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.

Utah lands top-75 center Jayce Johnson

Larry Krystkowiak
AP Photo
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Utah picked up its center of the future on Monday as four-star center Jayce Johnson pledged to the Runnin’ Utes, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. The 7-foot Johnson recently cut his list to Cal, Colorado and Utah with the possibility of reclassifying to the Class of 2015.

Regarded as the No. 67 overall prospect in the Class of 2016, Johnson will look to attend Utah in December as a walk-on who will redshirt. While Johnson likely won’t play this season, he does give head coach Larry Krystkowiak another big man to use in practice to go against sophomore center Jakob Poeltl. A solid long-term prospect, Johnson has a good frame to add weight and he’s also skilled finishing with both hands. Utah now has its replacement for Poeltl if he opts to leave for the NBA after the season and he gets an extra semester to work with the program.

Johnson is coming off of his official visit to Utah this weekend as he joins junior college guard Jojo Zamora in the Class of 2016.


PHOTO: South Carolina gets new uniforms

Frank Martin
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South Carolina debuted some new uniforms early this week as the school is going with a fresh look and three color ways.

They’re also going to with the “Carolina” branding this season, but I think these new uniforms look pretty cool.