WSU's Woolridge ready to take on old team

ROYCE WOOLRIDGE

PULLMAN -- Royce Woolridge spent most of his freshman year at the end of the Kansas Jayhawks' bench. Now at WSU, the redshirt sophomore will get a chance tonight to face his former team. "I'm extremely excited for the game," Woolridge said. "It's like a dream almost. I still keep in contact with them."

Royce Woolridge and the 2-1 Cougars tip off at 7 p.m. PT in Kansas City with the No. 7-ranked Jayhawks in the first round of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic. The game will be televised on ESPN2.

Woodridge, a highly touted prep guard out Arizona, went to Kansas with high expectations but wound up playing in just 16 games as a freshman in 2010-11. And in those games, he played an average of just 2.8 minutes.

Kansas coach Bill Self acknowledged Woolridge deserved more playing time during a press conference announcing his transfer. WSU jumped at the chance to recruit Woolridge.

"After my freshman year I was looking forward to playing a little more at Kansas," Woolridge said. "I had a conversation with Coach Self. We just didn't meet eye to eye on some things."

Woolridge decided to visit WSU, which was the first program to contact him after his announcement.

"I didn't really know anything about him," WSU head coach Ken Bone said. "I knew he was from Kansas so he must be a good player."

Last season, due to NCAA transfer rules, the 6-3, 175-pound redshirt sophomore could practice with the Cougs but not play in games.

Now he's not only in line for PT, but taking center stage courtesy of the dismissal this fall of senior point guard Reggie Moore. While not a true point guard, Woolridge is helping fill the void in a big way. Through three games, he is averaging 31.3 minutes of court time and 7.7 points. He also has dished 10 assists.

"He's doing a good job," Bone said after the team's win over Utah Valley. "I'm just glad he was here last season during that redshirt season to gain some experience within our program."

Basketball has long been in Woolridge's family. His father, Orlando, played 13 seasons in the NBA. Orlando died earlier this year from an apparent heart condition. Woolridge's great uncle is Hall of Famer Willis Reed, who played 10 seasons for the New York Knicks. And Woolridge's brother, Renaldo, is a senior on the USC basketball team.

Orlando Woolridge was the sixth pick in the 1981 NBA draft and averaged 16 points per game for seven different teams. Best known for his high-flying dunks, Woolridge was suspended in 1987 for violating the league's substance abuse policy and spent time in a treatment facility.

Royce said he was close to his father at a young age, but their relationship became distant as he grew up.

"I spent most of the time with mother, my grandmother, and my grandfather," he said.

Woolridge, a human development major, wants to work with young kids and teenagers after his basketball career is over. He mentioned the possibility of becoming a social worker.

"I feel like when I get older, I want to help those types of people and get them in the right direction," Woolridge said.

NOTABLE: The Cougs will play their second and final game of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic tomorrow against either Saint Louis or Texas A&M. Tip off will be at either 4 or 6:30 p.m. PT, with TV coverage on ESPNU/3.

The Murrow News Service provides stories by journalism students at the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University.

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