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Home sweet home: high-flying Ryan Woolridge settling in with the Mean Green

Home sweet home: high-flying Ryan Woolridge settling in with the Mean Green

North Texas freshman guard Ryan Woolridge transferred from San Diego to be closer to home. Colin Mitchell

Home sweet home: high-flying Ryan Woolridge settling in with the Mean Green
January 24
20:51 2017

Clay Massey | Senior Staff Writer 

The number zero flies underneath the basket at the Super Pit, pirouetting through the air. His acrobatic finishes have left fans mesmerized several times this season.

The 6’3, 175-pound point guard seems to slow down time, dancing his way through defenders on his way to the hoop.

Hanging above the hardwood floor below, he lays the basketball up and in for two points.

The nifty finishes have started to become a signature move for freshman Ryan Woolridge. It’s something head coach Tony Benford was not only looking for, but desperately needed. With two of his guards graduating after this season, Benford needed a young guard to fill the backcourt.

So when a homesick Woolridge — then at San Diego University — wanted to transfer, Benford knew he had to make his move.

“I just wanted to get back closer to home,” Woolridge said. “I missed it.”

North Texas freshman guard Ryan Woolridge drives the basket against South Eastern Louisiana University. Colin Mitchell

After finding a passion for basketball from shooting hoops in his backyard of an upscale Arlington neighborhood with his father, he decided it was something he wanted to pursue. With his father’s aide, Woolridge developed an athleticism some defenders cannot match.

“He pushed me to play all sports,” Woolridge said. “But in high school, I decided I just wanted to focus on basketball.”

Woolridge spent half a semester at San Diego before wanting to come home to Texas. He was highly recruited out of high school, and ended up in California after a successful career at Lake Ridge High School in Mansfield.

In his senior season he averaged 17.3 points, 6.1 assists, 5.1 rebounds and 3.3 steals per game as Lake Ridge posted a 24-8 record. Woolridge was a two-star recruit out of high school, and after an impressive performance in the famous Whataburger Tournament, the offers began to roll in.

It was a bit overwhelming for the then-18 year old.

“Before I chose to San Diego it was really chill,” Woolridge said. “But at the end of my senior year I started getting all these different offers. It was hectic. It was kind of stressful. I just had to push through it. I focused on basketball, basically.”

Woolridge never played a game at San Diego, and transferred to North Texas last spring.

There was just one problem.

Benford did not have a scholarship to offer Woolridge, and he could not be on scholarship after transferring from San Diego due to NCAA regulations. It did not deter the Arlington native, who paid his own way for classes before being offered a scholarship this past summer.

Woolridge was a big get for Benford and his staff.

“He’s got speed and quickness,” Benford said. “We can play fast when he’s in there. He has a very high basketball IQ. He needs to keep working on his shot, but he plays very hard when he’s out there.”

In his first season for North Texas, Woolridge has provided a spark in what has been a dismal season for the 6-13 Mean Green. In 10 games, he’s averaging 8.4 points and 4.1 rebounds per contest.

There is an area of his game he’s trying to improve, however.

Woolridge has struggled holding on to the ball, and has committed 26 turnovers. His assist to turnover ratio is 0.65, meaning he coughs the ball up more than he finds an open teammate. Woolridge still believes he is not completely game ready after having to watch an entire season from the sidelines.

“I still feel like I’m shaking off [the] rust,” Woolridge said. “It’s taken me a while.”

One of the beneficiaries of Woolridge’s 17 assists has been fellow freshman guard AJ Lawson.

Lawson is second on the team in scoring, averaging 9.8 points per game. He and Woolridge have developed a close relationship in their partial season together, with Woolridge describing the two as best friends.

The friendship has worked wonders on the court. The two red-line the tempo during games, and are always looking to run in transition.

“You don’t find many people who can score themselves and also help out others,” Lawson said. “It started off the court. It just clicks with us. Sometimes you can’t stop him. He goes 100 miles per hour on every play he can.”

Woolridge feels a bond that he and Lawson have together. The two have built an important relationship, especially considering they appear to be the future of the North Texas backcourt.

“[Our chemistry] helps a lot,” Woolridge said. “I know where he’s going. I know where to put the ball. I know if he wants an alley-oop or a jumper.”

Just a freshman, Woolridge still has a long basketball career ahead of him. He knows what he has to work on. Along with turnovers, putting the ball in the hole will be priority No. 1.

With basketball evolving and sharpshooters like Stephen Curry becoming role models, Woolridge wants to be sure he develops his outside game.

More than anything, though, Woolridge wants to live up to expectations.

“I just want to contribute even more than I am now,” Woolridge said. “Everybody wants to be the hype man who’s exciting.”

Featured Image: North Texas freshman guard Ryan Woolridge transferred from San Diego to be closer to home. Colin Mitchell

About Author

Reece Waddell

Reece Waddell

Reece Waddell was the Editor-in-Chief of the North Texas Daily from May 2017 to December 2017. He previously served as the Sports Editor and Senior Sports Writer. Reece also worked at The Dallas Morning News and WFAA-TV.

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