North Texas Daily

Woolridge thriving as full-time point guard for McCasland

Woolridge thriving as full-time point guard for McCasland

January 29
21:56 2018

As soon as Ryan Woolridge grabs the rebound and head coach Grant McCasland motions to push the pace, the sophomore point guard guides his team into its fast-break offense.

Woolridge quickly surveys the court and often sees the defense jogging back or out of position. Suddenly, his aggression kicks in. As the player who ranks seventh on the team in field goal attempts per 40 minutes, Woolridge is usually looking to create shots for his teammates — but an open lane in the paint is all too inviting.

If the lane stays open, he attacks it as North Texas’ best finisher around the rim. If the defense collapses, he dishes it off to a teammate. That is Woolridge’s mindset, and it is his vision in transition he has focused on improving. 

“I’m just looking up the court to see if they’re still running back on defense or if they’re set up,” Woolridge said of his mindset on the break. “I feel like I’ve improved on manipulating the defense, managing the clock better and just running the team.”

Just running the team is a feat even NBA point guards struggle with at times. Finding the pace and figuring out how the team works best is not a small task, but McCasland has excelled at putting Woolridge in position to be successful in their first season together.

The primary way he does that is running Woolridge through several ball screens as a ball handler with different roll men. It is one of the biggest areas of growth the head coach has seen from his point guard throughout this season.

“There are so many nuances to ball screens, so I think he’s getting closer to where he really has a good comprehension of how to navigate ball screens,” McCasland said. “There are a few [times] where he tends to not be aggressive and looks to share the ball quick, [but] he’s best when he stays in attack mode and stays under control.”

In Conference USA play, Woolridge plays 39 minutes per game and is quickly gaining the repetitions necessary on the court to become even more comfortable. He ranks third in the conference in assists per game at 5.9 and is averaging over 8.1 per game in the team’s last seven games. 

A lot of his teammates are in their first year at North Texas, meaning new tendencies and preferences Woolridge needed to learn as the team’s starting point guard. He admits it has been tough and is still a work in progress, but his chemistry with them has already led to layups for the bigs and open 3-point shots for perimeter shooters like sophomore guard Roosevelt Smart.

“[His playstyle] helps us because he’s unselfish,” Smart said. “He’s going to find guys, and he does a great job of penetrating and finding the open people. If not, he’s a great finisher as well.”

Another sign of his improvement and work ethic is his recent change in free throw form. Woolridge is a career 57.1 percent free throw shooter, but before the team’s game against Southern Mississippi, he wanted a way to get more arc on his shot. Once the Mean Green returned to Denton, McCasland began tweaking his point guard’s form before and after practices.

In his first game with the new form, Woolridge shot 7 out of 11 from the free throw line (63.5 percent) — a 7.5 percent increase from his old form.

While his usage rate is almost identical to last year (20.5 percent), he is keeping that rate while playing 8.3 more minutes per game. Woolridge scores 3.3 more points per game, too, all while shooting the exact same percentage from inside the arc as he did last year (53.7 percent).

Woolridge’s balance of scoring and assisting has taken steps in the right direction, and that is when McCasland knows his point guard is most lethal.

“What he continues to get better at is staying in attack mode but changing his pace,” McCasland said. “He can read the floor after he attacks and that’s a hard position because you want to facilitate and get people involved but you have to be aggressive yourself to be able to do it. He’s finding that right balance of attack mode but keeping his teammates involved.”

New teammates, a new coaching staff and an increased role have led to a new test for Woolridge, and he is adjusting well to the challenge.

The good news is Woolridge still has two seasons to strive at perfecting his play as the North Texas point guard.

“[Our chemistry] is still growing,” Woolridge said. “It’s tough to tell where [my teammates] want [the ball], and if they’re actually in position to score. But we are definitely growing [together] in a positive direction.”

Featured Image: North Texas sophomore guard Ryan Woolridge (0) drives the ball in a conference match against Florida Atlantic University on Jan. 25 at the Super Pit. Sara Carpenter

About Author

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune is the Senior Sports Writer for the North Texas Daily, covering football and men's basketball.

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