Michael Riley – Central Michigan
The Baller of the Month for September goes to one of the most well known players in the league: Michael Riley. Taking over as captain for Central Michigan University this year, Riley has had a very successful start to his tenure. The Chippewas currently are undefeated with a 6-0 record. Not only that, but they have avenged their title game loss to Grand Valley State with an early season 4-2 win over the defending champs.
Riley has made a name for himself over the years both for his impressive on court skills, as well as for his abundance of confidence. He has developed into an all-around star player for the Chippewas, and is one of my early favorites to take home league MVP at the end of the season.
I had the privilege of interviewing one of dodgeball’s most talented (and outspoken) stars. My conversation with Michael hit on many topics, including his take on CMU’s early season success, his leadership style, what his go-to pregame meal is, who he would least want to fist fight in the NCDA, and how much money he lost thanks to an ill-advised preseason bet that he made… Check out our interview below:
Kevin Bailey: First off congratulations on winning Baller of the Month. Question #1: how does it feel to finally earn yourself Baller of the Month?
Michael Riley: I feel very grateful that I’ve been chosen for the award and recognition, but also feel that it’s been a long time coming. This is my 6th year in the league and have been a notable prime-time player for at least 4 of those years. Every time I had a good tournament throughout my career I always was slightly waiting for that article to drop for BotM recognition. Now that it finally has, I’ve definitely been hit with a wave of satisfaction; Although I believe it could’ve came earlier in my career, I think it’s perfect timing for it now and couldn’t be more appreciative of the nod.
KB: It is very well deserved. Now, you have taken over captain duties for Central Michigan this year, and your team currently sits at 6-0 with big wins over GVSU and SVSU already this season. Talk a little bit about your transition to the role of captain, and what factors have caused this year’s team to have such a successful start to the season.
MR: First off, couldn’t be more proud of how the boys are playing this year and how well they’ve adapted to my leadership style. My transition into captain was rather seamless. I’m the most experienced, I’m highly respected not only within the team but also within the league, and I was already a major voice on the court. I run the team, very similar to how you did in your days, Kevin, as the single authoritative voice on the court. Each player has their own dodgeball intuitions and play-making abilities, but I guide the overall strategy, tempo, and execution on the court.
I truly believe, as do my teammates, that my leadership is the number one factor of our early success. There’s no humble way to say that. Simply put, we are a less talented team than last year. We lost more than a handful of key players and athletes that you just can’t expect to replace by next season. Popular thought in the league was that CMU was going to be in a rough spot because of that exact reason, but we’ve never looked more crisp. Passion, dedication, and the drive to win are at an all time high throughout the team and I believe it’s because I bring a level of intensity in those categories that they feed off of. There is a second factor though, and I believe it stems off the first; Every single person on this team is performing this year. The boys are making plays left and right this season and their ability to each be a clutch player gives our team that championship caliber depth.
KB: As an individual, what do you consider your #1 skill. And to add onto that, after competing all summer in Elite Dodgeball, is there an area of your game that you think has improved thanks to that experience?
MR: I’d say without a doubt my #1 skill is my dodgeball IQ. I preach it over and over in practice, dodgeball IQ is our number one priority. Dodgeball IQ encompasses so much such as: knowing what to do in a situation, the best target to throw at, risk aversion or risk necessity, finding high percentage kills, and playing not just the game but the player. So many seemingly minimal things go into sport specific IQs I can’t begin to describe all the nuances. But I believe when it comes to dodgeball IQ I have the best in the game, and I prey on that advantage.
As far as Elite goes, I loved playing it this summer and would advise every NCDA player to join as well. The aspect of my game it has helped the most is court awareness, which is an underrated aspect. The small fast paced court keeps you on edge and doesn’t allow room for attention lapses. I do also think it has hindered my NCDA game on a mental level, as I now believe I can solo kill anyone at will haha. Have to re-adjust back to the distance.
KB: Fair enough. As you said, you are now in your 6th year in the league. What has been the single most memorable moment for you during this time?
MR: It’s tough to choose one moment. If I had I’d say the comeback against Saginaw I rallied during MDC. The epitome of the comeback peaked when I caught my great friend and roommate, Peter Broe, back in and him and I quickly dispatched the remaining two Saginaw players with ease. What made the moment have even more of an emotional connection is when I caught him back in, a timeout was called and we circled up. I forget who it was but someone with a stronger arm was sitting out and Shane and Zach were offering the idea we sub Peter out for the stronger arm. I remember instantly saying “Hell no, we ride together die together, Peter stays”, like the whitest Will Smith and Martin Lawrence you’ve ever seen. Just the accumulation of all the factors of game importance, the comeback setup, how we executed, and our bond as friends made it so momentous. Peep the IG for a 10 second look at the finale.
KB: Speaking of which, I should mention that as aggressive as you are on the court, you are even more aggressive on social media. Can you give everyone your username so they can toss you a follow on Insta?
Follow backs not guaranteed
KB: I’ve noticed you have an inability to match brands with your shoes / socks / uniform? Why do you choose to not match brands. Will you ever wear a dodgeball outfit doesn’t break this simple fashion guideline?
MR: I’m simply maximizing my equity. Adidas, Nike, and UA wanted to sponsor me so I cut a deal and said I’d give each company an article of clothing. The only fashion guideline is to look good and damn if I don’t do that..
KB: Best headshot you have ever thrown. Who was the target? Also, worst headshot you have ever received, and who was the thrower?
MR: Does it have to be NCDA?
MR: Best headshot was during Elite Round 1. I absolutely smoked this kid in no-pinch. It came so fast and unexpected he didn’t even move, just stood there. And I remember just hearing all my teammates crack up right after. Worst headshot received was Elite Round 2 from Aaron Terenzi in pinch.
KB: Throughout your many years in the league you have had the opportunity to play a number of different opponents. What team (or teams) are the most enjoyable to go up against? And what individual players do you like competing against the most?
MR: GVSU has always and will always be my favorite team to play. I love the thrill of facing the toughest competition and its safe to say GVSU has been at the number one spot for my entire dodgeball career. Even though GVSU almost always has gotten the better of me, I still leave the match every time wanting to run it back and improve.
As far as favorite individuals to play against, I always enjoyed playing against you in your time as you were regarded as the best player. As the evil guy’s dad in Never Back Down said, “If you want to be the best you have to beat the best”. And so every time we faced off I took it as an opportunity to build my brand and replace you. As for currently, I really enjoy facing off against Nick Hazergian on SVSU; we’ve developed a nice little rivalry and it brings an extra element of competition to the match.
**PLEASE NOTE: Mike had to postpone the remainder of our interview to later that night because he had to ‘hit the gym’.
KB: You are known as a very confident person on and off the court. Some people may dislike you because they think you come off as cocky. Well, here is your opportunity to speak to those people. Do you have any words for those haters? Don’t hold back…
MR: For my haters, my favorite people-I don’t believe I’m cocky at all. I believe cocky is a term used for an ignorant type of confidence. Self-confidence often gets grouped with cocky because people either aren’t used to it or don’t like the brash nature. I’m extremely self-confident no question, but I’m always humble if I best an opponent or am bested by one. Yeah, I play with some swagger, but that’s who I am. Instead of dislike me, I hope my behavior entices that individual to step their game up and bring me the level of competition I thrive off of. At the end of the day though, couldn’t care less about the haters; Winners focus on the prize, losers focus on winners and pray for their demise. I’ve made countless friends in this league, but I’m not everyone’s cup of tea and I sleep like a baby none the less.
KB: Speaking of confidence, you made a bet with a number of people this offseason that CMU wouldn’t lose a single point this whole year. As we all know, your Chippewas have dropped a few points already. Please fill our readers in on how much money you owe, and when you plan to pay it…
MR: Hahaha. Well, I owe about $100 or $120 I forget who even I bet. They are going to get it at Nationals as that’s when I would’ve been able to collect. And now that you’ve brought it up I’m also fielding new bets that CMU won’t drop a game. Which probably should’ve been the original bet in hindsight. Dylan Fettig and I have already engaged in another $30 bet and I believe Kenny Mize and I have one in the works.
KB: I’ll put a few thousand down if you’re interested..
MR: Stop it. Come to the table with a feasible bet and you can get it.
KB: You have played with a number of great players and leaders during your career. What teammates have been the most influential to you as a dodgeball player, and what did they do that helped make you a better player?
MR: The most influential teammates I’ve had are without a doubt Wes Peters and Brett Hadwin. They were the captains of the team when I first joined way back during my inception into this world of dodgeball.
Those two basically showed me the ropes of everything dodgeball related and I learned how to play by watching and playing alongside them. I was just a young freshman ready to be molded into a dodgeball career veteran, and found two great leaders to set me on the path. When I first started I was so hooked and shared the passion of both of these guys almost instantly. Wes and I have talked about dodgeball for IDK how many hours, but it never ceases to bore us. I think entering the sport with someone who had that level of interest helped shape me to be the player I am today and have the level of interest I do. Brett set the bar for hype man and has instilled his charisma in me. Whenever I’m hyping up the team, I remember how Brett would fire me up with excitement and I try to bring that exact feeling he inspired to each one of my teammates now.
KB: Alright, before we wrap this up, I’ve got a few real serious questions. What’s your go-to pregame meal?
MR: Well since tourneys are always early in the morning, Subway: flatbread bacon egg and cheese breakfast is the way to go.
KB: Chipotle or Qdoba? Choose wisely…
MR: Chip. They are currently constructing one right underneath my apartments. Going to be a great second semester
KB: Smart choice there. I respect it. Big question here: who wins in a brawl, CMU Dodgeball or GVSU Dodgeball? Also, of everyone in the NCDA, who would you least want to find yourself in a fist fight with?
MR: Ah we’re onto the easy questions now; CMU scrappers no doubt. I’d probably least want to fight Brandon Meisel. It would give me a heavy heart to have to put my little brother down like that.
KB: What is your best sport, besides dodgeball?
**NOTE: Interview was paused again. This time because Riley had to eat.
KB: You are graduating soon (allegedly). The people probably want to know what you will be up to next. What’s the post-graduation plan?
MR: I have an internship at DTE in downtown Detroit within their marketing program. Then, I’ll probably continue to work there for a few years until I use it as a stepping stone to enter into a private marketing firm and work my way up there.
KB: Congrats. Any bold predictions for the rest of the season? Also, is Central planning to get new uniforms soon? Please tell me they won’t be light grey.
MR: CMU has an undefeated season. And I’ll say only two Michigan teams make it to the Final 4 this year. Central is getting new uniforms, the order has already been placed, stay tuned.
KB: Nice. Well, once again congrats on winning Baller of the Month. Any final thoughts for everyone reading?
MR: Thank you once again, I truly appreciate the honor. To everyone reading- hope you enjoyed my responses, I tried to elaborate just enough to be interesting but still keep it an overall concise read. To all competitors- it’s all smiles and laughs in the off time, but once we step on that court and the clock starts ticking, it’s all business and I hope you’re ready.
KB: Solid interview.
MR: Best BOTM interview yet?
MR: Don’t dodge my question.