Men’s basketball signs local youth, Lonnie Ridgway

After a 19-12 season that led the Seawolves men’s basketball team to the playoffs last month, UAA players and coaches are looking ahead to next year’s team, which will have a much different roster after the departure of five seniors.

These five seniors were key players, comprising nearly 80 percent of the starting positions throughout the season, including Brian Hills and Kemmy Burgess who started every game of the 2005-06 season.

“We’ve got big shoes to fill with Kemmy Burgess in addition to (the departure of the other seniors),” said head coach Rusty Osborne. “But Kemmy’s real big, he averaged 22 points a game and we’re going to have to find some people to replace those points.”

So far, the Seawolves have signed two players: a local high school standout, Lonnie Ridgeway, and McCade Olsen, a junior college transfer from Eastern Wyoming College.

Olsen, a 6-foot-7-inch, 215-pound forward, led his junior college region in scoring with 22 points per game and was seventh in rebounding, averaging 8.4 boards per game.

“He’s a very good player,” Osborne said. “We expect him to come and contribute a lot right away.”

Ridgeway recently finished his high school career by leading Heritage Christian School to a Class 3A Alaska State Championship and was named boys 3A Player of the Year in Alaska.

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“Lonnie’s coming here as a freshman, but we expect good things out of him over his career,” Osborne said.

Although Ridgeway was approached by multiple Division I schools, including Boston University, University of Idaho and Bradley University, he opted to stay at home and attend UAA, which will allow him to be with his family.

“I have a little brother and cousins that are young guys, and my father and their father are not active in their lives right now, and I thought that I should step in and be a positive role model for them,” Ridgeway said. “That’s the biggest reason.”

His regard for family values is matched by his determination to get ahead in his college career by attending classes at UAA this summer, where he said he plans to pursue “something in business.”

Along with Olsen and Ridgeway, the coaching staff plans to bring in another three or four players to fill out the roster and add depth to the team. With sophomore Luke Cooper as the team’s only point guard, the coaches are looking for an additional point guard to help carry the load, as well as a 2-guard and a small forward.

“We’re looking to add good players, either for starting positions or for depth,” Osborne said.

The coaching staff plans to finish the recruiting process by the middle of May. In the meantime, they will invite upcoming recruits to UAA.

“Hopefully we’ll finish up recruiting good, because this will be the nucleus of our team for the next couple years with Eric (Draper) being our only senior next year,” Osborne said. “We’re going to be picking up the nucleus for the team with this recruiting class.”

Losing the five seniors also means losing the leadership they brought to the team, but Osborne said he isn’t worried about that next season.

“I think Joe Davis is a natural leader, personality wise. Of course Eric is going to lead by example; he’s the hardest worker we have,” Osborne said. “We’ll have some leaders step up within that group and we’ll just see which ones they are.”

Sophomore Joe Davis said he also recognized that it is up to him and his teammates to carry this team now.

“The new guys are going to have big shoes to fill, some old guys are going to have to step up,” Davis said. “We’re just trying to make a good run next year.”