MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Riley Fitzwater has not only been an every-game starter since stepping foot on campus at Concord University in the fall of 2017, she has earned an NCAA statistical championship in each season of her college career.
As a freshman, the Gilmer County High School graduate led Division II in field goal percentage (70.9%). As a sophomore, she led the nation in blocks per game (4.3). Last season, Fitzwater claimed the field goal percentage crown a second time (67.4%).
“I know I have broken a couple records but that is not really my main focus,” Fitzwater said. “I am just glad we have gotten back to winning twenty-plus games a year.”
Concord’s resurgence within the Mountain East Conference has coincided with Fitzwater’s arrival in Athens. The Mountain Lions nearly doubled their win total in Fitzwater’s freshman year from seven to thirteen. In the last two seasons, CU is 44-16.
“They have done really well recruiting the last couple years and the team we have now just really works well together.
“We were really young this year and we kind of threw in the sophomores and some of the freshmen and I think we will be fine. We have a lot of good freshmen coming in. Madison (May) will be missed but I think the younger ones will step up.”
Fitzwater signed with Concord in the fall of 2016. Her profile was raised by leading Gilmer County to the 2016 Class A state championship. The Titans defeated Huntington St. Joseph’s 42-41, ending the seven-year run of titles for the Irish. Fitzwater nearly posted a triple-double in the title contest, finishing with 11 points, 11 rebounds and 8 blocks.
“I actually played really horrible that game. I played a lot better the first two games. I remember the feeling of thinking I let my team down at halftime because I wasn’t shooting well, I wasn’t playing to my potential. Coming out after halftime, and coming back from a twelve-point deficit, that was a great feeling and I think about it all the time.”
Fitzwater helped the Titans to another state tournament appearance in 2017 and transitioned quickly to the college game, earning a starting spot in her freshman season.
“When Coach (Kenny Osborne) called me into his office a week or two before games started, he said, ‘I am going to start you, I am going to put you out there and see how you do.’ I didn’t expect it at all. I figured I would be coming off the bench. As a freshman, I thought I would be second or third-string.
“I needed to be more in shape than I was in high school. I just needed to work on being stronger with my moves. There’s a lot more fouling that you have to go through.”
Fitzwater broke Concord’s career blocks record (367) as a sophomore. Fitzwater is also ninth in scoring (1,260) and third in rebounding (1,023). She connects on 67.9% of her field goal attempts. The Division II career record in that category is held by Valdosta State’s Deidre Williams (67.6%). That record has stood for 24 years.
“I have tried to add a turnaround jump shot because people don’t expect that as much.”
Standing at six-foot-four, few can stand toe-to-toe with Fitzwater in the lane. She is currently ninth on the all-time NCAA Division II blocks list, and surprisingly Fitzwater says several of those blocks come one after the other.
“Believe it or not, there will be two or three possessions where the same person will keep shooting in the same spot. I think I have had four or five blocks in the same possession.”
Back in Glenville, Riley is gearing up for her senior season with a quality practice partner. Her brother Brady Fitzwater — who also stands six-foot-four — just wrapped up his playing career at Gilmer County.
“He is about my size. He is a little bit stronger than me. He is a good competitor and definitely doesn’t let up on me.”