Ridley's Emergence

Houston Hoopstars coach Keith White remembers when everything clicked for Cameron Ridley this summer.

His team was facing the Indiana Elite at the Tournament of Champions. Ridley was a relative unknown in the class of 2012 and was matched up against five-star 2011 power forward Cody Zeller.

Coming into the summer Ridley had all the tools. He was 6-foot-10 and 240 pounds with a long wingspan. He had soft hands and a nice touch. He had even lost 40 pounds. What he didn't have was confidence.

But playing against one of the top players in the country brought out the best in the rising junior from Richmond (Texas) Bush. Ridley finished the game with 23 points, 12 rebounds and nine blocks -- his final rejection sealing the win over the Indiana Elite.

"When you're playing a guy like Zeller, you just want to play your best and he played really well," White said. "He had put backs. He hit jumpers. His jump hook shot worked. He battled. He got confidence from that. He really did."

Ridley rode the boost in confidence to one of the best runs of any 2012 big man this summer. The more success he had, the more confident he became and college coaches started to take notice. In August, Ridley got a call from North Carolina and by October, he had an offer from the Tar Heels.

"He had a really strong summer. I thought he played really well in the last period," White said. "He ran the floor well. He was a real force on the defensive end also. He kind of had a (developmental) growth spurt over the summer and he played big."

While his summer was exciting, Ridley's game is unapologetically simple. He only started playing organized basketball three years ago, so he sticks to his strengths. He doesn't often stray from the lane. He uses his size to score around the basket, crash the boards hard and play tough defense.

"He's definitely a post player. He likes to be down there banging," White said. "He's going to get his points with his back to the basket."

Ridley does the majority of his damage with two post moves -- a jump hook he can shoot with either hand and a turnaround jumper in the lane. White said Ridley started out with a bigger repertoire of moves before ultimately deciding to simplify things. Rather than have 10 mediocre moves, Ridley wanted to be perfect with his two best.

"Right now he's just trying to make sure he has a go-to move," Bush coach Ronnie Courtney said. "He loves shooting his jump hook. I would classify that as his go-to move."

White said Ridley's length makes his turnaround and jump hook particularly tough to stop.

"He keeps it high," White said. "It's kind of like a Robert Parrish jump shot. He's really gotten pretty good at it."

In addition to his strides on offense, Ridley also established himself on the defensive end. He averaged 9.8 rebounds as a sophomore and displayed great instincts as a shot blocker this summer.

"He's got great timing," White said. "He knows when to get tall and when to actually go to block the shots."

With only three years of organized basketball under his belt, Ridley still has a lot of room for improvement and his coaches expect him to continue to get better.

Bush won the 5-A state championship in Texas last year with Ridley as the team's second option on offense. This year Ridley will be the Broncos' first option and developing into a go-to scorer could be the next step for the junior center. With his face-up game improving by the day, Ridley should be able to fill that role, according to Courtney.

"He's just improving in all phases, his coach said. "He's putting the ball on the floor and doing some things off the bounce. He's now facing up the basket. He has a face-up game and a back to the basket game. He's become a little more versatile."

As much as Ridley has improved in the last year, White thinks this year could be even better for the junior. Ridley is working out six days a week and his learning curve is still steep. He also has a solid base of coaches around him - Courtney was the head coach at Texas Southern for six years.

"Being so new to the game, I think he's got another jump coming," White said. "It could be a little bit more with him facing up. ... As he gets stronger, he's definitely got another jump."

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