Sept. 30, 2008
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Former Notre Dame women's basketball center Ruth Riley ('01) is set to make her third appearance in the WNBA Finals when her San Antonio Silver Stars play host to the Detroit Shock in Game 1 of the best-of-five WNBA championship series Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. (ET) on ESPN2 from the AT&T Center in San Antonio.
Riley's Silver Stars posted the league's best record in the regular season (24-10), but have had to go the distance in each of their best-of-three playoff series, outlasting the Sacramento Monarchs (and 2008 Notre Dame graduate Charel Allen) in overtime of the third game, before rallying from a game down to get by the Los Angeles Sparks in the Western Conference finals.
Meanwhile, Detroit (led by head coach and 1979 Notre Dame graduate Bill Laimbeer) is making its third consecutive WNBA Finals appearance, reaching the championship round after a hard-fought 2-1 series win in the Eastern Conference finals over the New York Liberty (and 2006 Notre Dame graduate Megan Duffy).
Riley is seeking to become just the eighth player in WNBA history to win three league titles, and the first player not associated with the Houston Comets, who won four consecutive WNBA crowns from 1997-2000. In addition, Riley could become one of only three players in league history to earn WNBA championships with two different teams -- her current San Antonio teammate, Erin Buescher, won a ring with Sacramento in 2005, while Buescher's teammate on that '05 Monarchs squad, Olympia Scott, also took home a WNBA title last season with the Phoenix Mercury.
A former three-time All-America center at Notre Dame and the 2001 consensus national player of the year, Riley has been a starter for much of her WNBA career (earning an All-Star starting nod in 2005), but shifted to a reserve role with San Antonio this season, coming off the bench to average 5.1 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.4 blocks (ninth in the league) in 19.3 minutes per game. Traditionally, she has been at her best in the postseason, averaging 7.1 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in 37 career games (including 31 starts), helping Detroit to WNBA championships in 2003 and 2006 before her off-season trade to San Antonio prior to the '07 season.
Riley already made women's basketball history in '03 when she was named the WNBA Finals Most Valuable Player (after a career-high 27 points in the decisive third-game win over Los Angeles), becoming the first player ever to earn Finals MVP honors at both the college and WNBA levels (she was the 2001 NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player after leading the Irish to the national championship).
Riley also is well-known and respected around the WNBA for her work with various charitable organizations. In fact, on Sept. 18, she was named the 2008 recipient of the WNBA's Community Assist Award, recognizing her selfless giving to others.
Notre Dame alums have won four WNBA titles since the league's inception in 1997, with Riley earning a pair of rings in Detroit, Jacqueline Batteast ('05) joining Riley for the second championship in the Motor City, and Coquese Washington ('92) helping Houston to the 2000 WNBA title.
Game 2 of this year's WNBA Finals will be played Friday in San Antonio (7:30 p.m. ET), before the series shifts to Detroit (actually suburban Ypsilanti, Mich., and Eastern Michigan University's Convocation Center) for Game 3 on Sunday (4:30 p.m. ET). If necessary, the fourth game will be played on Detroit's usual home court at The Palace of Auburn Hills, on Monday, Oct. 6 (7:30 p.m. ET), and if needed, the fifth and deciding game would be back in San Antonio on Oct. 9 (7:30 p.m. ET). Every game of the 2008 WNBA Finals will be televised live nationally on ESPN2.