Gazette: Riley Dedicates Game To Slain Friend - UMass Athletics

Gazette: Riley Dedicates Game To Slain Friend

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Matt Vautour of the Daily Hampshire Gazette has a great story on guard Freddie Riley.

It would have been a big game under any circumstance for Freddie Riley. The University of Massachusetts sophomore guard has had a difficult time finding an offensive rhythm all year so 18 points in any game would certainly have been welcomed.

But it meant more Wednesday. Late Tuesday night, Riley's brother told him that their friend Antonio "T.J." Gordon had been shot and killed in an incident outside of a bowling alley in Riley's hometown of Ocala, Fla. Before Wednesday's game with Charlotte, Riley quietly dedicated his performance to the memory of his friend.

"I decided to dedicate the game to him after one of my younger friends called me (Wednesday afternoon) and was crying," he said. "It hurt him really bad because they were really close."

Riley dedicates performance to memory of slain friend

Photo: IMPORT-NO-HEADLINE
AP PHOTO
University of Massachusetts sophomore guard Freddie Riley shoots in the second half of UMass' 73-54 win over Charlotte in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday. Riley was playing with a heavy heart after learning of a friend's death on Tuesday.

AMHERST - It would have been a big game under any circumstance for Freddie Riley. The University of Massachusetts sophomore guard has had a difficult time finding an offensive rhythm all year so 18 points in any game would certainly have been welcomed.

But it meant more Wednesday. Late Tuesday night, Riley's brother told him that their friend Antonio "T.J." Gordon had been shot and killed in an incident outside of a bowling alley in Riley's hometown of Ocala, Fla. Before Wednesday's game with Charlotte, Riley quietly dedicated his performance to the memory of his friend.

• Coverage on WESH in Orlando of arrest in killing of Antonio Gordon

"I decided to dedicate the game to him after one of my younger friends called me (Wednesday afternoon) and was crying," he said. "It hurt him really bad because they were really close."

Riley told only roommate Javorn Farrell, who was with him when he got the news, about the tragedy before the game.

"I used it for inspiration, but I tried to block it out during the game because I didn't want to lose my focus. Before the game it was in my head," said Riley, who welcomed having a game to take his mind off the day's sadder thoughts.

"It's a great escape. I probably would have been miserable the whole day if we didn't have the basketball game. It was good to get my mind off of it," said Riley, who was proud of how he performed under the circumstances. "I'm very proud. It was a breakthrough game because I'd been struggling with my shooting for most of the season."

UMass coach Derek Kellogg didn't find out about the incident until after the game but was impressed at how Riley handled it.

"It helps put some things in perspective as far as how fragile things can be," Kellogg said. "For him to block out what's going on in his personal life for a couple hours and play the way he played, has got to be refreshing for him because he's had some uphill battles this season."

Farrell was happy to see his friend play so well knowing how much it meant to Riley to do so.

"Freddie is my best friend on the team. Any time he has success I'm happy for him. It was good to see," Farrell said. "Sometimes people can't handle adversity well. They can't get it off their mind. He got it off his mind and played well. The whole team is like a brotherhood, but the people you live with are even closer. Me and Freddie have developed a stronger bond. We feel like brothers. He doesn't pour his heart out to everybody about problems and what's going on. He has a few people he talks to and I'm fortunate to be one of them.

Riley was still coming to grips with the news at practice on Thursday.

"It's really hitting me that I'm never going to see him again, never going to be able to talk to him. He wasn't a bad person. Everybody that knew him liked him. He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time," he said. "It's the scariest thing and the most horrible thing. It makes you not want to go anywhere."

NO TRAYNHAM NEWS - Kellogg said freshman point guard Daryl Traynham's status remains unchanged. Traynham, who has been suspended for the past four games for an undisclosed team rules violation, has not returned to campus for the spring semester.

He'd have to be back by Jan. 31, which is the last day students can add or drop classes, to remain eligible academically.

"We're going to wait until then. I'm going to visit with him and see where we're at," Kellogg said.

BAREFOOT COACH - Kellogg's decision to coach barefoot in Wednesday's game was a spur of the moment decision. Charlotte coach Alan Major was planning on coaching shoeless to raise awareness for Samaritan's Feet, a charity that helps bring shoes to children in Africa. He invited Kellogg to join him a few hours prior to the game and the UMass coach agreed to do so.

"I thought it was great idea so I thought I'd follow suit," Kellogg said.

LASME ON CAMPUS - Former UMass big man Stephane Lasme, who is currently rehabing a foot injury, was on campus Thursday with his wife and young daughter. He was in Boyden Gymnasium visiting with athletic department employees in the late afternoon. Lasme was in camp with the Celtics in preseason and had signed with the Maine Red Claws of the NBA Development League before being injured.

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