The longest line for autographs Wednesday night in the Bearden High School gym belonged to Renaldo Woolridge.
“It’s crazy,’’ said Woolridge, whose popularity is soaring in Knoxville on account of his basketball career with the Vols and his “Swiperboy” rap songs and videos. “Knoxville is like no other place with the kind of fans we have.’’
Woolridge earned all of the positive attention he received in the Pilot Rocky Top League, leading his team with 32 points on 16-of-28 shooting while holding overseas veteran Boo Jackson to 10 points.
Woolridge’s team, Ralph Brown and Associations, lost to Larry Smith Insurance by a 125-112 count, but Woolridge said the league is serving its purpose for him.
“I’m not real sure where Coach (Cuonzo) Martin is going to play me, but I want to be able to go inside when he wants me to post up, or if there’s a bigger guy on me, I want to be able to drive by and get to the rack,’’ said the 6-foot-9 Woolridge, who has beefed up to 220 pounds.
“I think the No. 1 thing that’s great about this league is the interaction for the fans,’’ Woolridge said, “but for guys like me who haven’t had a chance to play a lot, we get to show what we can do.’’
Woolridge took advantage of an uncontested fast break in the final seconds to try to show a new dunk he’s been working on.
“My dad (former NBA all-star Orlando) went behind his back and through his legs for a dunk in the all-star contest,’’ Woolridge said. “On mine, I go between the legs and reverse.’’
Except the ball slipped out of his hands, leading a soaring Woolridge to an audible “Oh Shoot!”
His fans didn’t seem to mind, as the line to get an autograph and picture with Woolridge extended out the door.
But Woolridge said there’s a lot more to his game these days than just a big fan following.
“I’m trying to be more of a leader in our workouts,’’ Woolridge said. “Cam (Tatum) is our vocal leader, but I’ve been around here a long time, too, and I’ve played on a lot of different Tennessee teams with different leaders, and now different coaches.
“I just try to work hard every day and stay consistent with my effort.’’