In his final season as a Pirate, senior forward David Riley helped lead his team to the first ever No. 1 NCAA ranking and an undefeated season (23-0 overall, 14-0 NWC). Averaging 17.7 points per game and current holder of the new school record for three-pointers in one game (10), Riley is the second-leading scorer for the Bucs.
“He is very offensively talented,” said junior teammate and friend Jack Loofburrow. “He is by far the best scorer.”
Hailing from Palo Alto, Calif., as the product of two Whitworth alumni, Riley grew up with a hoop in his room.
“My dad is a football guy, but my mom didn’t want me to play; she said ‘okay’ to basketball,” Riley said.
In his youth he played on various All-Star teams and was named First Team All-SCVAL two years in a row at Gunn High School.
“I played with a lot of good guys in high school, they helped prepare me for [college basketball],” Riley said.
Riley was immersed in the atmosphere of Pirate basketball early on. His father’s college roommate, Bryan Williams, was a four-year ball player and was named the NWC MVP his senior year at Whitworth.
Bound to be successful on the court, it was only the second game of his career as a freshman when Riley hit his eighth three-pointer to break the school record for three-point shots in one game.
“I was really thin as a freshman; all I could do was shoot,” Riley said. “That’s why I made it into games.”
Riley carried his shooting prowess into his sophomore season, leading the Bucs in scoring and was selected First Team All-NWC. However, Riley humbly recognized that in order to be a better player, he had to be able to do more than just shoot.
“I feel like I’ve developed into a more complete player now,” Riley said.
Summer training with friends in the gym as well as practicing with players from the Gonzaga University mens basketball team has helped hone Riley’s skills.
“I worked out with David all summer,” Loofburrow said. “He got me in the gym and taught me good work ethic. He is really consistent.”
Last season, Riley was selected as a First Team All-NWC honoree and is currently an All American Candidate. Despite these honors, Riley focuses on team goals.
“To make it to the Final Four,” Riley said. “To become the National Champions, this is always the goal.”
With talent comes a degree of pressure, but Riley draws on past experiences to take the edge off of competition. After graduating high school, Riley headed on an adventure to Europe with some friends for a month.
“I actually did the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain,” Riley said. “I was 2 feet away from a guy who got trampled. It was pretty stupid but really exciting.”
The exhilaration of that experience as well as traditiating as a Mac Man prepared Riley for the sound of a packed gym full of cheering, sometimes jeering, fans.
“I definitely get nervous, but once you get out there you just play,” Riley said. “It’s fun to feed off of the crowd.”
When on the road, the Bucs have faced some frustrating crowds, but in true Pirate style they let their play on the court do the talking.
“The best feeling in basketball is to shut up a bad crowd,” Riley said.
A true team player, Riley explains his favorite aspect of basketball.
“Being able to compete and work as a team as well as to get better every day and reach achievable goals is great,” Riley said.
One of Riley’s favorite memories of Whitworth was last season’s whiteout campaign which was put on by the team to gain support for a big game against the Chapman Panthers. The Bucs bought 1,000 white NCAA tournament T-shirts to sell to fans.
“The whole week leading up to it was fun,” Riley said. “We went dorm-to-dorm selling tees and gaining support.”
The sixth man delivered, turning the home stands into a spotted white sheet, and the Pirates handed out a fantastic win.
With his final season coming to a close, Riley reflects on his time at Whitworth.
“It is surreal to be finishing the last season,” Riley said. “It’s been great, though I am ready to take advantage of life rather than just the college athlete experience.”