Ridley hoping for postseason return

Akshay Mirchandani

Life turned on Cameron Ridley fast. 

One day, the 6-foot-10-inch senior center was enjoying the best season of his career for a re-energized Texas squad. 

The next, he was trying to figure out what to wear while sitting on the bench for more than two months with a broken foot. 

“I went to the store, got some stuff altered,” Ridley said. “Obviously I didn’t have enough money for every game, but I made do with what I had.”

Ridley fractured his left foot on Dec. 27 and had surgery on Dec. 29 — the last game he played was on Dec. 19 against Stanford. But as the Longhorns prepare to play Oklahoma State in their regular season finale, Ridley is hoping to return to action in the postseason. 

The injury happened in practice. He was coming off a screen he set for senior guard Javan Felix and was rolling to the bucket — a play the two have likely run countless times. 

Felix passed the ball to Ridley a little early, but he still went up to go get it, getting hit in the air and coming down abnormally on his foot in the process. He originally thought it was a rolled ankle, but a rude awakening was in store. 

“I got up, tried to walk it off and shot free throws because I got fouled,” Ridley said. “As I ran back down the court I was like ‘Coach, take me out of practice, because it hurts too bad.’”

Life was good for Ridley early in the season. He had shed weight and worked on his conditioning in the offseason, and the results showed. Ridley was having a career-season, averaging 12.7 points, 10.0 rebounds and 3.4 blocks per game. 

Just like that, it all disappeared. 

“I know I had a good group around me that would help me with it, so I wasn’t really worried about it,” Ridley said. “But obviously when you’re taken away from the sport you love, you’re going to feel some kind of depression.”

Meanwhile, Ridley worked to make sure the weight he lost in the offseason stayed off, working with strength and conditioning coach Daniel Roose and assistant athletic trainer Laef Morris on his rehab and conditioning.

“He’s actually in great condition, aerobic condition,” head coach Shaka Smart said. “But there’s difference between that and basketball condition. He’s done a really good job with our strength coach in terms of buying into what he wants him to do.”

Ridley didn’t really think about how long the process to return would take, but he set his target return date for senior night. A doctor’s appointment last week ruled out that possibility, but Ridley has made progress. 

He is off crutches but still hasn’t been cleared to run or jump. Another doctor’s visit next week could determine if Ridley is able to return. Smart said he hopes to have him back within the next week or two, but it remains a waiting game.

“When I do come back I want to be able to contribute to the team as much as I can,” Ridley said. “I know I’m not going to be at the level I was at before I got hurt because it’s a process. Whatever I can do when I do get cleared, I’m going to take full advantage of it.”

It’s not time to put away those altered clothes just yet.