Renaldo Woolridge on what it takes to win
Nearly two years ago, Renaldo Woolridge stunned No. 1 Kansas on an unforgettable night at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Stunned is too strong a word for Tuesday night, but UNC Asheville's scouting report certainly didn't foresee Woolridge as Tennessee's co-leading scorer.
The Vols snapped a four-game losing streak by rallying for a 72-68 win over Asheville. They couldn't have done it without 17 points off the bench from Woolridge.
Now the onus is on ETSU (5-5) to estimate Woolridge's role in Friday's 7 p.m. game with UT (4-6) at Thompson-Boling.
The 6-foot-9 senior came into Tuesday averaging 4.4 points but notched a career high against Asheville.
Woolridge was 7-of-12 shooting, including 3-of-6 behind the 3-point line.
"He made shots he's capable of doing,'' said coach Cuonzo Martin. "In a motion offense, he's one of those guys who's really a perimeter guy and he's tough to guard with big guys who are not as mobile.
"He can pick-and-pop and do different things, so he's really helped us from that standpoint.''
His previous high was 14 points, once as a freshman and then in the upset of Kansas on Jan. 10, 2010, when the Vols were short-handed after four suspensions.
Woolridge scored only 13 points in his entire junior season due to a combination of injuries and falling off former coach Bruce Pearl's radar. It appeared he would best be remembered for his hip-hop alter ego, Swiperboy.
Martin's arrival provided a fresh start on the court. Tuesday was Woolridge's third double-figures outing of the year but first since Chaminade on Nov. 23.
His outburst was no doubt more confounding to Asheville after he went 0-of-5 in nine minutes in the loss at College of Charleston last week.
"You can't look back. Hindsight is 20/20 so you better not look at it,'' Woolridge said.
"My first shot (Tuesday) was an air ball, real long. To be honest, I thought it was going in. I had to keep shooting.''
As Martin suggested, Woolridge can be a challenge to defend. His career has morphed from a wing guard to a post due to UT's needs.
"I've played every position in basketball,'' he said. "I've taken it in stride.''
His strides in the motion offense can carry him beyond the 3-point stripe, where he's shooting 41.2 percent.
While he's had to beef up to acclimate to his inside-oriented role, Woolridge has used free time to get in the gym and maintain his perimeter skills.
"I've worked on my shot as far as my release point, just technical things to keep it consistent,'' Woolridge said. "I just want to make sure I have a complete game when the lights come on.''
If he can keep his own lights on, Woolridge could add a vital element to a team that will be challenged to match up with SEC teams.
"It's good for us to have confidence in Renaldo,'' said fellow senior Cam Tatum. "We just want him to have that same confidence.
"Now, don't draw back. Don't celebrate. Build off it.''