Life of Riley
It denied Riley Grafft a chance to showcase his basketball skills in front of University of Nevada assistant coach Doug Novsek.
The 6-foot-10 Janesville Parker High School senior hoped to make a strong enough second impression to be offered a scholarship by the emerging NCAA Division I powerhouse.
Nevada, located in Reno and a Western Athletic Conference member, has earned three straight NCAA Tournament bids. The Milwaukee Bucks drafted former Wolfpack star Ramon Sessions last summer.
Grafft is an emerging star as well. He is fourth in the Big Eight Conference in scoring (16.4) despite being double- and triple-teamed, and came close to registering a triple-double in Parker’s impressive 60-51 win over Middleton last Saturday. Grafft finished with 10 points, 11 rebounds and nine blocks against the Cardinals. Earlier this season, Grafft erupted for three straight 28-point games.
With a goal of playing Division I basketball, Grafft has elevated his game at an opportune time. American University (Washington D.C.) has already offered Grafft a Division I basketball scholarship, but he hopes more will follow.
“I’m kind of weighing my options right now,” Grafft said. “American is the only D-I school that has offered me a full ride, so I don’t have anything to compare it to.
“I think I’ve put my name out there, but I know I still have a lot to prove over the next couple weeks. Playing well is the best way to leave a lasting impression.”
Thanks to Grafft’s play, along with a strong senior class, the Vikings are 5-11 overall this season and 3-9 in the rugged Big Eight. That’s a quantum leap from last year’s 2-19 (1-15 Big Eight) team.
Grafft, the son of Jim and Heidi, has gotten used to ducking when he enters the room. He credits a major growth spurt during his freshman year for peaking his interest in basketball. Grafft spent the last three summers playing AAU basketball for Wisconsin Team Duke, the Wisconsin Swing Team and a select team based out of Sun Prairie. All three teams participated in national tournaments, including three straight years in Las Vegas.
The national exposure put Grafft on many college’s radar, as he tested his skills against some of the best high school underclassmen in the country.
“I think I was able to show that I could handle the ball, and at the same time, try to establish an inside/outside game,” Grafft said.
“I know the biggest thing I need to work on getting stronger,” Grafft said of his 6-10 frame that carries only 190 pounds. “It’s not like I haven’t tried to gain weight. I’ve tried protein shakes and everything else, but nothing seems to put weight on.”
Parker boys coach Jim LeMire said Grafft deserves the opportunity to play at the next level. In a perfect world, LeMire would prefer Grafft stay down low for the Vikings and utilize his size advantage. But the second-year coach has also watched Grafft take over enough games—on both ends of the court—to give his gifted center some leeway.
“Riley’s best basketball is ahead of him,” LeMire said. “Once he gets comfortable playing on the blocks, and learns to go to his left on a consistent basis, he could be a force.
“Wherever Riley ends up, that school will probably red-shirt him, which is just what he needs. That way he can lift weights for a year and concentrate on just basketball.”
Grafft has had plenty to concentrate on in high school besides basketball. He finished third in the high jump in the WIAA Division 1 State Track and Field Meet last year, and also started at wide receiver this past fall for Parker’s playoff football team.
With the high school basketball season winding down, Grafft hopes the Vikings can play the spoiler role in the Division 1 tournament. Parker has played its best basketball the last month of the season. The Vikings could surprise in the tournament.
Riley Grafft figures to be right in the middle of it all.