One-on-One With Royce Woolridge

Jan. 4, 2011

LAWRENCE, Kan. –

Fast cars, large houses, multiple big-screen televisions. These are the typical answers for an 18-year-old fresh out of high school when asked what he would buy with a million dollars. But with a family lineage that includes multiple NBA players and ambitions well beyond owning an expensive car, Kansas freshman guard Royce Woolridge is far from the typical 18-year-old.

Each year before the season starts, every player on the men’s basketball team fills out a questionnaire for the media guide that allows fans to get a glimpse into the different personalities that make up the roster. The answers range from unusual – Niko Roberts’ best talent is sleeping – to amusing – Brady Morningstar loves riding lawnmowers. However, for one question each season, nearly every player answers identically.

Of the 11 scholarship players on KU’s roster that answered the question about their post-college plans, nine said that they plan on continuing their basketball career in some capacity after leaving KU. Last year, all nine that responded said they planned on playing professionally after college. Woolridge, though, came up with a much more unique, yet similarly ambitious answer – opening a restaurant on the boardwalk in San Diego.

Woolridge, whose father, Orlando, averaged 16.0 points per game in 13 seasons in the NBA, certainly knows plenty about professional basketball. Woolridge also has Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame member Willis Reed as a great uncle. Additionally, his godfather, Negele Knight, whom Woolridge relies on often for advice, played in the NBA for the entire 1990’s decade. Woolridge admits he would love the chance to play in the NBA, but that he has other options if that doesn’t work out.

“Of course, playing in the NBA is my dream,” said Woolridge, who scored 52 points in a game his junior year at Sunnyslope High School in Phoenix, the same year his team won the Arizona 4A state championship and he was named The Arizona Republic’s Big School Player of the Year. “Everybody’s dream is to play professional basketball. That would be amazing if I could do that, but you never know what’s going to happen. You always have to have a backup plan.”

Woolridge has contemplated his backup plan a little more than most his age have. He first developed the idea to open his own restaurant five summers ago and has maintained his passion for the concept ever since. In fact, he is so passionate about the idea that he says this is what he would do if he had a million dollars.

“My freshman summer of high school was the first time I went down to the boardwalk in San Diego,” said Woolridge. “There’s this place called Sarah’s, which is a Mexican food shop on the boardwalk, and they make the best burritos in the world. I thought, ‘Man, this would be the life if I could just open up my own little restaurant like this on the boardwalk.'”

Woolridge has already determined how he would differentiate his shop from the others on the boardwalk as well as his marketing plan to get the business started.

“I would serve American food, but I’d do breakfast, too,” said Woolridge, who has traveled to San Diego every summer since his first trip to the boardwalk. “None of the places there really do breakfast, so I’d do pancakes, waffles and other breakfast food. At lunchtime I’d serve burgers and American food. To start the business, I’d have to get a little bit of money at first, of course. Once I start it, I have lots of friends in San Diego, so I could have them talk to their people about the shop and start having people come through. Then hopefully from there more and more people would talk about it because it would be something different from what’s normally there. Normally they just sell Mexican food on the boardwalk so what I’m going to sell would be different. Therefore, it would kind of stand out and people would tell their friends about it and spread the word.”

Sophomore center Jeff Withey, a San Diego native, estimates that he goes to the boardwalk about once a week when he is at home. Withey says that Woolridge has not mentioned much about his plan to him, but he thinks it could be successful.

“There are a lot of different things on the Boardwalk,” said Withey. “I think that Royce’s idea could work. I think it sounds like a good idea.”

Woolridge just completed his first semester of classes at KU. He says he enjoys learning new things in school. Woolridge is majoring in business so that he can learn the skills needed to be an entrepreneur.

“My first semester of college went really well,” said Woolridge, who graduated in the top 10 percent of his high school class. “My mom has always stressed school a lot. It’s something that is really important to me. I make sure I take care of business in the classroom. I’m starting to take the classes for my major next semester, so everything is going well so far. I chose my major because I want to own my own business. I never wanted to have a normal job. I always wanted to be my own boss.”

There is only one small hole in Woolridge’s business plan as it currently stands, but he isn’t too worried about that right now.

“I haven’t thought of a name for my shop yet, but I’m going to come up with a cool one.”