Former Fresno State and San Joaquin Delta College player Ajay Riding completed his seventh season as assistant men’s basketball coach at Sacramento State in 2015-16. His duties with the Hornets include assisting with recruiting, serving as the team’s academic coordinator, team travel, working with the post players, player development and scouting.
Sacramento State increased its conference win total each of his first six years on the staff, culminating in the 2014-15 squad posting a 21-12 overall record and a 13-5 mark in the Big Sky Conference while securing the program’s first postseason appearance in the Div. I era (1991-pres.), and the team’s first postseason victory in 53 years.
The overall record marked the first time in the Div. I era that Sacramento State finished above the .500 mark, and first time since the 1988-89 season. In addition, the 21 wins were tied for second most in program history (1948-pres.), and the 13 conference victories were the most in school history (regardless of conference). All of this from a program that had entered the 2014-15 season with just three winning seasons in the previous 38 years.
After reaching the semifinal round of the Big Sky Tournament, the Hornets qualified for the CIT Postseason Tournament, marking the first time the program had qualified for a postseason event since the 1988 NCAA Div. II Tournament, and just the fifth postseason appearance in school history. Sacramento State’s 73-66 victory at Portland in the first round of the CIT marked the first time in 53 years the Hornets had won a postseason game.
The Hornets were ranked in the CollegeInsider.com Mid Major Poll for the first time in school history (ranking as high as 14th), and the team finished just one game back of first place in the Big Sky standings, narrowly missing out on the program’s first conference championship since 1977. Sacramento State also won nine straight home games at one point, and completed the year with a 13-2 home record, tied for the most home wins in program history (1948-pres.).
In fact, during the 2014-15 season, the team set Div. I-era school records (1991-pres.) in points scored (2,342), field goals made (841), field goal percentage (.486), 3-point field goal percentage (.408), free throw percentage (.736), assists (466) and assists per game (14.1). The Hornets finished among the top 10 teams in the nation in both 3-point field goal percentage (4th) and field goal percentage (8th).
Riding also helped coach senior guard Mikh McKinney, who was named honorable mention All-America, first team all-District 6, and the Big Sky MVP. McKinney became the first player in the Div. I era to receive all three of those awards, and just the third player in school history to earn All-America honors.
Though the team went 14-17 overall and 6-12 in the Big Sky during a 2015-16 rebuilding season, the Hornets have now won at least 14 games four consecutive years after reaching the 14-win plateau just once the 22 previous years.
Off the court, the Hornets have excelled in the classroom during Riding’s tenure. In fact, the Hornets have posted a team grade point average of better than 3.0 three times in the last four semesters. Prior to the start of that run in the spring of 2014, the men’s basketball program had never posted a 3.0 gpa during any semester in school history. The team currently has a cumulative grade point average of 3.02.
Moreover, the Hornets have been Academic Progress Rate (APR) compliant every year of Riding’s seven-year tenure, including a 981 score in 2009-10, the second highest in program history.
Of the 22 Sacramento State players that have expired their eligibility during Riding’s tenure, 21 have graduated.
The program showed signs of taking off in 2013-14 when the Hornets not only posted a then school-record 10 conference wins, the team also clinched a Big Sky Tournament berth for the first time since 2006 and won 11 home games. One of the season’s highlights included Dylan Garrity’s 75-foot shot at the buzzer to defeat Weber State, and instantly gain national exposure for the program. Video of the shot went viral and was named the No. 1 play on ESPN SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays that evening.
A native of Davis, Calif., Riding spent two years (2007-09) working with the men’s basketball coaching staff at Fresno State as a volunteer assistant.
A graduate of Fresno State in 2007 with a degree in mass communications and journalism, Riding played a combined 47 games for the Bulldogs in 2005-06 and 2006-07. He was both a Western Athletic Conference and Fresno State scholar-athlete award winner, and helped the Bulldogs to a 37-23 combined record during his two seasons with the team as a student-athlete. That included a 22-10 overall record and a National Invitational Tournament appearance during his senior season.
No stranger to Katz’s coaching philosophy, Riding spent two years playing for Katz at Delta College in 2003-04 and 2004-05. During those two seasons, Riding helped the Mustangs to a pair of conference championships and a 52-8 combined record. The 2004-05 squad finished with a program-best 30-2 record and reached the Final Four of the state tournament.
Prior to playing at Delta College, Riding prepped at Davis High School where he was an all-conference selection.