Riley Walz

Riley Walz is shown during the 2019-20 season after he took over as the varsity girls' basketball coach at St. Croix Central. File photo

At 23 years old, Riley Walz is already a coaching veteran.

Walz is taking over as the varsity coach in the New Richmond girls’ basketball program. It’s his second term as a varsity coach. Two years ago, he started the season as the freshman coach in the St. Croix Central girls’ program. When the varsity coach resigned early in the season, Walz was asked to take on the varsity coaching responsibilities. He was universally praised for his ability to handle the pressures of the position as a then 21-year-old.

Walz has been coaching in New Richmond for the past two years. He served as an assistant coach in the Tiger football program the past two seasons. Last year, he was the junior varsity coach for the Tiger girls’ program under Coach Chad Eggert. Eggert will be the Clear Lake varsity girls coach this season. Eggert was a JV coach at Amery when Walz played there.

Walz is a 2016 graduate of Amery High School. His coaching staff will include varsity assistant Taylor Schneider, junior varsity coach Kennedy Kling and freshman coach Kaitlynn Belisle. Kling and Belisle are former Tiger players. Schneider led the state in scoring in the 2015-16 season at Turtle Lake, then played at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

The Tigers graduated five seniors from the 2020-21 team. They return two starters in senior Gabby Aune and junior Brooke Blaszczyk. Blaszczyk was the team’s leading scorer last season. “Gabby is one of the best on-ball defenders I’ve ever seen,” Walz said.

Brooklyn Jackson is the only other  senior returning to the team.

Walz said he’s fortunate to have worked with the team last season, so he knows all the girls who’ll be making the move from the JV to the varsity level. He said he expects the transition to go smoothly.

This will be the first time the Tigers compete as members of the Big Rivers Conference since the Tigers were briefly members of the BRC in the 1990s. Walz said the girls are excited about stepping up to the BRC.

“As an entire school district, we’re excited,” Walz said. He said the success that New Richmond teams saw during the fall season in the BRC showed that New Richmond programs can be successful in their new conference. “Hopefully, the winter sports can keep the momentum.”

Walz said the BRC features several outstanding programs, saying Menomonie, Hudson and Rice Lake are the top teams heading into the season.

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