UC Riverside’s Jim Wooldridge steps down to become interim AD

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After serving as head coach for the last six seasons, it was announced Wednesday that UC Riverside’s Jim Wooldridge will step down from the position to become the school’s interim athletic director. He replaces Brian Wickstrom, who resigned to take a job as athletic director at UL Monroe.

“I’m pleased to name Coach Jim Wooldridge as our Interim Athletics Director,” Interim Chancellor Jane Close Conoley said in a statement announcing the move.  “Through his service to his scholar-athletes and to the UCR community, Jim has stressed the best aspects of learning, competition, and achievement.  He will be a significant resource for the university and the department as we move forward.”

Even though he’ll no longer be the head coach, Wooldridge will have a significant impact on the direction of the UC Riverside basketball program thanks to the proposal to build a new multi-purpose arena (the C-Center) on campus.

The project is currently being reviewed as developers are submitting bids, with the winning bid possibly being announced as soon as September. And it’s the kind of endeavor that can give Riverside the initial boost needed to raise its stature within the Big West.

Conoley stressed the importance of athletics to campus life and the goals of the UCR strategic plan.  “Our strategic plan calls for an enhanced commitment to our student-athletes, student body and fans. We look forward to winning teams in state-of-the-art facilities. We hold the same ambitions for every part of UCR. We are all on the path to pre-eminence.”

How long Wooldridge remains in this role (or if he has a chance of having the interim tag removed) remains to be seen, with Conoley announcing that the school will conduct a national search for an athletic director.

With Wooldridge making the move into an administrative role, assistant coach Dennis Cutts becomes the program’s interim head coach. A member of Wooldridge’s staff at Riverside since 2007, Cutts has 15 years of college coaching experience with this being his first head coaching gig.

With Wednesday’s news Riverside now has an interim chancellor, athletic director and head coach. The Highlanders finished the 2012-13 season with a 6-25 record, going 3-15 in Big West play and failing to qualify for the conference tournament.

Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Henry Ellenson wins Marquette Madness dunk contest

Steve Wojciechowski
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Marquette freshman forward Henry Ellenson won the Marquette Madness slam dunk contest on Friday night with a between the legs dunk.

The 6-foot-10 Ellenson, the top recruit in Steve Wojciechowski’s freshmen class, defeated sophomore Sandy Cohen, fellow freshman Sacar Anim and Wally Ellenson, his older brother.

Ellenson joins the Golden Eagles as the No. 11 overall recruit in the Class of 2015.

Bill Self signs $10,000 check for KU student


Late Night in the Phog is typically a night to remember for Kansas fans. For Kansas student Jerrod Martin Castro, Friday night’s event is one he won’t forget.

Castro, a sophomore, was selected as a contestant for a $10,000 giveaway. The only thing standing in the way of a big payday was a half-court shot. Brennan Bechard, the Kansas director of basketball operations, attempted the long-distance shot and hit nothing but net.

Kansas head coach Bill Self signed a $10,000 check on the spot.