This is a story about one lacrosse player, his journey from the youth ranks to a top Division I program, and the growth of lacrosse here in the Lowcountry. I hope that it provides insight into the recruiting process and inspires more Lowcountry players to reach for their dream of playing college ball.
A Loggerhead’s Journey to Loyola University
Riley Seay is a born and bred South Carolina lacrosse player. He started like every other rookie with the Charleston Loggerhead Lacrosse Club by learning the fundamentals of catching, throwing and picking up groundballs. He climbed the ladder, improving his stick skills and adding a hard shot, tough defense, speed and field leadership. It culminated in an historic run through high school with multiple state championships and state player of the year accolades. Today, Riley is still part of the Loggerhead family and giving back as a youth coach.
Lacrosse was only getting started in Charleston about the time Riley first picked up a stick. He was one of dozens of boys and girls who signed up with Loggerheads and helped to pioneer lacrosse in the Lowcountry. They showed skill, athleticism and desire. For the first time, players from Charleston headed north and competed with long-established clubs from Maryland, Pennsylvania and beyond. For the first time, a handful of college coaches took notice and showed interest in recruiting our homegrown players like Riley.
Together, we knew we were making progress but also that we had a long way to go. Old habits die hard. Most coaches recruited first from traditional powerhouse programs in the north. They did not have the inclination to look south to Charleston. On top of that, the old recruiting rules forced coaches to fill roster spots quickly leaving less time to evaluate talent.
Even with our progress, Riley didn’t get the attention he deserved, especially from the top national programs. Nevertheless, we understood the challenge and the Loggerhead staff got Riley in front of top programs Ohio State, Cornell and Brown. Unfortunately, each coach came back with the same feedback: He is a good player, but we are not interested.
When commitment day arrived, Riley signed with Bellarmine University of the Southern Conference, one of the few Division I schools that offered him a spot. He celebrated and turned his focus to what he could control: his skills, strength and speed. It paid off in a stellar freshmen season in 2019. He started, was All Conference, led the team in goals and points, and was named the Southern Conference Freshmen of the Year.
It didn’t take long before Riley started gaining national attention from fans, press, and coaches. In March, when I reached out to Adam Ghitleman, an assistant coach at the University of Utah and close friend, to discuss another current Loggerhead player interested in playing for the Utes, his first response was to send me a picture of Riley with the text, “Can you get me this guy?”
Utah and Bellarmine had just played an overtime thriller, giving the Utah coaching staff the chance to see Riley firsthand. Utah is a new D1 program and has one of the best coaching staffs in the country. Head coach Brian Holman won a National Championship in 2016 as an associate coach at the University of North Carolina. I was told that coach Holman said, “Number 19 is the type of player we need here at Utah.”
I was excited to tell Riley about Utah’s interest. Despite my excitement, I wasn’t surprised when Riley didn’t seem interested in speaking with Utah. He was playing great lacrosse at Bellarmine, and I knew that the recruiting process had been awful for him and he did not want to get back into it.
After the season, Riley stopped by the office to catch up on his summer coaching duties with the Loggerheads. He was excited to get back to Bellermine. He loved the coaching staff and believed they had a lot of promise. There was no talk of transferring. That changed when the news broke that his head coach at Bellermine was stepping down. The reason Riley was staying, was now leaving. This opened the idea of transferring, and Riley soon entered the NCAA transfer portal.
The Loggerhead guidance and recruiting program had never dealt with a Division I transfer before, but we knew it would be similar to the initial recruiting process. The most important difference was that Riley had already proven himself a very valuable talent at the Division 1 level.
We first reached out to our trusted contacts, starting with Bobby Benson. He is the Johns Hopkins University offensive coordinator and he leads our SoCAR Premier camp, where he had met Riley. Coach Benson spoke to his staff to consider Riley at Hopkins. “If he is the SoCON Freshmen of the year, he can play at Hopkins,” coach told us. Yet, Hopkins didn't graduate any offensive players. However, Coach Benson did let me know of a few big time schools who had some openings. Riley selected which ones to reach out to, one being Loyola. It didn't take 5 minutes after an email to the Loyola staff for Head Coach Charlie Toomey to call me.
Riley has committed to play lacrosse for Loyola University, a prestigious school both in academics and lacrosse. Loyola is one of just 11 teams that have won a Division I National Championship. They play the toughest competition in the country, are often ranked in the top ten, and regularly make the NCAA playoffs.
In total 24 D1 schools contacted Riley. Either through myself, Riley or Rock Director Kevin Mayer.
I spoke with many of the coaches listed above. During this process I was most impressed with Rileys' reputation as a hard worker, great leader and very skilled player. Coach Charlie Toomey of Loyola told me the sidelines have been buzzing about Riley. He reached out to a former college and player of his, Don Chemmotti who is the Head Coach at Richmond now. What he heard from Coach Chemmotti is all he needed to know. What an impact to make on an opposing coach after just 1 game.
To hear more of this recruitment story and how Riley landed with the Loyola Greyhounds, let’s go straight to the source. Read on for a dialogue between Riley Seay and myself.
CHATTING WITH RILEY:
When did you enter the transfer portal and why?
I entered the transfer portal a week after receiving news that my head coach was resigning. After having a successful year where I was blessed with awesome coaches and opportunity myself, my mentors, and family thought it would be in my best interest to explore other schools and see if there was a place that I would be able to go to to have a chance to compete for a national championship.
Were you surprised at the attention you received after you put yourself in the transfer portal?
I was in complete disbelief at the amount of attention I received after entering the transfer portal. I was on the phone with coaches that I never would have imagined being on the phone with. It was truly a humbling experience.
What was the most exciting part of this summer?
I would say the most exciting part of this summer was being able to go through the recruiting process in a completely different way that I experienced the first time around. I never got this type of attention from what I like to believe was the result from being from Charleston.
You have had the opportunity to meet or talk with some of the top lacrosse head coaches in the country. What have you learned so far? What stood out?
Talking to these Hall of Fame caliber coaches is just surreal. You can hear the confidence in their programs in their voices and it is obvious as to why they have such successful programs. All of them have their own ways of running their programs and it is really interesting to see all of the different ways programs are run. A common denominator for all of them is that they want someone that is a great person first, if they are talking to you they know that you can play but they want someone who is a leader and if put in a situation will always do the right thing. A cancer on a team is a lot harder to manage than someone who is always “yes sir” and goes as hard as they can.
What type of questions did you ask them? And what was the reaction to your questions from the coaches?
I asked a lot of questions about the experiences that their players are given as well as their support through the academic and administrative side of things. Their reactions were all relatively the same in that they were excited to talk about those things because they had such amazing support throughout the whole school.
What else did you learn from the face-to-face?
I learned from these coaches that relationships with their players is extremely important. The word family is thrown around a lot in programs all around the country and it is obvious that all of the coaches I talked to truly care about their players and their families as well. I also learned that attitude and effort are two critical attributes that they expect out of their players, no matter what their players are doing (work outs, in the class, doing homework, tests, etc.). I also learned that a lot of the coaches I talked to had heard about me through my coach that was resigning as well as the coaches that I played this past year. It goes to show that people always take note of your character and that first impressions as well as the way you carry yourself will get you a long way.
You visited 4 schools in Total, What were the similarities and what were the differences between them?
The similarities between all of the schools I visited was the overall support from the athletic and academic departments as well as from the student body. The differences between them was the size(student body and actual size), location, and overall type of school.
What kind of follow-up is required?
A follow up thanking the coaches for just taking time out of their very busy schedules to show you around the school is essential. Coaches around the country never really get a time to relax because they are constantly recruiting and on the road so any time that they can give you is something you have to be very appreciative of. A sincere message from you and those that visited with you and even a phone call go a very long way with showing your true character.
Why did you end of choosing Loyola?
I chose Loyola because I truly felt like it was a place where I would be pushed to be the absolute best that I can be. The relationships between the school and the lacrosse team are fantastic and having the opportunity to be at such a traditionally lacrosse rich school and area was very interesting to me. The coaching staff at Loyola is a Hall of Fame line up and to have the chance to be mentored by them every day was something that really attracted me. On top of that, lacrosse is Loyola’s main sport and you can just see the way that the school and the lacrosse team are meshed together and I just love that.
On top of all of that I was never guaranteed a starting position or even playing time at Loyola, I was told that I was going to have to out work my teammates every single day to establish myself and get my own playing time. I don’t want to be the best player on my team as an underclassman.
The other schools I visited talked about me coming in and helping to build their program and compete for a conference championship, I was told at Loyola that I was going to have the opportunity to come into an established program and help contribute to winning a national title. My whole life I have been trying to build programs and the idea of being able to come into an established program and reap the rewards of all the years of hard work with Loyola excited me. Not that there isn’t any building that is going to need to be done, it will just be a different type.
Was there another school in the running?
The other schools I visited were Lehigh, Rutgers, and Hofstra. All of those schools were very tempting but I would say Rutgers was my second choice because of the opportunity to be whoever you want to be at such a big school as well as the state of the art facilities that Big 10 schools have, I have never seen such an impressive weight room that’s for sure.
What are you the most excited about?
I am most excited about being around an amazing group of guys and Coaches, knowing I am going to be competing every single day for a starting position, having one of the best schedules in the country, and being able to put on a green and gray practice jersey every day for practice as well as a game jersey on game day at the best lacrosse stadium in the country. and to be competing for a national championship on Memorial Day weekend.
You coached for the LGH program this past summer, what was that like? How does that help your path and what sort of a difference do you think you made to the younger players?
Anything you want to say to the future recruits who will follow behind you?
Coaching LGH was an amazing experience. Being able to see the future generations and give back to a program that has gotten me where I am is extremely important to me. Teaching fundamentals also really forces you to know the techniques that create the best results so it really helps my game out a lot. I think being able to push these younger kids to places they think they are unable to go is what I am able to do for them, just like the LGH program has done for me. They all have amazing potential and some of them just need a push to become the best they can be. If there is one thing I can say to future recruits is that your success is going to be earned and not just given, nobody can do the work for you. On top of that, I would want them to know that it isn’t always about doing every showcase on the east coast, a lot of it is being a great young man or woman that isn’t afraid to go against the grain and put in the work. There are two mottos that keep me in line and have gotten me this far, the first is “you get out what you put in” and “treat others how you would want to be treated”. Being the hardest working and nicest person you can be will do countless things for you, on and especially off the field.
Who do you look up to ask your heroes in sports?
Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, and Drew Brees are some of my heroes in sports. They all have relentless work ethic and Drew Brees is one of the nicest guys on this planet as well as a fellow short athlete thriving in a sport with some of the biggest people on earth.
What is some of the best advice you have heard that has made an impact?
Some of the best advice I have heard has come from my church as well as my LGH mentors. Having courage to be different from others, treating strangers like a brother or sister because you never know what someone else is going through, giving all of your effort in everything you do, being a thumb guy(not blaming things on others and taking responsibility), and being humble throughout everything are all very important to me.
What do your friends think of your athletic success? How do you handle missing out on activities with friends because of your athletic schedule?
I have had nothing but heart warming support from all of my friends for the success I have achieved in the lacrosse world. Whenever I get my dose of FOMO(fear of missing out) I remind myself that I can only play lacrosse for so long and there will be a time in my life where I won’t be able to sprint full speed and cut or play a sport this physical. What my friends are doing I probably will be able to do once I retire my athletic career.
Athletes have to eat healthy foods to be in top shape. What foods do you have to give up when you're in training?
I have a crippling sweet tooth and have had to give up a lot of my much loved ice cream, cookies, brownies, you name it. Despite not getting to eat junk all the time, realizing that your body is like a car and putting the best fuel in it with a lot of clean vegetables, proteins, and carbohydrates is the best way to reach top physical shape the quickest. You wouldn’t want to put unleaded gas into a Ferrari’s engine, it wouldn’t run nearly as well.
What have you learned about teamwork from being on this team? How does the team make you a better player?
I have learned that teamwork can make or break a team. Team chemistry is a huge part to winning, you can have all of the best players in the world on the same team but if there is no teamwork then it is doesn’t mean a thing. It’s kinda like the saying “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard”, when you are willing to run through a wall for your teammates and coaches you can expect there to be a lot more W’s in the win column and your experience will be amazing as well. Having great teammates who care about you on a deep personal level makes working hard that much easier because you have people you are doing it for. If you slack off or don’t do those extra couple reps then it will end up hurting not only yourself but more importantly your whole team and their success.
Riley, we are so proud and excited for your future. Thanks for trusting the process with us and being a huge part of our program from the start. Congratulations- you certainly deserve it!