Former Fresno State and San Joaquin Delta College player Ajay Riding will enter his ninth season on the Sacramento State coaching staff in 2017-18. His duties with the Hornets include serving as the team’s academic coordinator, team travel, 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.
Sacramento State has also won at least 13 games each of the last five years, the first time that has happened in 43 years when the Hornets ran off seven straight seasons from 1966-73. In addition, the Hornets have won Big Sky Tournament games three consecutive years (2015-17) for the first time ever. Moreover, the team has posted three conference records of .500 or better during Riding’s tenure after the program had done so just twice in 27 years prior to Riding’s arrival.
The Hornets have also established a homecourt advantage that has seen the program post a 52-19 combined record (.732 winning percentage) inside the Nest over the last five years. That includes at least 10 home wins in four of the last five years.
The Hornets’ overall record of 21-12 during the 2014-15 season 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 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 guard Mikh McKinney, who was named honorable mention All-America, first team all-District 6, and the Big Sky MVP in 2015. McKinney became the first player in the Div. I era to receive all three of those awards, and just the fourth player in school history to earn All-America honors.
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 five 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 3.008.
Of the 28 players that have expired their eligibility during Riding’s tenure with the Hornets, 27 have graduated. In addition, the Hornets have been Academic Progress Rate (APR) compliant every year of Riding’s eight-year tenure.
In May of 2017, the men's basketball program received the NCAA Public Recognition Award for having an Academic Progress Rate (APR) score that ranked among the top 10 percent nationally. In the process, Sacramento State became the only public school in California, and the only school in the Big Sky Conference to ever receive the Public Recognition Award in men's basketball. In addition, the Hornets are one of only five schools in California to receive the award in men's basketball (Stanford, Pacific, Loyola Marymount and San Diego are the others).
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.
Riding and his wife, Samantha, currently reside in Sacramento.