Commentary

Ridley finally a Longhorn

Updated: April 11, 2012, 3:10 PM ET
By William Wilkerson | HornsNation

RICHMOND, Texas -- The curious case of Cameron Ridley has finally been resolved.

The five-star center, rated as the No. 8 player in the ESPNU 100, ended months of worry and second-guessing from Longhorns fans by signing his letter of intent to Texas during the spring signing period at Richmond Fort Bend Bush High School on Wednesday.

Ridley, the crowned jewel of Texas' third-ranked recruiting class, initially committed to the Longhorns on Jan. 14, 2011, but concerns arose when he opted not to sign during the early signing period.

Turns out, Texas never had anything to worry about.

"There was something going on during that time period so I really didn't have time to sign," a soft-spoken Ridley said as to why he didn't sign early. "But I was for sure coming to Texas."

Sharon Rinehart, Ridley's mother, explained that it was just a matter of making sure he was in the right place mentally and physically.

"What most people don't realize is that Cameron had only been playing basketball for three years," said Rinehart, who was at the signing with her mother, Lossie Jolivet. "So we wanted to make sure that he was ready not just as a player but as a student.

"After Cameron committed verbally in January we haven't talked to any other schools, sought other schools and no schools sought us. He's always been Texas."

The concern from Texas' faithful about the sincerity of his pledge was definitely understandable. The offense was entirely too guard-heavy throughout the season and the lack of a true offensive post wore on the Longhorns guards as defenses were able to extend toward the perimeter to make life difficult on Texas' outside shooters.

That should change this season as Ridley (6-foot-10, 230 pounds) replaces senior posts Clint Chapman and Alexis Wangmene, who combined to average 12 points and 10.4 rebounds per game last season.

Those expecting him to dominate offensively as soon as he gets to Austin might want to temper their expectations a bit. As Keith White, Ridley's mentor and AAU coach of the Houston HoopStars, explains, he still has a ways to go.

"The offense is definitely going to come but I think what he gives you on the defensive end will be a plus," White said. "On a scale of 1 to 10 offensively he is a six or seven. He will be able to catch the ball and finish. He's very skilled. But taking that to the college level and doing these moves is going to take some time."

Ridley will worry about transforming his offensive game a little later, though. On Wednesday he was just happy to officially become a Longhorn.

"It means a lot because back during my freshman and sophomore years I didn't think I was going to get this opportunity," Ridley said. "I wasn't really playing at the time. I was playing junior varsity [as a freshman]."

His path toward becoming a state champion and McDonalds All-American really began when he started working out with White. The two work out six days a week.

"He put into my head that hard work pays off," Ridley said. "I have seen other players come from the program that didn't really have anything, and colleges offered them. So I just wanted to keep working hard and now today I signed a letter of intent. I am very excited."

Ridley, the No. 2 player in the state behind Baylor commitment Isaiah Austin (Arlington, Texas/Grace Prep), chose the Longhorns over offers from Arizona, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Texas A&M.

"It's close to home and a really good school," Ridley said. "I really like how they develop their players and have always liked the University of Texas."

He averaged 22.5 points, 15.2 rebounds and 5.6 blocks a game last season, and set single-game school records with his 52-point, 25-rebound performance against Galena Park. Ridley also had six blocks in the game.

"It is night and day how far he has come," White said. "He's probably grown more off the court in a year or so that helped him on the court with confidence. He was able to play through Adidas Nations and play against some of the best in the country gave him even more confidence."

Ridley is the fifth of Texas' six-member class to sign, joining center Prince Ibeh (Garland, Naaman Forest), point guard Javan Felix (New Orleans/Saint Augustine), power forward Connor Lammert (San Antonio/Winston Churchill) and small forward Ioannis Papapetrou (Melbourne, Fla./Florida Air Academy).

"It means a lot to get Cam," Felix said. "Cam is talented, very, very talented. That will help us a lot. We are looking to be pretty good next year and he will definitely help us out with that."

Shooting guard DeMarcus Holland, who verbally committed to the Longhorns on Sunday, is expected to sign at his school around 5 p.m. Wednesday.