Eagle Journey is a Q & A series in which Sports Editor Eugene Evans will get to know some of the Eastern Michigan University student-athletes and why they chose to come here.
This week’s feature focuses on senior center Da’Shonte Riley, from Detroit.
Rob Murphy on Da’Shonte Riley: Da’Shonte has made up in his mind that he wants to be the best defender in the Mid-American Conference. He wants to make it tough for any player going into the paint and takes pride in doing that.
Eugene Evans: Tell me about transferring from Cass Technical High School to Detroit Country Day.
DR: I started off of at Cass Tech in ninth grade and Detroit Public Schools went on strike right before my tenth grade year. My mom did not want me sitting out of school and looked for the best academic situation. Luckily, things worked out and I ended up leaving Cass Tech to go to Country Day, which has a good basketball and academic tradition. I met a lot of friends at Country Day and still talk to some of them today.
Eugene Evans: At Country Day, did you start on the varsity team?
DR: Going back to Cass Tech in the ninth grade, I started every year, but at Country Day, I was really comfortable and ready to make an impact.
Eugene Evans: What did you learn the most from recently retired Country Day head coach Kurt Keener?
DR: He showed me a lot of film of Chris Webber and Shane Battier to help immerse me within the tradition of Country Day. Also, he was a great motivator and used his philosophy to help my game take off to the next level.
Eugene Evans: Most EMU fans might assume you came here from Country Day, but you ended up at Syracuse University, how were you recruited there?
DR: Coach Murphy actually recruited me [to Syracuse]. I committed to Georgetown at first, but backed out in the 11th grade. He was one of the first coaches to talk me after I left my commitment and we developed a close relationship. Ultimately, he sold me on going to Syracuse.
Eugene Evans: Do you think with Murphy also being from Detroit helped in the recruiting process?
DR: Somewhat. We didn’t talk about that aspect until later in the recruiting process. As we became closer and talked about me playing in Detroit, it obviously helped build a connection between us.
Eugene Evans: You left Syracuse and transferred to EMU after your freshman year, what was the motivation behind the move?
DR: The main reason why I left Syracuse was to move back home and be around my family more.
EMU was also a great chance to build something from the ground up. Once Murphy told me he got the job at Eastern, it was a no-brainer to come here and build something special.
Eugene Evans: Have you grown from your experiences with EMU basketball in the last three years?
DR: Yes, I have developed more of a leadership role as a senior. I have guys that look for me to hold things down on defense and keep them motivated— that’s something I take pride in.
Eugene Evans: Tell me about being a part of senior night against Ball State University.
DR: It was a great thing to make it to senior night. This is my fifth year in college and it has felt like forever. To be able to make it with the guys I came here with like Glenn Bryant and Daylen Harrison, as well as the ones I met along the way like J.R. Sims and Anthony Strickland, it was a really great experience.
Eugene Evans: What do you want your legacy to be as an Eagle?
DR: I want people to know that we tried to take the program to another level.
Note: You can catch the full video interview on ETV’s Eagles Sports Update, which will be available on YouTube beginning Tuesday.
Follow Eugene Evans on Twitter @GenoSportsguy.