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5-star forward from Kitchener, Ont., announces commitment to Illinois

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Will Riley is jumping into a new chapter of his life.

The 6-foot-8 forward is considered one of the best high school players in the world.

“He showed up at the first exposure camp and all these scouts were like, ‘who is this kid?’ So he's made a name for himself,” said his mom Tracy Riley.

After receiving around 25 offers from top college programs for well over a year, decision day finally arrived Sunday for the Kitchener, Ont., basketball player.

“I've worked super hard for this countless of hours in the gym running dribbling and so much more,” Riley addressed to a crowd of family and friends. “I'm proud that everyone's excited for me. you know, excited for the journey."

The 18-year-old athlete announced his commitment to Illinois Fighting Illini.

“Super excited for the next journey and what's ahead of me," said Riley. "I’m super excited to bring my family with me, my friends and everyone who supported me."

The gym at Waterloo’s RIM Park exploded with applause and cheers as friends and family celebrated his decision.

“He's far exceeded anything I could ever imagine,” said his dad Ray Riley. “It's more than the basketball, he's an amazing young man.”

“The coach is driven to make the national championship. They want to get to the final four at March Madness and they think Will can help to do that,” said Tracy.

Riley made the decision to leave Grand River Collegiate Institute two years ago to play at the Phelps Academy in Malvern, Pennsylvania, where he very quickly made a name for himself.

“I had to make that decision to get better, develop more," said Riley. "The competition was a lot better down there so I decided to move down there.”

“This has been a great journey for Will,” said Tracy. “From the time he was young and just watching the progression from house league to All-Star games to Team Ontario to Canada basketball, to moving on to the states and getting into that system and getting all that exposure.”

An array of basketball jersey of Will Riley's on June 23, 2024. (Hannah Schmidt/CTV Kitchener)

Up until about a week ago, Riley had been considering offers from Arizona, Alabama. Kentucky, Illinois, and professionally in New Zealand.

He says when it came to his final decision making process, two teams stood above the rest as the top contenders: Illinois and Kentucky.

“I was going between different places for a while, but I’ve known for about a week now where I’m gonna go,” he said. “As soon as I went on that visit [to Illinois], I fell in love with the school, the coaches, teammates, everybody.”

“They had a blueprint for his role on the team,” Tracy explained. “It looks like when he goes there, he'll be probably a starter and a very pivotal piece of their team as a freshman. We liked what they had to offer.”

Now Illinois bound, the young and eager Riley is ready to hit the court at the State Farm Center.

As for what’s next, Riley will continue to shoot his shot at his ultimate goal : to play in the NBA.

“That's always been the dream of mine," he said. "I’ve had that goal since I was little, as you can see here, there's a lot of people who support me, so I love them all."

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