Andrea Riley became a dynamic, do-it-all playmaker for Oklahoma State and left the school in 2010 as the Big 12's all-time leading scorer.
She's experienced a lot of life since then.
She's played overseas and bounced around the WNBA. She's now a mother and engaged to be married. And she's currently a free agent looking for a new pro team to play for this summer.
Still, Riley has taken plenty of lessons from her time at OSU — and, specifically, from late head coach Kurt Budke — and calls Stillwater her second home.
My dad was the one who really, really taught me (how to play 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.
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.
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.
(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.
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.'
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.
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.
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.