Jordan Riley will be joining forces with a legend in the New York basketball community.
Riley, who will be a senior at Brentwood in the fall, committed to play at Georgetown. He announced the decision Friday morning inside Brentwood's Sonderling Gym, surrounded by family.
He will play under former Knicks great Patrick Ewing, who is Georgetown’s coach. Riley said the opportunity to learn from Ewing, along with assistant coach and former Knick Louis Orr, was a major factor in his decision.
“I know they are going to help me become a better college player and make it to the pros,” said Riley, a 6-4 guard. “And when I make it to the pros, they will help me…so that’s what stood out to me the most.”
Even more than just what he’ll learn on the court, Riley said their NBA pedigree will help him in life.
“I’ll learn how to deal with other people, handle interviews, how to handle myself as a college player and as a pro,” Riley said. “Even how to save money and stuff like that. Basically things other people don't show.”
Riley spoke for about a minute, thanking his family, coaches, friends and teammates for their support and advice. After, he was handed a black drawstring bag, pulled out a Georgetown cap and donned it with a huge smile on his face.
"Every one of these offers have been a blessing," Riley said. "I appreciate the college coaches that had an interest in me, especially all the offers. But at the end of the day, I can only choose one school. And that one school is Georgetown."
Riley, who was Newsday’s Suffolk Player of the Year as a junior, included UConn, Florida State, Kansas and St. John’s in his final five. He averaged 23 points, 12 rebounds and four assists for the Suffolk Class AA champions last season.
“I’m hoping to bring everything to the program,” Riley said. “That’s what I do. I bring everything I have. I play with a chip on my shoulder.”
It wasn’t an easy decision for Riley. The COVID-19 pandemic took away his chance to play in the state championship tournament and national AAU competitions. This summer was supposed to be his chance to showcase his talents in-person to coaches across America.
“That was the plan this summer,” Riley said. “I was going to go off and become nationally known.”
But he said it was a “relief” to announce his school. The phone calls became overwhelming, and he was ready to make his decision.
“I feel like it’s the right time,” Riley said. “And I don’t want to lose a spot.”
“Jordan’s always been a fighter," said his father, Monty. "He’s always been the underdog and he’s always come out on top. Well, this time he’s the lion.”
Brentwood coach Anthony Jimenez said he immediately knew Riley was a special talent. He thinks his personality and style will mesh with the Hoyas.
“Georgetown has an identity about themselves,” Jimenez said. “They’re a tough, hard-working program. He fits right in. He’s relentless, he’s formidable, he never stops grinding it out. He has such a deep desire to win.”
Riley only saw three of his final five schools in person (Georgetown, UConn and St. John’s). He said that was one of the most frustrating parts of this experience — the inability to travel, see different campuses and talk face-to-face to coaches because of the pandemic.
“It’s been very stressful because I’ve been getting a lot of calls and it’s tough to make a decision where to go if I can’t see the college campuses,” Riley said. “So I had to figure out ways to make my decision.”
He still climbed the national rankings, though, earning a four-star status with the potential of becoming one of the top 100 recruits in the Class of 2021. Riley became flooded with phone calls after his junior season, reaching the point where he stopped answering. Monty recalled getting three calls in a day from coaches before telling his son to start picking up the phone.
“I called him and I said, ‘Pick up the phone and talk to these guys,’ ” Monty said. “And he said, ‘Dad, I’ve had enough.’ And I said, ‘OK, you had enough. Pick out your five schools, call the rest of the schools and say thank you for the offer, and let’s close this thing out.' And that’s what he did.”
His mother, Karen, saw the toll on her son, saying, “This is not the norm for every kid.” Even as more schools continued calling with interest, Riley was ready to make his decision.
“I didn’t want him to settle for any school,” Monty said. “I wanted him to make his choice, so that was the biggest reason we are doing this now. Because we want it to be his choice.”
With the commitment behind Riley, Jimenez believes we could see an even more dominant version of the dynamic guard — if there’s high school basketball this winter. Riley has been training for hours every day in his backyard, which includes a hoop, shooting machine and tires for workouts. He's also been running and working on his strength, conditioning and ballhandling during the pandemic.
“If we play, I think you are going to see somebody [special],” Jimenez said. “We haven’t seen a player like this on Long Island in decades. He has all the God-given abilities and the work ethic to help him grow in leaps and bounds with every day he invests on the court.”
Riley had dreams of playing high-level college basketball and reaching the NBA since picking up a basketball at age 6. But it wasn’t until competing with his peers that he realized he can play with the best players in the country.
“I didn’t really think about all this until like two years ago,” Riley said. “That’s when I played against some of the top ranked kids in my class and I was like, ‘I can do this.’ ”
But for Riley, the most exciting part may be the ability to keep his phone on silent.
“I’m free,” he said. “No more calls. Just talk to one coach and that’s it."