At 6 feet 9 inches tall and an hors d’oeuvre shy of 300 pounds, freshman center Cameron Ridley began his collegiate career as perhaps the biggest man on the Texas campus.
But as Texas’ losses have piled up this season, so have the pounds shed by Ridley. Stringent workout sessions, healthier eating and commitment on Ridley’s part have all contributed to the effort, and his progress hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“I think he’s down to 274 pounds,” head coach Rick Barnes said. “Which is a long way from where he started.”
Ridley’s weight loss has been the Longhorns’ gain as he has averaged five points and about five rebounds in 15 starts this year. He has had at least one rebound in each of the Longhorns’ 20 games and leads the team in blocks with 36. His blocks per game have decreased as the season has worn on, but he’s still active defensively and is becoming more comfortable playing against quicker and more experienced post players.
“Coach Barnes really stressed about when my man runs the pipe to get back on D,” Ridley said.
Ridley started Texas’ last game against Kansas State with a bang, slamming home a dunk on a pass from Sheldon McClellan in the game’s first few minutes. Things eventually went south for the Longhorns and Ridley finished with just one basket and two rebounds in 11 minutes against the Wildcats.
However, just as Texas has shown promise in a handful of moments throughout the year, so has Ridley. His best performance came in the EA Sports Maui Invitational against Mississippi State when he scored eight points, grabbed a season-high 12 rebounds and blocked five shots. He’s scored in double digits twice — against Georgetown and UCLA in consecutive games — but has struggled at times to stay on the court. Against the Hoyas and Bruins, Ridley logged 65 minutes and was a combined 9-of-14
shooting from the field.
When he stays out of foul trouble and is engaged in the offense Ridley is a force to be reckoned with.
“He’s worked all year,” Barnes said. “He’s worked on getting his weight down. He’s done a much better job with his balance, which is a big reason why he hadn’t been able to finish some of those shots. I’m happy for him.”
After being run out of Manhattan, Kan., on Wednesday, the Longhorns (9-11, 1-6) now face the one team that has fared worse in the Big 12 this season, TCU (9-11, 0-7). Texas has defended its home court well, winning seven of its nine games at the Erwin Center and is up against a Horned Frogs team that scores a shade under 55 points a game.
The Horned Frogs have lost three straight road games by an average of 20 points including a 21-point beatdown courtesy of West Virginia on Jan. 23. The Frogs’ most recent loss came Jan. 26 when Baylor left Fort Worth with an 82-56 victory.
TCU is not a deep team, with just five players appearing in all 20 of its games. The Horned Frogs are led in scoring by sophomore guard Kyan Anderson at 11.6 points per game and senior Garlon Green with 10.4 points per game.
Much like it did in its first Big 12 win over Texas Tech, Texas will look to disrupt the Horned Frogs’ offensive game plan in order to create turnovers and get out on the break. Ridley and the Longhorns will have another sizeable advantage in the paint and will initiate its offensive from the inside-out. It will be up to Ridley to stay active and endure any pressure brought on by the Horned Frogs. If he can stay on the court for an extended amount of time he could be in for a breakout Big 12 game, and more importantly the Longhorns can get back on track in conference play.
Now that Ridley’s weight is under control Texas can’t afford many more losses.