated to compete in this year’s Olympics. Former soccer standouts Shannon Boxx (’98) and Kate Sobrero (’97) currently start for the U.S. squad, while their former teammate, Monica Gonzalez (’01) is playing for the Mexican National Team. Meanwhile, rising junior swimmer Christel Bouvron will race in the 200-meter butterfly for her native Singapore.
The U.S. Women’s National Team will assemble for its first practice on Aug. 3 at Baruch College in New York City. The team then will face a squad of WNBA All-Stars on Aug. 5 at 7 p.m. (EDT) inside New York’s famed Radio City Music Hall (ESPN live telecast) before heading to Salamanca, Spain, to compete in a final pre-Olympic tournament against Spain, Poland and France on Aug. 8-9. Team USA is scheduled to play its first Olympic contest on Aug. 14 against New Zealand at 2:30 p.m. Athens time (6:30 a.m. in South Bend).
— ND —
NOTE: The full USA Basketball release, complete with additional quotes from Riley, may be found at the official USA Basketball web site … also, a complete rundown of all Notre Dame connections at the 2004 Summer Olympics will be posted at a later date here on the official Notre Dame athletics web site.