Off the court, Oklahoma State’s diminutive and immensely talented guard neither looks nor sounds like a player who would take a swing at an opponent. For Pete’s sake, Riley loves SpongeBob stuff and could pass for a little kid without even trying very hard.
Yet she had incidents with Texas (Big 12 tournament) and LSU (NCAA Tournament) at the end of last season, the latter resulting in a penalty handed down by the NCAA. She will be suspended for the first game of the 2009 NCAA Tournament for taking a swipe at the head of LSU guard Erica White in a Sweet 16 matchup where the two were busy getting on each other’s nerves as much as possible.
This suspension creates an uncomfortable position for Cowgirls and the NCAA committee to be in because of how it might affect seeding. How will the committee make allowance for Oklahoma State being guaranteed not to have its star for its NCAA opener?
Oklahoma State coach Kurt Budke didn’t really want to talk about it much, even theoretically, because as he correctly pointed out, the Cowgirls have to MAKE the tournament first. (I’m pretty sure they will do that.)
Riley attributed the incident with White to just being a bit too “competitive” and that it was in no way intentional. She said she had grown and matured because of it … but that she wasn’t worried about what people thought about her because of the incidents.
I’m going to try to tread very lightly here, because it’s impossible not to really like this kid and what she’s done for that program. She’s been a jackpot for the Cowgirls, and no Big 12 program needed that kind of infusion more. The long-awaited Oklahoma State resurgence was a great thing for the league, and this isn’t intended to rain on the Cowgirls’ (or Riley’s) parade.
But … if you want to be an good representative for your sport and your school and you hope to have a pro career someday – and I’d say it’s safe to assume Riley wants all three – then you DO have to care about what reasonable, fair-minded people think of your actions. That’s part of what everyone learns in terms of how we monitor our behavior. I would bet inside, Riley really does care.
There are a lot, lot, lot of competitive people in women’s hoops who’ve never had one incident like Riley’s, let alone two in close succession. For the first one, the Big 12 didn’t opt to suspend her for the subsequent league tournament title game. But escaping that discipline then likely was part of why she didn’t exercise more control against LSU.
Let me stress that Riley seems very sincere in saying she’s learned a lesson. Fair enough. The way she will prove that is by not having another one of those control-loss moments in a game. If she gets through this season without any problems, then last season’s incidents will be more or less forgotten.