TUSCALOOSA Mykal Riley’s miracle shot at the buzzer that sent the University of Alabama’s Southeastern Conference quarterfinal game against Mississippi State into overtime on Friday night helped place his name as a selection on the 2008 SEC Men’s Basketball All-Tournament team.
He is the only player on the five-man team who did not play in Sunday’s SEC Championship game. Joining him on the All-Tournament team are tournament MVP Sundiata Gaines and Terrance Woodbury of Georgia and both Charles Thomas and Darian Townes of Arkansas. Georgia defeated Arkansas 66-57 Sunday for the SEC tournament championship.
He will be remembered as the player who hit a 3-point shot at the buzzer to tie the 2008 SEC tournament quarterfinal game at 59-59 to send it into overtime. Halfway into overtime on Friday night, around the 2:11 mark, an F2 tornado slammed into the Georgia Dome in Atlanta where the game was being played, thus making Riley a hero of sorts as, had he not made the shot, some fans would have been exiting the Dome just as the tornado struck.
“We were talking about it in the locker room during the delay,” Riley said on Saturday just after the team returned to Tuscaloosa. “I think it was Brandon Hollinger who brought it up, and he and Ron Steele were saying that if we weren’t in overtime, some people could be dead or injured and then everybody started talking about it (in the locker room). I’ve been thinking about it. I couldn’t sleep last night because I kept thinking about it. A lot of people could be dead if that hadn’t happened. I believe it was God. I keep thinking about how the ball just rolled in. It was supposed to happen so that no one would be hurt. I believe God had His hand in that to protect the people who were in the Dome.”
Riley is a 6-foot-6 senior guard out of Pine Bluff, Arkansas who transferred to Alabama out of Panola Junior College last season. A college basketball success story, he only played one season of varsity basketball in high school and because of that was not recruited by Division I schools out of Pine Bluff High School. He is Alabama’s first All-SEC Tournament Team member since Rod Grizzard made the team in 2002, a year Alabama advanced to the SEC tournament final and was also stopped by Mississippi State.
Alabama has produced 38 SEC All-Tournament team members, 14 between 1934 and 1952 when the league held tournaments annually (with the exception of 1935). The league discontinued its tournament after that 1952 tournament then picked it up again in 1979, a year Alabama advanced to the quarterfinal and Reginald King was named 1st team all-tournament. Riley is a rarity among Alabama’s all-tournament team selections in that 28 of its All-SEC tournament selections came from UA teams that advanced to the finals. Six came from UA teams that made it as far as the semifinals, and Riley, King and two others in 1939 (George Prather and Blackie Thompson), came from Tide teams that didn’t make it past two rounds.
Riley scored 18 points in Friday night’s game against Mississippi State game which turned out to be the final one played in the Georgia Dome due to the tornado damage. He also had five steals. He scored 26 points, tying the SEC tournament record with eight 3-point shots (of 12) in the first round against Florida.