Laurel County native Richie Riley continues his basketball journey at South Alabama

(Photo: South Alabama Athletics)
(Photo: South Alabama Athletics)(WYMT)
Published: May. 11, 2020 at 6:28 PM EDT
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From London, Kentucky to Mobile, Alabama and a couple stops along the way.

"My journey has been really special to me. I wanted to be a coach since I was eight years old. I got a dry-erase board for Christmas," Richie Riley recalled. "That's what I asked for when I was an eight-year-old."

Riley had South Alabama on the prowl for a Sun Belt Conference title before the season was canceled.

"We had won eight straight games," Riley said. "We hadn't lost in something like 38 or 40 days."

But the success he's led the Jaguars to came through a well-known philosophy.

"Burn the boats is a mantra I live by. There is no option except to succeed. You take failure out of the equation."

And it's not just lip service from Riley, but a mantra he pushes his players to as well.

"He emphasizes to us 'Get in the gym, get in the gym, get in the gym.' He's there too," Adam Sizemore said, a freshman guard for the Jags and a London native himself.

And it's one he had to live by to get where he is today.

"When I went to Hawaii, I went for $8,000, I think it was $8,500 was my salary," Riley recalled. "So that was the first time I burned my boats."

Now in his second year at South Alabama, Riley is not just putting the rest of the Sun Belt on notice, but helping another kid from London with a dream.

"Learning from him, who has been very successful and then him being from my hometown and understanding where he's grown up and what he's had to go through has just been really big," Sizemore said, whose dream is to become a coach one day.

Sizemore and Riley have known each other for quite some time.

"I've known Adam since he was a little bitty baby," Riley laughed.

As the two work toward the same goal for the next three years, Sizemore hopes to take in as much as he can from his mentor, hoping to live the life of Riley in his future.

"He wants you to give everything you have every day, and you won't look back with any regrets," Sizemore said.

Riley led the Jaguars to a 20-11 record and a No. 2 seed in the Sun Belt Conference during his second season as the head man.