YOLO COUNTY NEWS

Aggies

Light has gone on for UCD\’s Ritchart

By December 20, 2010

Enterprise sports writer

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For a winless roadtrip, the UC Davis men\’s basketball\’s two-game swing through UCLA and North Dakota State last week was surprisingly fruitful.

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Not only did the Aggies stick close to a pair of good teams all the way down to the final minutes but, more importantly, UCD\’s Josh Ritchart may have made The Leap.

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The true freshman out of Auburn\’s Forest Lake High had spent the first portion of the season working hard to get used to the rigors of college basketball. But on Dec. 14, playing on the hallowed court at Pauley Pavilion, something clicked for Ritchart. The versatile 6-foot-9 forward came off the bench and put on an incredible shooting display in a 74-67 loss to the Bruins,

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canning 5-of-6 3-pointers and 9-of-12 shots overall, to finish with 23 point in just 25 minutes.

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“Once you knock a couple down, your confidence really starts to go up,” Ritchart said after playing mostly with the first team in practice on Monday as the Aggies (3-7) prepared for tonight\’s home game against Southern Utah. “During the (UCLA) game I was just trying to do my part to help the team win and I got some open shots and knocked them down. It would have been nice to get a win, but afterward it was kind of cool to think about getting a chance to play at Pauley Pavilion and have a good game there.”

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Two days later at North Dakota State, Ritchart was at it again, scoring 17 points and nailing three more treys in a 76-71 UCD loss.

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When the Aggies take Bob Hamilton Court tonight to face the Thunderbirds (3-8), they will have another offensive weapon in Ritchart, who can be effective both inside and out.

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“In the first part of the year, like any new player, he wanted to do the right thing so he was thinking out there instead of being reactionary,” UCD head coach Gary Stewart said. “Now, he is more comfortable and he can just react.

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“(His emergence) is going to help us immensely. He is a multi-dimensional guy on offense, he can face you up and knock down threes and he can take you into the post. It gives us another guy out there who has a real diverse game. He is a tough matchup and as talented an offensive guy that we have here.”

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During the season\’s first 10 games the UCD offense has been led by senior stalwarts Joe Harden and Mark Payne as expected. But with Ritchart stepping up, 7-foot center Mike Kurtz making strides, Eddie Miller showing the ability to stroke it from outside and Ryan Sypkens slashing to the hoop the Aggies are finding that they have more options.

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And considering Miller is in his first year on the active roster, Sypkens is just a sophomore — out of Franklin High in Elk Grove — and Ritchart and Kurtz (Roseville\’s Woodcreek High) improving daily in their freshman seasons, the sky is the limit.

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“I think I just finally gut adjusted to the speed of the game and how much more physical it is than high school,” Ritchart said of his two big games last week. “Also, the coaches have really been working with me. (Assistant coach Kevin) Nosek has been doing extra shooting with me and helping me get used to the speed of the college game and I think it\’s paid off.

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“Before the season, a lot of people were looking at Mark and Joe as being the only guys who were going to be scorers so if I am able to keep playing well, it will take the pressure off of them a little bit.”

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Notes: The game tonight tips at 7 p.m. and can be heard on KFSG (1690 AM). … Nosek is a 1995 Davis High graduate who went on to play for the UCD from 1996-99. He is in his second stint as an assistant with the Aggies sandwiching a three-year stop as the head coach at Menlo College. As a Blue Devil, Nosek helped lead DHS to the 1995 section championship in basketball and was an All-American water polo player. He then went on to play for the Aggies\’ 1998 Division II national championship-winning squad.

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