Woolridge Balances Basketball With Life’s Obstacles
Woolridge Family Has Continued To Fight Through Tough Times
DENTON – Freshman guard Ryan Woolridge grew up in Arlington, Texas, and always loved playing sports until his family was dealt the news that Ryan’s mother Rochelle was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Being just a freshman in high school, Woolridge thought the worst, having to think about what life might be like without one of his biggest fans. Ryan knew he couldn’t stop playing after watching his mother stay so positive and fight through her sickness.
“At first it was really tough,” Ryan Woolridge said. “During warmups not seeing my mom in the stands at my games, but I could go home and tell her how good I did. It was great to see the joy on her face.”
Woolridge did have a close support system in his father Columbus and his older sister Hunter, who was the most competitive person in the family.
“Ryan and I have been playing basketball against each other for the past 15 years,” Hunter Woolridge said. “We were so competitive against each other, it got to the point where we weren’t allowed to guard each other ever again because more than likely a fight would have broken out. Day in and day out Ryan has outworked everyone who has ever stepped foot on the court.”
Both Ryan and Hunter used basketball to take their minds off what was going on in their family life.
“We honestly never talked about it,” Hunter said. “It was more of a mutual feeling we never had to really bring up. We could feel the emotions within each other when we would hit the gym and put in work. Basketball was a way we could escape everything going on around us and kind of express ourselves by leaving it all on the court.”
Each member of the family coped with the situation in their own way but together they didn’t want it to be known publicly.
“The experience definitely made me more humble,” Ryan said. “It made me think about certain decisions in life. At first, I was devastated, but [then] was relieved after my mom got better.”
A couple years later, Ryan’s mother Rochelle was blessed to be given the news of her cancer being in remission. Woolridge used the experience to grow as a person and realized you never know what can happen in life.
Woolridge began to flourish on the basketball court during his junior and senior seasons at Lake Ridge High School. During a rigorous recruiting season, Woolridge ended up choosing the University of San Diego, but something didn’t seem right.
“I just thought it was a common sickness that caused my Dad to not go on my recruiting visit to San Diego,” Ryan said. “I learned later that my Dad had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and I expected the worst.”
Woolridge found out about the news during the summer, but tried to fight through the pain of not being able to physically be there for his father.
“When I went home on a break, I saw how it was when my mom was sick and that is what pushed me over the edge,” Ryan said. “I was there for another three weeks but I just couldn’t take it anymore.”
North Texas presented itself as a perfect fit to come home for Woolridge. His family would get to come watch him play and gave him an opportunity to prove himself again.
“Throughout college when I didn't have a game, I would always find a way to make it to Ryan's games,” Hunter said. “When he decided to go to San Diego, I knew it would be pretty difficult flying out to a lot of games, so when he chose to come back close to home it was pretty awesome.”
Woolridge did have to sit out almost a full 12 months before being able to showcase his talent on the court. 19 games into his Mean Green career, a lot of people are taking notice, including his sister.
“When I see my brother on the court I feel a combination of excitement, joy, competitiveness and my inner coach combined,” Hunter added. “To see him beat my own records and stats to make his own name is beyond amazing, and it is only the beginning.”
Woolridge gained recognition from Conference USA, winning back-to-back Freshman of the Week awards in early February. His best game of the season came against UTEP after scoring 15 points, grabbing 11 rebounds, and dishing out nine assists. Woolridge was one assist shy of earning a triple-double and followed up that performance with eight steals against UTSA.
“I finally feel like I am home at North Texas,” Woolridge said. “My family can come see me play and all my friends are close by. This season has taught me win or lose, keep playing as hard as I can.”
Through all the ups and downs, the Woolridge family has remained positive despite emotional life occurrences.
“Family is key,” Hunter explained. “The support from your family no matter what you are going through can help you get through anything. My advice to other people is to not take one moment for granted, and cherish the time spent, because tomorrow is never promised.”