Orlando Woolridge, former Notre Dame standout and father of four, dies at age 52

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Former Notre Dame standout and NBA forward Orlando Woolridge has died.

He was 52 years old.

Woolridge passed away at his parents’ home in Louisiana shortly before midnight Thursday. He had recently been under hospice care for a chronic heart condition.

He played for four seasons at Notre Dame before being selected sixth overall in the 1981 NBA draft by the Chicago Bulls. Over the course of his NBA career, he would average 16 points and four rebounds per game.

“In 20 years of coaching, I had 56 guys play for me and 56 guys got their degrees — about 20 went on to play in the NBA,” former Notre Dame coach and current television analyst Digger Phelps told the Shreveport Times. “He’s the first guy I’ve lost. At 52, to have him die, it’s like losing a son. It’s hit me hard.”

He is survived by three sons, Zachary, Royce, and Renaldo, along with his daughter, Tiana. Renaldo played college basketball at Tennessee, before transferring to Southern California, where he will be eligible to play immediately this season.

Zachary spent time playing collegiately at Princeton, while Royce will be with Washington State for the 2012-13 season.

The elder Woolridge had some personal struggles in his lifetime, in addition to his success on the court. He was suspended by the NBA for the 1987-88 season for substance abuse and, in February, was charged with theft for allegedly stealing more than $1,500 worth of aluminum lines used in natural gas drilling.

Woolridge had the chance to play with both Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan at the professional level. He averaged 22 points per game during Jordan’s rookie season with the Chicago Bulls.

Following his retirement, he served as the head coach of the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks from 1998-99.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_