Ruth Riley ('01) holds the plaque signifying her induction into the Capital One Academic All-America Hall of Fame Monday night in St. Louis.
June 25, 2012
ST. LOUIS - Former Notre Dame women's basketball center Ruth Riley, arguably the most decorated student-athlete in Fighting Irish history, was inducted into the Capital One Academic All-America® Hall of Fame, as selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA), Monday evening in St. Louis. Her induction marks the second straight year that Notre Dame has had one of its former student-athletes inducted into the Capital One Academic All-America® Hall of Fame.
Riley became the seventh former Notre Dame student-athlete to be selected for induction and the second female, following another women's basketball player, Dr. Carol Lally Shields into the Hall of Fame (Shields was enshrined as an honorary member in 2011). With seven each, Notre Dame and UCLA are the schools with the most Academic All-America® Hall of Fame members, while Notre Dame joins Connecticut as the only schools with two women's basketball players to earn induction into the Academic All-America® Hall of Fame.
Riley joined four other inductees as members of the Academic All-America® Hall of Fame Class of 2012. In addition to the former Fighting Irish standout, this year's class also included United States Secretary of Education and former Harvard basketball player Arne Duncan ('87), former University of Oklahoma basketball standout Alvan Adams ('98), University of Southern California swimming great and Olympic gold medalist John Nabor ('77) and Slippery Rock University soccer standout Dr. Todd Olsen ('86).
Since the Hall of Fame's inception in 1988 (and counting this year's class), 122 individuals have been selected for the honor. Coincidentally, St. Louis (the site of this year's induction ceremony) also was the site of Riley's greatest collegiate success, as she led Notre Dame to the 2001 NCAA national championship, the first women's basketball title in school history.
In addition to Shields, the other Notre Dame representatives in the Capital One Academic All-America® Hall of Fame include former football players Bob Burger (2006 inductee), Robert Thomas (1996 inductee), Dave Casper (1993 inductee) and Joe Theismann (1990 inductee), as well as basketball standout John Paxson (2005 inductee).
A 2010 inductee into Notre Dame's prestigious Ring of Honor, few Notre Dame alumni were as accomplished as Riley during their careers at the University both as a student and athlete. Even fewer have enjoyed as successful a playing career in the professional ranks than her.
The only player in Notre Dame women's basketball history to score 2,000 career points and grab 1,000 career rebounds, Riley was a two-time first-team Academic All-American in both 2000 and '01. She was selected as the Verizon Women's Basketball Academic All-American of the Year in her senior season and capped that off by being named the 2000-01 national Verizon Academic All-America Team Member of the Year for the University (Division I) Division.
A two-time Associated Press first-team All-American in 2000 and 2001 (and third-team selection in 1999), the Macy, Ind., native was selected as the '01 BIG EAST Player of the Year and the AP and Naismith Women's College Player of the Year after helping lead the Irish to a 34-2 record. She ranks as the program's all-time leader in seven categories including rebounds (1,007), blocked shots (370 - currently 16th in NCAA history), and field goal percentage (.632 - now 15th in NCAA history). In fact, Riley still stands third on the school's all-time career scoring list with 2,072 points and holds the Notre Dame single-game scoring record with 41 points in a January 1998 win over Providence.
Riley earned NCAA Women's Final Four Most Outstanding Player accolades after scoring 28 points, grabbing 13 rebounds and blocking seven shots in the title game victory over Purdue as she nailed two game-winning free throws with 5.8 seconds remaining in the contest. In her final season in a Fighting Irish uniform, she averaged 18.7 points and 7.8 rebounds per game.
In 14 career NCAA Championship games (in which she led Notre Dame to the Sweet 16 three times), Riley averaged 19.7 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.8 blocks and at the time of her graduation, she held the tournament's career mark with 39 blocked shots.
An eight-time Dean's List selection at Notre Dame, Riley graduated in May '01 with a 3.64 grade-point average in psychology and sociology from the College of Arts and Letters. She was also selected as the BIG EAST women's basketball scholar-athlete of the year and the BIG EAST women's scholar-athlete of the year for all sports. Riley received the university's highest scholar-athlete honor when she was awarded the Byron V. Kanaley Award. She also was the recipient of an NCAA postgraduate scholarship and was awarded the NCAA's Top VIII Award.
As a collegian, she helped the United States to the silver medal at the 1999 World University Games in Spain. In 2006, Riley was named one of the 25 greatest women's college basketball players of the past 25 years, according to ESPN.com.
An 11-year WNBA veteran, Riley was the fifth overall pick by the Miami Sol in the '01 WNBA Draft and is currently a member of the Chicago Sky. In 2003, she was named the Most Valuable Player of the WNBA Finals after leading the Detroit Shock to the title, making her one of only two women's basketball players ever to be named Finals MVP at both the college and professional levels. Riley also earned a second WNBA crown with the Shock in 2006 and returned to the league finals two years later with the San Antonio Silver Stars. In 2005, she was selected for the Eastern Conference team in the WNBA All-Star Game.
During her professional career, Riley also struck gold with the U.S. Senior National Team in 2004 at the Olympics in Athens, Greece, placing her among a select group of seven players who have earned an NCAA title, WNBA crown and Olympic gold medal in their careers.
Off the court since her graduation, Riley has been actively involved in the community both locally and nationally. The recipient of the 2011 Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award presented by the WNBA, she has represented the interests of the league's players since 2005 as first vice president of the WNBA Players Association. In '06, she traveled with the NBA and WNBA to Nigeria to join in the fight against malaria and has spent the past five years as the national spokesperson for the "Nothing but Nets" program, which helps raise money to purchase bed nights to prevent the disease from spreading. She has also worked with the TRIAD Trust, a non-profit group dedicated to reducing the number of AIDS-related deaths, and has traveled to Kenya, Mali and South Africa with the group as part of a healthy women campaign to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS.
In 2009, Riley was appointed by President George W. Bush to the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports and received the Henry P. Iba Citizen Athlete Award in 2010, presented annually to one male and one female athlete who exemplify a high degree of citizenship. She also is the author of a children's book, The Spirit of Basketball, which was published in 2005.