2003 WNBA Finals MVP Ruth Riley Added
July 22, 2004 Colorado Springs, Colorado
USA Basketball announced today that 6-5 center Ruth Riley of the Detroit Shock would replace DeLisha Milton-Jones (Los Angeles Sparks) on the 2004 USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team that is expected to defend the USA's gold medal at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, Aug. 13-29. Milton-Jones suffered a torn medial meniscus and sprained medial collateral ligament in her right knee on July 9 and will be unable to compete in Athens. Riley's selection was made by the USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team Committee.
"It's always an honor to have the opportunity to represent your country. Especially when you're playing the sport you love," said Riley. "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. 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.
"I think my personality fit in with the chemistry of the team," added Riley when asked about why she thought the Committee selected her to the squad. "I'm also a young player who's getting better. I haven't reached the highest point in my career yet, but I think they saw that my game has continued to improve. I think they feel that I can contribute and back up the great post players we have on the team."
"I am very sorry that DeLisha is unable to play. She's such a warrior
and we'll miss her in Athens," said USA and Houston Comets head coach
"I'm excited about adding Ruth. She gives us some height and size
"You never want to lose a player like DeLisha. She gave this team so many different things," said USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team Committee chair Renee' Brown, Vice President of Player Personnel for the WNBA. "But that's why we trained with all the team candidates in the spring. The main thing about adding Ruth Riley is her size. She's 6-5, plays well with her back to the basket and is a strong rebounder. We liked the fact that she jelled well with the team in Cuba and Europe. Van was comfortable with her and her chemistry with the team is really good. Ruth is excited and hungry, she'll do whatever is asked of her and will fit right in."
Riley joined the 2004 USA Senior National Team core group for its first two spring training tours. Playing in eight of the USA's contests in Cuba and Europe, Riley gave the USA a strong presence off the bench while averaging 4.9 ppg. and 3.5 rpg. In 2002 Riley trained with the USA Senior National Team in hopes of making the 2002 USA World Championship squad. She joined the team 2002 team for the entire spring training, practicing with the squad in Houston, and San Antonio, Texas; New York, New York; and Colorado Springs, Colo.; but missed making the final cut.
Riley first donned the red, white and blue as a member of the 1998 USA Select Team that posted a 7-1 record against national teams from Puerto Rico, Poland and Spain and averaged a team second best 10.3 ppg. and a team leading 7.6 rpg.
The following summer Riley helped the U.S. collect a silver medal at the 1999 World University Games, averaging a team fourth best 10.3 ppg. and a team second best 5.2 rpg.
The No. 5 overall pick by the Miami Sol in the 2001 WNBA Draft, Riley was selected by the Detroit Shock as the first overall pick in the 2003 WNBA Dispersal Draft. She made the most of her move, averaging 9.6 ppg. and 5.9 rpg., while finishing the 03 season as the league's fifth best shot blocker (1.71 bpg.). In doing so, she helped Detroit turn around from a woeful 9-23 mark in 2002 to a WNBA tops 25-9 posting in 2003.
Riley then helped the Shock through the WNBA Playoffs and to the 2003 Finals. In facing two-time defending WNBA champs, the Los Angeles Sparks, Riley played inspired basketball on the final night, scoring a career high 27 points as she helped catapult the Shock to the 2003 WNBA crown. After averaging 12.0 ppg. in the first round and 11.5 ppg. in the second round, Riley scored 14.7 ppg. against the Sparks and was named the 2003 Finals MVP in the process.
Through the first 22 games of the 2004 WNBA season she is averaging a career high 11.3 ppg., while adding a league 17th best 5.7 rpg. and fifth best 1.45 bpg.
During her four years (1998-2001) at the University of Notre Dame (Ind.), the Fighting Irish compiled a 109-22 record (.832 winning percentage), won a share of the 2001 Big East Conference regular season championship, competed in four NCAA Tournaments, advanced to the 1998 and 2000 Sweet Sixteens and claimed the national title in 2001.
In helping her squad to the 2001 NCAA title to close out her collegiate career, Riley earned NCAA Final Four and Midwest Regional Most Outstanding Player honors.
Chancellor will be assisted on the sidelines in Athens by Anne Donovan (Seattle Storm), Gail Goestenkors (Duke University) and C. Vivian Stringer (Rutgers University). The 11 previously announced members of the 2004 USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team include Sue Bird (Seattle Storm), Swin Cash (Detroit Shock), Tamika Catchings (Indiana Fever), Yolanda Griffith (Sacramento Monarchs), Shannon Johnson (San Antonio Silver Stars), Lisa Leslie (Los Angeles Sparks), Katie Smith (Minnesota Lynx), Dawn Staley (Charlotte Sting), Sheryl Swoopes (Houston Comets), Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury) and Tina Thompson (Houston Comets).
The U.S. squad will get together for its first practice with all 12 members on Aug. 3 in New York from 7:00-9:00 p.m. (all times local) at Baruch College. On Aug. 4, the USA squad will hold an 11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. practice at Baruch College, prior to a one-hour shooting practice, beginning at 3:15 p.m., at Radio City Music Hall. Following the two days of practice, the USA will face a team of WNBA All-Stars in an ESPN nationally televised contest dubbed WNBA vs. USA Basketball: The Game at Radio City, which will tip-off at 7:00 p.m. on Aug. 5. Tickets can be purchased by calling 1-877-WNBA-TIX, online at WNBA.com or ticketmaster.com, or through Ticketmaster locations in Connecticut, New Jersey or New York.
Heading to Europe for its final tune-up before Athens, the U.S. will compete in a tournament in Salamanca, Spain, along with 2004 Olympic competitor Spain, as well as 2003 European Championship fourth and fifth place finishers Poland and France, respectively. The Aug. 8 contests will feature Spain and Poland playing at 5:00 p.m., while the U.S. will face France at 7:30 p.m. On Aug. 9 the consolation game will tip-off at 5:30 p.m., while the championship will follow at 8:00 p.m.