COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - July 16, 2017. That’s a day Tashombe Riley remembers vividly.
That was the day the former Orangeburg-Wilkinson star broke his right ankle playing in the SC Pro-Am.
“I remember going up for the rebound and coming down and knew I couldn’t get back up,” Rile said. “I was just devastated.”
At the time, Riley was looking forward to his senior year with South Carolina State. Instead, I had to call Bulldogs head coach Murray Garvin to deliver the news that Riley was significantly injured.
“You called. And, I actually thought you were joking,” Garvin recalled. “I thought you were joking. I was like, ‘Come on, man! Don't play with me like this. That's the franchise."
Unfortunately, the tears Riley shed were real and the injury was serious.
“My stomach sunk,” Garvin remembered. “I knew how hard he worked that summer.”
Despite the injury, Riley received a few simple words from Garvin and his family to keep him going.
“Everything happens for a reason,” Riley said. “Don’t let this set me back. Use this as a tool in my recovery.”
Over time, Riley recovered. Even though he had to scrap his plans to play his senior year, Riley remained a force on the court during his rehab.
“We could not beat him and the scout team for the remainder of the year,” Garvin said. “ We could not deal with him. It was unbelievable.”
Riley redshirted that year, but he opted for a fresh start to finish his career. Garvin encouraged “The Franchise” to explore his options. He did. Riley ultimately chose South Alabama. However, Riley suffered another setback in the summer of 2018 by tearing his right ACL.
“Why me?” Riley thought after the injury.
Riley missed another chance to finish off his senior season, but he wasn’t going to close the chapter of his career that way. Last week, Riley chose to return home and finish what he started as a Bulldog.
“If I’m going to go out right, why not doing it at home?” Riley said.
Riley’s decision made Garvin’s day.
“I was like, ‘Yeah!’” Garvin said. “It’s like a son calling you. Of course, he can come back home!”
The Bulldogs will seek a medical hardship waiver from the NCAA for Riley to play this upcoming season. SC State is hopeful they’ll grant him one as Riley looks forward to one last dance with the Bulldogs.