By Kyle Wills
If you ask senior basketball player Lilly Ritz who she would compare herself to, she would say others think she’s like Kevin Garnett or Giannis Antetokounmpo. However, she sees herself as her own player.
Athleticism runs in the family. Her brother Kyle played basketball and ran track at Wheeling University, while her sister Molly played basketball at Notre Dame College. Her dad even reached the majors and pitched nine seasons in MLB for the Detroit Tigers and Colorado Rockies.
With a family of athletes comes many competitions, and the Ritz family is always challenging each other. These challenges can range from friendly competitions to taking their talents to the court.
“There’s competitions everywhere. It could be from doing the dishes fastest to playing a card game. We usually have a three-on-three basketball game every year. My mom and my brother aren’t the most athletic, so it’s a little funny to watch them,” Ritz said.
Her love for basketball ignited in junior high while watching her sister’s high school team.
“My whole family played it. When I was in middle school, my sister was a senior in high school. Her team went to the Final Four of high school, and after that I wanted to get there. I really wanted to be a winner,” Ritz said.
In high school, she set all-time school records at Cambridge High School with 1,553 points and 1,115 rebounds. She was also named Second-Team All-State as a junior and First-Team All-State as a senior.
The Cambridge, Ohio, native was also a member of the soccer and track and field teams. She qualified for the state championship four times in the high jump and placed second at the state meet as a junior. She earned First-Team All-Conference accolades in soccer as a senior as well.
Ritz played her last two seasons at Wheeling where she led the nation in rebounding during the 2019-2020 and the 2020-2021 seasons. She was second in scoring last season with 23.6 points per game and also recorded a double-double in her final 33 games as a Cardinal.
Despite achieving numerous accolades throughout her basketball career, she remains thankful for the opportunity to keep playing the game she grew up loving.
“It’s really incredible I get to experience [this] and get the opportunity to play basketball every day and really it’s about what I have to do to win the game and be the best teammate for my team,” Ritz said.
So far this season, Ritz has been the shining star for the team as she’s made the transition from Division II basketball to Division I seamlessly. She currently averages a near double-double of 17.3 points and 9.5 rebounds per game, and has also been named Nike Horizon League Player of the Week twice this campaign.
“I needed to show myself I could play Division I basketball, and once I got on the court, it was really easy for me. It took a couple games to get back into my drive,” she said. “The biggest [difference] was the physicality. [At Division I] you really have to work hard to want to get the ball, so you have to do all the little things to be able to win.
Throughout her career, her parents, Kevin and Sally, have been her biggest supporters. It wasn’t always easy for them to attend every event between their four children, but they still remain their biggest fans today.
“They’ve been to every basketball game, every track and field meet and soccer game in high school. They had to go to three siblings’ games. It was always good to see them in the crowd and before every game, I always find out where they’re at,” Ritz said.