On Wednesday night, Royce Woolridge’s basketball career had gone full circle.
Five years ago, the valley native played his last high school game as a member of Sunnyslope winning a state championship. After initially going to Kansas at the next level, he spent much of his collegiate career with Washington State. With one more year of eligibility, Woolridge decided to return home as a graduate transfer and suit up for Dan Majerle and GCU.
In the opening round matchup of the CIT against in-state rival Northern Arizona, Woolridge put it all on the line scoring a game-high 24 points, was 6-for-6 from the free throw line and shot 9-of-13 from the field. Unfortunately for Woolridge and the ‘Lopes, it wasn’t enough as the Lumberjacks prevailed 75-70. Woolridge long, well-traveled collegiate career came to an end in his hometown where it all began.
“I really don’t show that much emotion but I caught myself tearing up in the locker room,” said Woolridge after the game. “It’s bitter sweet. The whole season, you go through the grind and you think, ‘man this is a grind and it’s killing my body.’ But when it comes down to it and it’s the last game, man I’m sad. I’m going to miss this.”
Woolridge arrived on campus in Phoenix with a lot of experience. But that did not change the fact that the year was extremely valuable and noted how much he learned from Dan Majerle in one season.
“Coach Majerle is a mentor,” mention Woolridge. “I respect him to the utmost. He taught me a lot this year. He taught me and showed me that you are not just going to come in here and do whatever you think you’re going to do. You’ve got to play with the system and play hard.
“He really taught me how to dig deep, grind and play hard,” he added. “Even through the hard times this year, he always was there to support me and tell me ‘hey, keep grinding. If you play hard in practice then it’s going to show in the game…I just want to thank Coach Majerle for everything.”
“It’s a tough loss for our guys, I think they really liked each other,” mentioned Majerle after the game. “They really enjoyed each other and wanted to play more games. Some of those guys aren’t going to be able to do it anymore. It is kind of emotional for everybody.”
Woolridge now has hie sights set on the professional level where he hopes to continue competing in the sport he has loved his whole life. He was emotional seeing one big chapter of his life come to an end, but is eager to begin the next.
“First I am going to take two weeks off and get my body right,” explained Woolridge. “Hopefully I can go oversees and play professionally for a little bit. Skies the limit. Just have to keep working on my game and keep hooping.”