Ryan Woolridge can’t remember the exact year, but he played with Admon Gilder on the same AAU team in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
“The Wildcats, in fifth or sixth grade,” Woolridge said. “We’re pretty close. He was there when I was on my visit (to Gonzaga last weekend).”
They went to different high schools, but teamed up again for a prep all-star game. The two graduate transfers took a circuitous route to Gonzaga, but they’ll probably form the starting backcourt on a squad projected inside the top 15 in preseason polls.
Neither could have predicted it would turn out this way, but they have more in common than just their Texas roots. The 6-foot-3, 175-pound Woolridge was an accomplished point guard for three seasons at North Texas. The 6-4, 200-pound Gilder was a key contributor for three seasons about three hours south at Texas A&M.
Both are experienced, versatile, playmaking guards accustomed to logging 30-plus minutes per game. They are considered strong defenders and capable rebounders. Both are recovering from medical procedures.
Woolridge had postseason surgery to repair a stress fracture in his patella. Gilder missed last season with a blood clot in his arm, requiring a rib to be removed to help alleviate the clot. Both players have said they’re on track to be full speed this fall.
“In our last game, I messed my knee up,” Woolridge said. “I’m going to physical therapy Monday through Friday. I’m doing some low-impact stuff, but I’m moving around pretty quickly.”
The Woolridge-Gilder combination will probably go about their business differently than last year’s Josh Perkins-Zach Norvell Jr. duo.
Woolridge, like Perkins, is comfortable playing up-tempo, but he uses dribble penetration in the half court and is more active on the glass.
Perkins’ 3-point shooting and passing ability were important to the Zags’ offensive success. Woolridge has made 33% of his 142 career 3-point attempts. Perkins put up 145 3s last season alone and shot 38.6% in his career. Perkins also had a big edge – 75% to 54.2% – in free-throw percentage.
Woolridge’s quickness and defensive ability have drawn comparisons to former Zags guard Eric McClellan. Woolridge is the only player in North Texas history to surpass 1,000 career points (1,034), 400 rebounds (476), 400 assists (433) and 150 steals (151). He has a 1.54 career assist-to-turnover ratio.
“Ryan will be a great addition to this year’s team and we are very much looking forward to working with him as we feel he will have a big impact on our program,” coach Mark Few said in a school release Tuesday on the addition of Woolridge.
Gilder and Norvell have similar career statistics. Both are 37% shooters from distance, but 61% percent of Norvell’s field-goal attempts were 3s, compared to 45.6% of Gilder’s. Both work well off the dribble, with Norvell having a slight edge in assists and accuracy inside the arc. They both draw fouls and convert from the line at a high rate – Norvell 83.6%, Gilder 77.4%.
On paper, Woolridge and Gilder should be a defensive upgrade, but Perkins and Norvell had the benefit of multiple years in Gonzaga’s program. Woolridge and Gilder will have months, not years, to familiarize themselves with new teammates and schemes.
Woolridge originally signed with San Diego and then-coach Lamont Smith, but never played in a game. He transferred to North Texas at midseason to be closer to his parents as they battled health issues.
Woolridge arrived at North Texas with coach Tony Benford, but played his past two seasons under coach Grant McCasland. Their styles clashed, according to the Denton Record-Chronicle, with Woolridge fond of pushing the ball in transition and creating, while McCasland preferred a slower, controlled pace.
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