Charliss Ridley and Columbia College seemed like a perfect fit.
Ridley gave the Cougars a Division I-caliber talent, and Columbia College presented Ridley with a comfortable environment.
Ridley, a junior who transferred from Missouri in May, said her love for Columbia, her pursuit of a business management degree and her rapport with Mike Davis, the Cougars’ coach, were the biggest factors in her decision to attend Columbia College.
“I was very fortunate that my credits transferred over,” she said. “I have a lot of friends at Missouri, so I love the school. It’s a lot of fun there, but basketball-wise it was really not a fit for me.”
Ridley and the Cougars (11-7, 2-0 American Midwest Conference) travel to St. Louis tonight to meet Harris-Stowe State at 7.
Davis said he had high expectations for Ridley, but his plans for Ridley, a versatile forward, were delayed when she tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee during the Show-Me State Games on Aug. 2. She had reconstructive surgery Aug. 13.
Ridley made her Cougars debut on Jan. 2, only five months removed from her ACL tear. Her game-high seven rebounds helped the Cougars beat Evangel 65-56 and end a three-game losing streak.
“(My knee) feels good, but it’s not 100 percent,” she said.
Davis said Ridley’s speedy recovery is a testament to her work ethic.
“It’s not easy to come back that quickly,” he said. “She was fortunate she didn’t have a lot of damage other than the ACL, but she spent a lot of hours (rehabilitating). Those aren’t fun hours either.”
Since her Cougars debut, Ridley has seen her minutes and production steadily increase. She averaged 16 points and 6.3 rebounds in the Cougars’ latest four-game road trip. Ridley won the AMC Player of the Week award for Jan. 4-10, and she also was one of eight finalists for the NAIA Player of the Week for that time.
“Charliss is very skilled,” Davis said. “She has a great competitive spirit. At 6 feet (tall), she’s able to step out, shoot the 3 and put the ball on the floor. She’s given us a different look, and Charliss has a knack for scoring.”
He also said he will experiment with Ridley bringing the ball down court to create matchup problems and take some pressure off Tiffany Foote, the Cougars’ starting point guard.
Ridley said she isn’t worried about her role, and she’s thrilled to be playing again.
“It feels so good,” she said. “It’s exciting just to run up and down the court. Helping my team win, that’s the most important thing.”
Although Ridley possesses a variety of basketball skills, her greatest asset might be her intelligence. She accumulated a 4.0 grade point average in her first semester at Columbia College.
“She’s intelligent whether it’s in the classroom or on the court,” Davis said. “She really has a nice demeanor to her. We’re really glad Charliss is over here. I like her in navy and silver.” Ridley said she expects to receive her business management degree in May. In the future, she wants to play professional basketball and run a business, though she’s not sure what kind of business.
“Something to help with people,” she said. “I like interactions (with people). I don’t know, just something to help spread the love.”