Even 14 years removed from his playing days at Blaine High School, Charlotte Bobcats guard Luke Ridnour hasn't forgotten his basketball roots or the community in which he shared so many special memories with.
"For me, it's always home," said Ridnour, who starred at the University of Oregon before playing the first five seasons of his NBA career for the Seattle Sonics, of the Northwest in a phone interview. "Blaine is where I'm from. My wife and I live in Lake Sammamish in the summer time, and my parents are still up there."
Ridnour's NBA career has taken him from Seattle to Milwaukee to Minnesota, back to Milwaukee, and two months ago he was traded to Charlotte where he's helped the Bobcats reach the NBA playoffs for only the second time in franchise history.
Charlotte, which finished with a 43-39 record and enters the playoffs as the No. 7 seed in the East, faces the Miami Heat in the first round. Game 1 is slated for 12:30 p.m. Sunday, April 20, at American Airlines Arena in Miami. The game will be televised on ABC.
It will mark Ridnour's third trip to the NBA playoffs.
"I'm just glad to be here and be on this team," Ridnour said. "We have been playing really well. Any chance you get to play in the playoffs, it's fun. That's why you play the game."
Ridnour started all 82 games for Minnesota last year and was averaging 5.7 points per game and 3.4 assists for the Bucks this season before he was traded to the Bobcats in a package deal that sent himself and Gary Neal to Charlotte in exchange for Ramon Sessions and Jeff Adrien.
Ridnour is averaging 4.0 points per game in a somewhat-diminished role since arriving in Charlotte, but Bobcats coach Steve Clifford recently praised the Blaine native since Ridnour has increased his minutes with starter Kemba Walker sidelined thanks to a groin injury.
"The thing about Luke is we're organized," Clifford said to the Charlotte Observer. "You can see it as subtle, but he gets guys in their spots. There is great purpose when he's out there on the floor. ... He's got a high IQ. He knows the NBA game, and obviously he can deliver the ball. He's a terrific passer."
He previously reached the postseason in 2005 with Seattle and again in 2010 with the Bucks.
"It's exciting," he said. "Every play, every possession, there is so much more intensity, and that's why you play the regular season. Miami Heat, that's a big matchup in the first round, but anything can happen."
The Bobcats, despite reaching the playoffs during the 2009-10 season, have never won a playoff game. They were swept by the Orlando Magic in a seven-game series. Ridnour is hoping, at the least, he can help Charlotte earn its first playoff win in franchise history.
And when his season does come to an end, he plans to host a summer camp in the same Blaine High School gym where he began crafting his game.
Ridnour recently announced dates for his Luke Ridnour Basketball Camp, which will run Aug. 6-8, at Blaine High School. Two sessions are available. The first is from 9-10 a.m. for kids 5-to-7 years old. The second session is from 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and will be for kids aged 8-12. The morning session will cost $45, while the second session is $75. Proceeds benefit construction of the Blaine Club's Boys & Girls Clubs of Whatcom County Pavilion Project.
The project's objective is to build a pavilion that will be attached to Blaine's community center. The open-air pavilion consists of an exposed wood frame with a clear roof, and the space underneath will be large enough to both play basketball and hold parties or other events for community members.
"I just wanted to get back up there and give back to the community," Ridnour said. "Whatcom County means so much to me."
Before Ridnour left to play at Oregon, he guided Blaine to back-to-back state titles in 1999 and 2000. He still holds several Class 2A state tournament records. The most notable ones include most steals in a game (11), most free throws made in a tournament (43), most steals in a tournament (27), most career tournament points (311), most career tournament assists (67) and most career tournament steals (61).
Ridnour, who turned 33 two months ago, is in the final year of a four-year deal, and Ridnour is looking forward to the final years of his NBA career.
"I'm just going to take it year-by-year and try to get on a good team - a playoff-type team," said Ridnour when asked what situation he's looking to get into when his contract expires. "I don't know how much longer I'm going to play, so I just want to enjoy it and have as much fun as I can."
To sign up or find more information on the Luke Ridnour Basketball Camp, visit lukeridnourbasketballcamp.com or call 360-332-4620.
Reach Andrew Lang at email@example.com or call 360-756-2862. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for Whatcom County sports updates.
LUKE RIDNOUR BASKETBALL CAMP
When: 9-10 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Aug. 6-8
Where: Blaine High School
Cost: 5-7 year olds ($45), 8-12 year olds ($75)
More information: Visit lukeridnourbasketballcamp.com
Reach ANDREW LANG at firstname.lastname@example.org or call ext. 862.