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 a former Notre Dame student-athlete entered the Hall of Fame, after Dr. Carol Lally Shields '79 was named an honorary inductee last year.
Riley became the seventh former Notre Dame student-athlete to be inducted and the second female Domer. Notre Dame and UCLA now have the most Academic All-America® Hall of Fame members with seven each, while Notre Dame joins Connecticut as the only schools with two women's basketball players to earn induction.
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. 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 Byron V. Kanaley Award, Notre Dame's highest scholar-athlete honor. She also won an NCAA postgraduate scholarship and the NCAA's Top VIII Award.
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. After leading the Irish to a National Championship in 2001, she was named the Most Valuable Player of the NCAA championship. When she was named MVP after her 2003 WNBA title with the Detroit Shock, Riley became the only woman to win MVP awards in both the NCAA and WNBA championships.
Riley also won a gold medal on the undefeated 2004 USA Women's Basketball team in Athens, Greece, making her one of only seven women who have won the NCAA championship, the WNBA championship and Olympic gold.
Since the Hall of Fame's inception in 1988 (and counting this year's class), 122 individuals have been selected for the honor. In addition to Shields, other Notre Dame inductees 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 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.
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.
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.