WILDCATS

Arizona basketball: Woolridge finds worth at WSU

Son of late NBA player has hot hand for Cougs after transfer from KU
2013-02-23T00:00:00Z 2013-03-27T16:57:33Z Arizona basketball: Woolridge finds worth at WSUBruce Pascoe Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
February 23, 2013 12:00 am  • 

As a 15-year-old sophomore at Phoenix Sunnyslope High School, Royce Woolridge committed to Kansas in May 2008 - and not only because the Jayhawks had just won the NCAA title.

Instead, it was a game four months earlier that commanded the attention of Woolridge, who will play for Washington State today against No. 12 Arizona at McKale Center.

On Nov. 25, 2007, fourth-ranked Kansas hosted fellow Phoenix native Jerryd Bayless and the Kevin O'Neill-coached Arizona Wildcats at Allen Fieldhouse.

The game went into overtime before Kansas won 76-72.

"It was a huge game," said Woolridge, now a sophomore at WSU and on a hot streak, averaging 19.5 points in his last four games.

"After that game I was like, 'Man, I want to go to Kansas.'"

Unfortunately for Woolridge, the reality of getting on the floor at Kansas wasn't so easy.

A son of the late NBA and Notre Dame player Orlando Woolridge, Royce played just 44 total minutes, appearing in 16 games and scoring a total of nine points as a freshman for the Jayhawks in 2010-11.

After the season, he met with Kansas coach Bill Self and learned his future wouldn't be easy, either.

"We had a conversation and it just seemed like I would be better off somewhere else," Woolridge said. "I'm still really good friends with a lot of the players on the team. I still talk to some of the coaches sometimes. There's nothing bitter. It just didn't work out for me."

Self said upon Woolridge's April 2011 announcement that the two talked "openly and honestly" about his potential role and that Woolridge deserved to have a better opportunity elsewhere.

WSU had no previous recruiting relationship with Woolridge - coach Ken Bone said "we didn't look at him too hard" because Woolridge was Kansas-bound - but the Cougars wasted little time convincing Woolridge he'd have an opportunity in Pullman.

So far, there has been. After sitting out the required redshirt year last season, Woolridge has started 26 of 27 games this season, and is now being depended on more than ever because of a knee injury to Mike Ladd.

Ladd, like Woolridge a combo guard, has been unable to play for the past three WSU games, and Bone said Ladd won't play today, either. That means more ballhandling, and more shots, for Woolridge.

"It's been something I've gotta get used to, especially with teams trying to pressure us fullcourt," Woolridge said. "But it's something I've come to accept."

Woolridge responded with 36 points and five assists while WSU took Oregon into overtime before losing last Saturday, while he also had 16 points in a 69-57 loss at ASU on Wednesday.

"It always happens when somebody goes down somebody else kind of steps up," Bone said. "I think really both him and DaVonté Lacy have done a good job of scoring a few more points for us."

The extra opportunity has added to the Arizona homecoming for Woolridge, whose father died last May at age 52 of heart disease.

Bone said he was pleased with how Woolridge handled playing in front of many friends and family at home at ASU, while Woolridge said he also expects to have several friends who attend UA come out to McKale today.

The only drawback is that the weather has been, well, almost Pullman-like.

But Woolridge is OK with that. He likes the cold, the location, and the campus - and, of course, the playing time - at Washington State.

"I took a visit out there and I really liked it," Woolridge said. "I'd never been to the Northwest, so I went and checked it out and really enjoyed it. Once I took my visit to Washington State, I knew I wanted to go there."

For the long haul, this time, too.

On StarNet: Chat live during the game with your fellow fans at live.azstarnet.com

Today

• Who: Washington State at No. 12 Arizona

• When: 1 p.m.

• TV: FSAZ Plus (Cox Ch 73, Comcast Ch 17, DirecTV Ch 695, Dish Ch 440)

• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Spanish)

Contact Bruce Pascoe at 573-4145 or bpascoe@azstarnet.com. On Twitter @BrucePascoe

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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