Blairsville eighth grader headed back to nationals
Less than a month after winning his first state title, Jerrik Rydbom made the trek to the Elks National Hoop Shoot finals in Springfield, Mass., in 2011 with just one goal in mind — to have fun.
Rydbom’s carefree attitude paid serious dividends, and the then-Blairsville Middle School sixth-grader made all 25 of his free throws to win the 10- and 11-year old division.
Along with his fellow contestants, Rydbom got to take a tour of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield. He also had his name etched on a plaque at the hall.
Rydbom, now 13 and in the eighth grade at Blairsville, recently won his third state title in the event, and in the process, qualified for the national finals, which will be held April 20. He’ll represent Blairsville Lodge 406.
The son of Judi Rydbom and former Blairsville boys’ basketball coach Mark Rydbom, Jerrik said he’ll once again compete in the birthplace of basketball with no pressure on his shoulders.
“Coming into this I just wanted to make it to nationals,” he said. “I would like to win but I’m not really worried about it. I just want to have fun.”
Rydbom admitted that failing to make the national finals last year motivated him to work even harder on his free-throw accuracy. Rydbom takes one day off, but shots 100 free throws every other day of the week.
“I’ve just been practicing more at the school,” he said. “I really wanted to win states again and I did that, so I’m happy no matter what happens.”