Photos submitted by Jocelyn Knox
It’s not hyperbole to call Riley Knox a member of Huntsville sports royalty. The 17-year-old lacrosse player — the youngest son of Dr. Jocelyn Knox and Kevin Knox — is the grandson of lacrosse legend, Jack Bionda, who died before Riley was born.
Riley was recently drafted eighth overall in the OJLL draft by the Whitby Warriors Jr A team. The OJLL has historically been the highest level of play for box lacrosse in the Junior age group of 16-21 and is the stepping stone to major team play.
Being drafted means that Riley’s Jr. A rights are immediately Whitby’s, although he hasn’t made the team yet. If Riley plays Jr. A then he should be playing for them. They can play him or trade him or release him or ask him to play on their feeding team. “He still has to prove to them that he can compete at that level,” his mom says, “which we fully believe he can.”
While the question of nature versus nurture is always debated, there is a similarity in style between Jack and his grandsons Duke, Jason and Riley, all of whom play or have played lacrosse.
“Jason has much of his Grampa Jack’s build and Riley is built similarly but more like his dad and his oldest brother, Duke, who played all through his minor and Junior years with the Huntsville Hawks and then at Queen’s University,” says Jocelyn. “Our boys are easily identifiable as brothers in their play, which may be like their grandfather but it is subtle and you might only see it if you really knew my dad’s play. If that is from Dad or just from playing since he was two and trying to keep up to his older brothers and his cousins and uncles, I am not sure.”
The family is close, and often shares stories about Grampa Jack; the boys always ask questions about him or his career. “We don’t have a lot but we do have some video of Grampa Jack doing exhibitions mostly,” says Jocelyn. “It is fun to watch them watch it.”
Riley’s had plenty of successes in his sport. His Ontario U15 team won the National Championship and he has many awards from Huntsville’s minor lacrosse club. The one he feels the best about is called the Jim Meredith Award — the MVP award that he received in his first year of Midget when the team won the Provincial Championship.
Riley is mainly an offensive threat but he can play defence very well. This makes him very valuable. Jocelyn says, “Whereas Jason would be the first to say he can’t play defence, Riley isn’t afraid of the transitional game and he has the endurance to go the whole game at a high level of play.”
Riley attended and then graduated from Riverside Public School but has been attending St. Andrews College, a private boarding school in Aurora, for the last three years. He’ll be in Grade 12 this September where his SAC team is the Varsity Saints. He also plays for an elite travel team called Edge Canada that will hopefully be able to travel again this year. He played for Team Ontario U15 men’s field the year before COVID started and competed in the Brogden Cup in 2019 at Sparks, Maryland with Team Ontario.
It’s not surprising that Riley’s parents expect that he’ll succeed in proving himself to the Whitby Warriors management. His parents call him “very self-motivated.” He had the application to SAC filled out and sent in to the school before his parents even knew about it and he maintains an impressive GPA in a science-based curriculum. Riley made the decision himself to take a couple of courses this summer in order to make his upcoming Grade 12 year more manageable. Mom and Dad don’t need to ‘push’ him in part because he pushes himself and in part because he and his brothers push each other. “He’s motivated to succeed but he’s still a regular teenager with a keen sense of humour. He makes us laugh every day over little things,” says his mom. “He also loves his dogs and his friends and gaming!”
Riley and his brother, Jason, are “competitive enough to drive a mother crazy. They used to make everything a competition with their older brother Duke too, including racing to the table for dinner!” says Jocelyn with a laugh. “But they are also supportive of each other for their dreams – always showing a united front.”
Riley Knox playing catch in his family’s backyard
And what would Jack Bionda think of all this? “In my opinion, Dad would be very happy to see something he loved so deeply and gave him such joy as lacrosse continue in the family,“ says Jocelyn. “But he would be just as happy to see any of his 16 grandchildren happy in whatever made them smile.”
This is Riley’s final year at SAC and if he is recruited he hopes to play in NCAA Division 1 against his brother, Jason. For any lacrosse fan or family and friend supporters of Jason or Riley, that will be a game that is definitely worth watching. Even if their mom has to do it while peeking anxiously through her fingers!
The Knox boys aren’t the only ones following in Jack Bionda’s footsteps. Their cousin, Ryan Bionda, daughter of Jordan Bionda and Marcia Mackesy, has committed to NCAA Division 1 play at Furman University in South Carolina for Sept 21.
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