Linfield Wildcats

Wildcat Spotlight

February 06, 2017
Never Too Busy
The life of a college student-athlete is one that requires effective time management skills. It's not uncommon for students competing in sports to balance two and sometimes three daily practice commitments on top of busy class schedules.
A “college experience” for a student-athlete differs quite a bit from that of a conventional student. Dedicated student-athletes must balance school and sports. Free time is rare.
Linfield basketball star Riley Graham (Sr., Scio, Ore.) relishes her busy lifestyle.

The senior is one of the Wildcats' top players while shouldering a rigorous course load in pursuit of a nursing degree. And she maintains a part-time job at McMinnville Dutch Bros.
“I'm a student, an employee and an athlete. I'm busy a lot,” Graham says with sincerity, “I have been this way for so long, I don't know how I would function in school without being busy. If I'm not busy, I'm not sure I would stay so on top of my school work.”
Hailing from tiny Scio, Oregon – a rural Willamette Valley farming town of less than 1,000 people – Graham finds confidence in her ability to communicate with people.
She says of her job at Dutch Bros., “I don't think I could have a better job.  You're always busy; you get to help people and talk to them. I'm outgoing and those are things I really like to do. You actually make connections with your customers.”
Graham's outgoing personality was put to immediate use from the moment she stepped on Linfield's campus as a freshman four years ago.
“In high school, my graduating class was 49,” she says with a chuckle. “You know everyone and it is just something you get used to.”
“When I came to Linfield, I realized (the college) was bigger than my hometown. I think that helps because in my small town, you know everyone. That made it easier for me to come here and get to know a lot of different people from different backgrounds. I wasn't shy because I was used to knowing everyone.
“I like that I went from a small high school to a small college. Linfield is a close-knit community, just like Scio,” says Graham.
Athletically, Graham is versed in an array of sports. Growing up, she competed in softball, volleyball, track and field, and basketball, though basketball was always the more exciting option for her.
Graham's love of basketball originated in her elementary school years. Scio was home to a middle school Amateur Athletic Union program and Graham was talented enough that the coach allowed her to play on the team as a grade-school kid. From the outset of her AAU days, she fell in love with the sport and never looked back.
One of four seniors, Graham says, “I'm more of a leader by example. I just try to work hard and do what needs to be done.”
Freshman Molly Danielson (Fr., Beaverton, Ore.) says, “When Riley is on the court, she gives 100 percent. I try to follow her lead and work just as hard as she does. She pushes everyone to give 100 percent effort and we all listen and respect what she says.”
Hanna Bingham (Fr., Reno, Nev.), another freshman, also recognizes the leadership ability of her senior teammate, saying graciously, “Riley is an inspiration on and off the court. She's always encouraging and challenges me and my teammates to become the best we can be. I hope when I'm a senior, I can have the confidence and leadership skills that Riley uses everyday.”
Graham considers herself primarily a defensive specialist, but is willing to assert her offensive will if it means propelling her team to victory.
“My role is to play defense, but sometimes it's my duty to score and sometimes it's my duty to pass the ball. It doesn't really matter to me if I have three points or 20 points, as long as we win the game. In a couple of years, stats aren't going to matter. The wins, loses and the time spent with the team will matter.”
With graduation looming in a few months, Graham is excited for the future. She is preparing to attend Linfield-Good Samaritan School of Nursing in Portland next fall to pursue a career in nursing.
“There are so many opportunities and types of fields that you can work in,” Graham says of a nursing career. “Whatever you choose to do, you're helping someone or a family. I want to be able to make an impact or help someone through a difficult time.”
Though Graham cites helping people as one of her main reasons to become a nurse, she is already helping people and making a difference. She's involved with a program called “Love Your Melon.” It's a group that sells hats to raise funds for children battling cancer. “I went out to Portland and we visited Randall Children's Hospital. We went to their oncology floor and dressed up as superheroes and handed out hats,” she says.
Looking ahead, Graham wants to find a position at a larger hospital, rather than a smaller clinic. She's found bigger hospitals have more going on that will keep her busy all the time.
Once Graham makes the final defensive stop of her basketball career at the close of this season, she's eager to begin investing more time turning her dreams of becoming a nurse into reality. And though her identity as a student-athlete will shift from that of a conventional student, she'll continue to find ways to stay busy in the most positive ways.
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Riley Graham
Small-town girl aims for career at large hospital