But this past weekend in Louisville, Seventh Woods bounced back emphatically. The 6-2, 175-pound combo guard led the Carolina Wolves to their first win — a victory over Team Felton and elite guard Jalek Felton — and he upped his production across the board.
In four games in New Orleans to kick off the travel season, Woods’ scoring high was just 12 points; in Louisville, his low was 17 points. He averaged 22 points per game in the Wolves’ four outings and performed particularly well against Team Felton: 25 points (9-19 FG), five rebounds, five assists and two steals.
His oft-criticized jump shot looked far better throughout the weekend. After missing all 13 of his long bombs in the first UA session, Woods knocked down 12-31 in Louisville for a strong 39 percent. It goes without saying that when he’s able to hit his open threes, he becomes an immensely more effective performer.
His transition to playing on the ball has taken longer than many had hoped — and he continues to struggle with his ballhandling and turnovers generally — but he attacked much more aggressively on drives than he has at times in the past. Woods may never be a primary handler or playmaker, but if he drives in a straight line with his head down the way he did over the weekend, he could become very effective off high ball screens.
At a certain point, extreme quickness and speed can mask skill limitations, and that’s why most everyone has been patient with Woods while he addresses his game’s shortcomings.
Meanwhile, he remains a truly top-notch defender with exceptional lateral quickness, good strength and an ability to get low despite being 6-2. He could carve out a professional career somewhere almost on his defense alone. And if he consistently seeks driving opportunities, his shooting and handling will hold less importance.
All this is keeping in mind that, two years ago, Woods likely was the best known player in the Class of 2016. His freshman year highlight reel became an immediate sensation as he dazzled viewers with his sublime leaping ability.
The early exposure became something of an albatross as he matured, with people expecting him to be a consistent dominator without realizing that he needed time to develop.
For his part, Woods appears more comfortable now managing his improvement and external pressures.
”As far as the mix tape, I don’t really care about that,” Woods said. “I just go out there and play my game and do what I can do to give my team a ‘W’”.
From a recruiting point of view, speculation has arisen recently that Woods may be looking to commit sooner than later. He denied that over the weekend, however, and he insisted that he remains open to new schools. At the same time, he acknowledged that North Carolina and South Carolina continue to stand at the forefront.
He also is attempting to downplay his recruitment without ignoring the obvious: The Gamecocks and Tar Heels are a consistent presence at his games.
Frank Martin and his staff were able to fend off UNC for P.J. Dozier last fall and hope to do the same with Woods.
”(South Carolina) is my hometown school so they’re on me big,” he said. “They just want me to stay home.”
The Tar Heels have pitched Woods on their uptempo style of play.
”They just say how I would fit into their offensive system,” he said.
Woods never has been one to reveal deep insight into his thought process, but he did add that fit will outweigh any distance issues. More than most top-50 prospects, guesswork is required to handicap his ultimate winner. At this stage, however, it appears likely that the word “Carolina” will be involved, one way or the other.
Woods will continue to tour with the Wolves and compete at Under Armour’s New York event next month.