Zach Riley commits to Fordham University

Sky Tower Auckland Husky and Rangitoto College guard Zach Riley has announced that he has committed to Fordham University in New York to pursue his collegiate career.

He will join a long line of Rangitoto College alumni to have played at NCAA Division I colleges including Sean Marks, Isaac and Dan Fotu, Tai Wynyard, Sam Waardenburg, Penina Davidson and Brooke Blair.

The Fordham Rams play in the NCAA Division I Atlantic 10 Conference and are coached by Kyle Neptune.

Riley emphasised that when making his choice to attend Fordham the schooling opportunities presented were as important as the playing prospects.

“The academic side at Fordham swayed the decision. It’s known as a very good academic school, the team play in a good conference, and we felt very comfortable with the decision despite receiving some other offers.”

The location of the university, in the heart of New York, was also a factor when deciding on Fordham.

“It’s a prime location and perfect for what I was looking for,” enthused Riley.

Son of Tall Black and 2000 Olympian, Brad Riley, Zach has had plenty of guidance at home from both dad and mum.

“Dad has been through the basketball side of things as he went to the States to play, and Mum has been a teacher all her career and has always emphasised that schooling is important.”

“The Principal at Massey High School, where mum teaches, is Glen Denham and both he and Vince Minjares at Harbour Basketball have been very helpful in the selection process.”

Another who has given Riley and his family plenty of support is Rangitoto College premier team coach, Kenny Stone. He has no doubt that his young protégé has what it takes to make his collegiate career a success.

“Hard work, effort and desire will translate to success wherever you play and with Zach, Fordham will be getting that in spades.

“They are also getting a great young man that will represent them well on and off the court. I’m really excited to see the impact Zach will have on their programme,” added Stone.

Riley has recently come off an outstanding rookie Sal’s NBL season with the Auckland Huskies.

At the start of the season Huskies coach Aaron Young expressed confidence that his teenage guard would flourish against older, more experienced players.

“I’ve coached against him at high school level and believe he has a massive upside just because of his mindset.

“He’s a fearless young-gun who just gets out there and plays his game no matter who the opposition.

“Regardless of age he is the type of young prospect I want to include in the Huskies, the type who want to get to the next level,” said Young.

Young’s confidence proved to be well founded. The coach played Riley roughly 30 minutes a game where he averaged 11 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.2 steals per outing, capped off by a 32-points performance against the Taranaki Steelformers Mountainairs in July.

However, those numbers don’t do justice to the impact he had as it was his defensive abilities that really caught the eye. Invariably he was called upon to mark the opposition’s best scorer and he never shirked his responsibilities, continually harassing and chasing down his opposite number – his speed and footwork belying his youth.

His consistent performances for the Huskies deservedly won him the NBL Youth Player of the Year Award.

All the games in the 2021 NBL season were live on ESPN which Riley believes worked in his favour.

“It certainly increased interest from schools and helped greatly that coaches could access game tapes so easily.”

The Year 13 student has also helped Rangitoto College to a place in the Auckland Secondary Schools Premier League Grand Final against Westlake Boys’ High School. When the two rivals last met during the regular season he top scored with 37 points.

Earlier in the season he helped North Harbour to a third-place finish at U19 Nationals.

It is believed that Riley will be the first New Zealander to have played on the men’s programme at Fordham. However, he is certainly not the first to wear the maroon singlet of the Rams.

Kendell Heremaia is currently a senior on the women’s team, while Tall Ferns Zara Jillings, Mary Goulding and Erin Rooney are all graduates of the university.

It’s unclear when Riley will head to New York, but right now he is focused on the remainder of his time at Rangitoto College hoping that the Covid lockdown is not a prolonged affair.

“I’ll be gutted if Secondary Schools Nationals are cancelled for a second successive year. Think positive is the message,” concluded Riley.


In addition, a number of players that appeared in this year’s Sal’s NBL have headed to the states for their freshman seasons in 2021/22.

  • Auckland Huskies – Kiani Saxon (Louisiana State University Eunice), Sean Murphy (University of Nebraska at Kearney), Jackson Smyth (Southern Oregon University)
  • Otago Nuggets – Akiva McBirney-Griffin (University of California Irvine)
  • Canterbury Rams – Mason Whittaker (American University)
  • Wellington Saints – Sam Gold (Holy Names University), Kael Robinson (Rocky Mountain College), Ezra Vaiagafa (Neosho County College)