The Cape Fear Community College men’s basketball team received tragic news a couple of weeks back when they learned one of their own had passed away in a car accident while driving in Hanover County near Richmond, Virginia.
Riley LaRue was 19 and the oldest son of former Wake Forest basketball and football Hall of Famer Rusty LaRue. A graduate of East Forsyth High School, LaRue spent some time as a member of the Wilmington community and redshirted under Coach Ryan Mantlo at Cape Fear Community College last season. Mantlo took time to express his feelings and thoughts in the dialogue below.
“We first saw Riley LaRue play at a Christmas tournament in Winston-Salem at Mt. Tabor High School. We were there recruiting another player, whose team was opposing Riley’s East Forsyth team. As play went on and the game grew more closely contested, we began to notice a tall, lanky, shaggy-haired kid. He didn’t stand out because of his scoring ability or athleticism – Riley stood out because of just how hard he played. Every loose ball, he was the first on the floor. He was physical, full speed all the time, and played with great passion. The greatest compliment a coach can give a player is that he has maxed out his potential. Riley left no doubt that he would do just that.
“Riley was one of the most cerebral players we have been around. As the son of a coach, he had an understanding of the game that few freshmen possess. Though he redshirted last season for us, he made his impact on our team’s championship season. On countless occasions, when a teammate would make a mistake, before we could come over and speak to him, Riley was there coaching him up. Whoever Riley was guarding defensively couldn’t take a play off. They had to match Riley’s effort, and he never took a second off while on the court.
“That, as a coach, is something that sticks with you. Whatever Riley took the time to do, he did the highest of his abilities. In the classroom Riley was a savant, a straight ‘A’ student. He would often help tutor his sophomore teammates on road trips and other athletes during study hall. His thirst for knowledge was apparent as soon as he came onto campus. Whenever we ran into Riley on campus, his face was predictably buried in a book or joking around with teammates.
“Ultimately, however, what stood out about our experiences with Riley was his ceaseless optimism, positive outlook and maturity well beyond his years. Whether it was serving as another assistant coach on the court during practice, his willingness to redshirt his freshman season without a word of complaint or hesitation, or his constant joking and goofing around with his teammates, Riley took everything in stride and made the best out of every situation. There wasn’t a time where we saw him without a smile on his face, or where he wasn’t putting the needs of others before his own. While we can’t understand the ‘why’ of what has happened, or why his time with us was cut so short, we feel blessed to have met him. His legacy certainly is alive and well in our basketball program, and those that were lucky enough to know him should seek to emulate so many of his qualities. He was, is, and will continue to be a valued member of the Sea Devil family.
“Riley LaRue, you are certainly missed, but will never be forgotten.”