Junior Cameron Ridley picks Texas
Cameron Ridley, the No. 5 player in the ESPN Super 60 Class of 2012, has committed to the Texas Longhorns, who beat out North Carolina, Georgetown and Ohio State for the promising center.
Texas is no stranger to big-time in-state commitments. T.J. Ford, Daniel Gibson and LaMarcus Aldridge laid the groundwork for many of the state's elite players to pass through Austin.
Now Rick Barnes adds Ridley, a 6-foot-10, 240-pounder who is currently playing at Bush High School in Fort Bend, Texas.
"Nothing's going to change," joked Ridley's mother, Sharon Rinehart. "He'll still do chores and still put away the trash."
Ridley's reason for making the decision now is understandable. As his recruitment progressed, Ridley grew extremely close to the Longhorns' staff.
"Over time, they were showing the most interest in me and that kind of got me," Ridley said. "When I went on a visit they made me feel like I was a part of their team and made me feel comfortable."
Ridley's trust in Texas stems from the fact that the pointers he's received from the Longhorn staff, especially assistant coach Rodney Terry, translated for him on the court. He's tried what they've suggested and had success.
"They showed me different stuff I could use when I play and it works. They talk to me about stuff LaMarcus Aldridge did and it helps me," said Ridley. "I feel confident with my game."
Ridley is not a natural who's been playing the game a long time. He played pickup games with his brother, but didn't play high school basketball as a freshman. He turned 17 in October.
"Actually this is Cameron's third year of basketball and his second year of being serious with the sport," Rinehart said. "When he joined the Hoop Stars I just wanted him to play sports. Never in my wildest dreams did I think he'd advance this quickly."
With Ridley being a latecomer to the game, he needed a little persuasion to make basketball a priority. Enter Keith White, the coach of the Houston Hoop Stars, Ridley's AAU team. White happened upon Ridley when he went to see a few of his Hoop Stars kids play. It was the kids who informed White about a big man who wasn't on the team at the time. White describes their introduction as "totally by accident."
"It wasn't love at first sight either," White said. "He kind of thought I was crazy but he's worked hard and doesn't complain. He's a sponge and tries to learn."
Six months into working with Ridley, White began to sense that Ridley had the rare opportunity to do something special with this game.
"One thing that was intriguing about the kid was that he never complained. He wasn't perfect, he was slow, one leg longer than the other, I could go on and on," said White. "But he just kept working and working. He trimmed up, kept growing and I knew there was something there about six months later."
Ridley's introduction to the national stage came last summer at the Nike Hoop Jamboree and adidas Nations. Instead of having bad habits, Ridley had plenty of good ones, like a hook shot and natural presence in the lane. He's not merely a big guy; he's a big man with the game to match his size.
Ridley's commitment is significant on so many fronts. In a few years, there will be a plethora of legitimate big men arriving on the scene -- many of them Texas natives. The Longhorns will also need a few other dominoes to tilt their way and Ridley's pledge (he's the top-ranked junior in the state) may sway others. PG L.J. Rose (Houston, Texas/Second Baptist), C Shaquille Cleare (Houston, Texas/The Village) and SG Rasheed Sulaimon (Houston, Texas/Strake Jesuit) comprise UT's in-state wish list.
"It wouldn't be that bad for L.J. to come too," Ridley joked. "I'll try to persuade him sometime."
Ridley comes with Texas-sized expectations, including the potential to be the initial domino in what Barnes hopes to be a banner recruiting year in 2012.
Dave Telep is the senior basketball recruiting analyst for ESPN.com. His college basketball scouting service is used by more than 225 colleges and numerous NBA teams. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter.