I had a great conversation with Andrea Riley a few weeks ago, much of which made it into Sunday’s Collected Wisdom piece.
But, as usual, plenty got left on the cutting room floor.
Here’s the full version:
My dad was the one who really, really taught me (basketball) and really spent a lot of time with me going over stuff and really getting the fundamentals. … He doesn’t talk about points. He doesn’t talk about anything positive. He talks about turnovers. How many assists did you have? Your percentage has to be better. Why did you miss that many free throws?
My mom also pushed me as well. She was, like, a mother on the go, and that kind of inspired me as well because she did whatever she had to do to make sure (her kids) were OK, to make sure we fulfilled our dreams.
In 2004, when (OSU) went to the Final Four, that’s when I really fell in love with them. I loved the orange and black, but I really liked the atmosphere. It just seemed like somewhere I wanted to play.
Byron Eaton, he came from my high school, so he’s like a big brother to me. When he signed here, we talked to him. And then Coach Kenya (Larkin) and Coach (Kurt) Budke really, really pushed (to recruit me). I had verbally committed to Miami, and that’s where I was going to go. I ended up coming here because it seemed more family-oriented. I just always had a really good feeling about here. Of course, we had our ups and downs, but this place is like a second home.
Our first workout outside (at OSU), I passed out. It was bad. To be honest, I quit three times that year. What made me keep going was Coach Budke talked to me, Coach Kenya, Coach (Jim) Littell, everyone was making sure I tried to keep my head focused on it. I think it paid off a lot.
A couple of the biggest things I learned (in college) was to really handle adversity and also be a leader. I think that is what Coach Budke always said. He said, ‘You don’t know it yet, but you are a leader. You have to be the leader. You have to be the one to guide this team. I can only do so much, because I’m not out there playing.’
(Budke) just always pushed me to be a better person. He was like, ‘I want, when you leave here, to later on in life be a great wife, to be a great mother.’ That’s what helped me, because I never had anybody talk to me like that. You’re looking at the future, you’re not just looking at just the now. He was like, ‘I want you to be the best person, the best player you can be, because I know you have it.’ When I heard that, it just made me have so much more respect for him.
There were times that I didn’t believe I could do it at all, and (Budke) was right there. The whole coaching staff was right there for me. By having that, it was just a really big thing. It makes me grateful that I have had that.
The biggest moment (of my OSU career), and it’s kind of like a common denominator with all us players that were here, was when we sold it out (against OU in 2008). That was amazing. I don’t even think it was because we beat him. The day before, we were doing a pep rally or something, I said on the mic, ‘You come out, you fill this place up, we will win.’ And so I think that was something that really challenged our fans to see if they really, really believed in us. The feeling was amazing. It’s going to be one of the greatest moments of my life. Just having that and feeling like that, it was amazing.
One moment that really stuck out to me was when we were at (Texas) A&M and it was my sophomore year. We went there and we were down by nine or 10 with three minutes to go. And we came back and then I would say there were like 20 seconds left and (Budke) pulled me aside from the huddle and he said, ‘I know you can win this game. Go win it.’ I was like, ‘Oh, yeah.’ … I hit a 3 and that’s what won the game. I think that was the moment that I knew Coach had complete trust in me. I was his girl. I was the person that he could really count on through anything.
I was in Turkey and Ally (Clardy) and Taylor (Hardeman) were writing me on Facebook. I ended up calling Ally and I was like, ‘What’s wrong?’ and she was like, ‘There’s been a plane crash.’ And I was like, ‘Well who was in the plane crash?’ And she was like, ‘Coach Budke and Coach (Miranda) Serna and two other people.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, they’re OK, right? They’re on their way to the hospital?’ And she said they didn’t make it.
It was just one of those things that was so surreal and you wouldn’t think it was true. It was a really, really hard time for me. I cried for 30 minutes and I was on my way to practice. I think that’s what made me come back home, because somebody needed me.
When I first came back, I saw Shelley (Budke) and I couldn’t do anything but cry. And I saw Coach Serna’s mother and sister and her little nephew and niece. It was just a hard thing. It’s still hard to this day, because you want to see them and you want to talk to them. The good thing is I feel like they’re always with me. I see them in my dreams sometimes.
(My daughter will) be 2 at the end of March. Her words are starting to be clear. What makes me laugh about her is her personality. It’s a lot like mine, and it’s so funny because I catch her doing things like her facial expressions and I know I did it. Sometimes I just look at her and say, ‘Wow, I have a baby.’
This Christmas, she got a little motorcycle. She knows how to press it and everything and she has fun with it. She knows how to bounce (a basketball) once, but she doesn’t know how to bounce, bounce yet. But she’s only 1. In the years to come, I’m sure she’s going to play basketball. She has to play sports. It’s in our blood.
The pros are way different than college. It’s definitely a business, and I think that’s what I’ve learned the most. I’ve always put so much into something, and I’ve always been used to coach being right in my ear and telling me stuff step by step and stuff like that. In the pros, they’re a little more distant. I’ve really needed to grow up about things. I’ve really learned how to take things with a grain of salt. I’ve really learned how to be more mature and be a pro and not just be that athlete that I was in college.
I used to go to Adana (in Turkey) a lot, which was like 20 minutes away from the city that I was in. Actually, Courtney Paris and her sister (Ashley) were over there, so we all would hang out. We tried to get each other through it, because it was hard. They had been overseas before, I hadn’t. Just being over there and looking at the different things with the country, looking at how things are things are operated differently over there. I think that’s what makes you appreciate being home, because there are so many things that are different from here.
Getting cut (in the pros) was a big thing for me, because I had never been cut in my life from anything. Oh, man. After going through that, it really was like a light clicked on for me. It hurt for a few weeks, but it made me want to go and get after it.
It’s different when you come back (to OSU), because there were times when I just wanted to jump on the court. I think that’s the hardest thing coming back — a former player having to watch. But it’s fun to see how everything has grown. The feeling is still the same. The atmosphere is still the unbelievable. Every time, I always get chills when I come here, because every time I set foot on this court when I was here, when I was playing, it was the same feeling. The only difference is I’m not suited up.
I don’t want Oklahoma State to be my legacy. I want wherever I go to play to be my legacy. I want to keep building and keep building. I think that’s what my dad has instilled in me is that I’m never satisfied. When you’re satisfied, you want to be retired, you want to sit back with your kids and say, ‘I did this.’ That’s when I think it’ll sink in is when I’m done with basketball. But right now, I’m in my prime, so I’ve got to keep going.
I want to train. I want to get better. I want my body to feel like my body again, because it was a tough time (after having a baby). I think that now it’s starting to feel good again. I just want to keep going. I don’t want this to be the end of Andrea Riley. I want it to be that this is just the beginning of a pro career.