Just down the roadFor the past four years, Superior High School senior Dustin Ritchie has made a name for himself playing basketball in a gym off of Catlin Avenue. In the next four years, he hopes to continue that trend ... in a gym off of Catlin Avenue. Ritchie, the 2008 Daily Telegram Player of the Year, will attend the University of Wisconsin-Superior after graduation and play for the Yellowjackets beginning in the 2008-2009 season. He has grown up watching and playing basketball in Superior.
By: Emily Kram, The Daily Telegram
For the past four years, Superior High School senior Dustin Ritchie has made a name for himself playing basketball in a gym off of Catlin Avenue. In the next four years, he hopes to continue that trend ... in a gym off of Catlin Avenue.
Ritchie, the 2008 Daily Telegram Player of the Year, will attend the University of Wisconsin-Superior after graduation and play for the Yellowjackets beginning in the 2008-2009 season. He has grown up watching and playing basketball in Superior.
“I was six when I first picked up a ball. I started playing with an organized team in fourth grade,” Ritchie said. “My dad got me started, so I owe everything to my dad. He gave everything to me and put a ball in may hands.”
His father, Chuck Ritchie, played basketball when Dustin was younger. Dustin Ritchie said he recalls watching his father play in league games at Cathedral.
“I just remember going to his games when I was little,” Ritchie said. “It was a lot of fun, but I wish I could have been a little older to watch and pay attention to him, give him a (hard time).”
“My dad and my mom (Lori) have done a great job. Traveling and just putting up with a basketball family,” Ritchie continued. “I just love them to death and I can’t thank them enough.”
In middle school, Ritchie started watching SHS varsity games regularly. A few years later, he was playing in them.
“It’s been a great time. I couldn’t ask for anything better,” Ritchie said. “I started off with Coach Schulz on my junior varsity as a freshman, and he really just pushed me the hardest I’ve ever been pushed in my life. He got me mentally prepared and Coach Kontny has done the rest from there.”
Ritchie was the leading scorer for the Spartans the past two season, carrying the team to a 37-7 record over that span.
“That’s not a bad record,” Ritchie said, showing he also has a talent for understatement.
This year as a senior, Ritchie was a leader on the floor for Superior in every game, something which he couldn’t have anticipated growing up.
“I thought about it, but I never thought it would happen,” Ritchie said. “I’d like to think I was kind of a key part of the team, and I like being that, but you never really think it’s going to happen until it starts to happen. I had great teammates that I’ve played with from fourth grade up, so we had some good team camaraderie. I enjoyed it so much.”
“He is a great leader, a leader by example,” said Dave Kontny, SHS head coach. “Always a hard worker, he had a great senior year and a great career at the varsity level.”
This season Ritchie averaged about 15 points per game, with a 47 percent field goal percentage. From behind the arc he shot 40 percent and was 78 percent at the free-throw line.
“He was just as good at taking the ball to the basket off the dribble as he was off his jump shot,” Kontny said. “Ritchie always drew the opponent’s toughest player on defense, he could rebound with the best of them and he was a great passer. He could literally take over a game by himself, although he was a true team player.”
In the Spartans’ final game of the season, Ritchie showed what he was capable of. The Spartans were battling Menomonie in the WIAA playoffs and needed a win to stay alive. Superior entered the fourth quarter trailing by 10 points, but Ritchie scored 14 of the Spartans’ 18 fourth-quarter points to put them down by two with seconds left in the game. Ritchie managed to get off a 3-pointer at the buzzer, but the ball bounced off the top of the rim and did not fall.
“I really wish I would have hit that shot at the end. I think about it non-stop, just all the time,” Ritchie said. “I feel bad for the guys that I didn’t hit it, but that’s just the way it goes.
“We had a great year and I had a great career here at Superior. I loved it and I couldn’t ask for anything better.”
Superior’s two-point playoff loss this year still stings for Ritchie, but he has many fond memories of his time at SHS. He said winning a regional final game against Hudson to advance to the sectional tournament in his junior year was “really something.” Advancing all the way to the sectional final game, one win from the state tournament, was icing on the cake. As a whole, Ritchie said his experiences during his junior year were probably the highlight of his high school basketball career.
In the coming season, Ritchie will be reunited with some of his former teammates. Ben Lindberg and Mike Johnsted, who played with Ritchie in his junior year, were freshmen on the UWS men’s team this year.
“Ben and Mike Johnsted will be there; I can’t say enough about (them),” Ritchie said. “Mike, I played with him until he got hurt and he’s a heck of a player, and Ben’s doing a great job over at UWS right now. I can’t wait to go over there.”
Ritchie said he is excited to play not only with his Spartan teammates but also with the other recruits UWS head coach Dave Buchanan has brought into the program. At SHS, though, Ritchie will be missed.
“UWS is getting a very complete player and he will be very hard to replace,” Kontny said. “Since the first day I saw him play and dive for loose balls, I knew there was something special about him. His passion for the game is second to none and that is one of the main reasons he will be successful no matter what he chooses.”
For now at least, Ritchie will be taking his talents just a short distance down Catlin Avenue. He said he looks forward to playing basketball in his hometown, but he doesn’t want to set expectations too high.
“I’m not going to go over and be the savior, but I hope I can come in and just do my job,” he said. “Whatever playing time I get, I get. I just want to win again.”