Russell Woods Appreciates Early UI Interest

When a young big man shows athleticism and versatility at a young age, he quickly become a hot commodity. That is exactly what is happening with Russell Woods. The 2013 forward is continuing to improve, and Illinois is one of the schools at the top of his list.

Russell Woods is a 6'-9" power forward from Leo High School in Chicago. He flew under the radar during his sophomore campaign despite averaging a double-double. One school that took notice was Illinois and head coach Bruce Weber.

"I like that Bruce Weber came out and showed me support at some of my games. He showed a lot of interest and was one of the first schools to show interest in me."

Now many schools in the Big 10 are knocking on his door, but Woods remembers who was first.

"It is very important because a lot of people didn't know me at first, and Bruce Weber took the time out to come look at me, even though I wasn't a known player like I am now."

Woods talked with Weber recently.

"Bruce Weber came up to my school. It went well. We sat down and talked about how I have to stay humble and get better."

The power forward likes how Illinois recruits tough Chicago players.

"They have got some good recruits every year. They get a lot of Chicago people. Chicago has a lot of scrappy players. We like to get after it. I like that, and Illinois definitely gets after it."

He has built an especially tight relationship with his lead recruiter.

"I am real cool with Jerrance Howard. He is a cool guy. He takes his time to talk to me."

Woods feels the Illini could be close to offering a scholarship.

"I think they are on the verge of it. They talk to my coach about everything."

He mentioned several schools in the mix for his services.

"Illinois, Marquette, Texas, Purdue, DePaul, and Wisconsin.

Like many recent recruitments, the Illini will be going head to head with Purdue. Woods says the two Big 10 rivals are his leaders.

He is a long and lanky left handed post player who is active around the hoop. He is athletic and quick off the floor to grab rebounds. His offensive skills are continuing to improve, but he already shows flashes of great moves in the post.

Woods described his game.

"I am more versatile than the average big man. I'm a lot quicker than most post players, and I am a good rebounder."

What are his strengths?

"I think I play real good defense. I am good near the basket."

He believes his versatile game is compatable with Illini's system.

"It fits in good with my game. Their big men are not just in-the-paint big men. They are versatile."

Woods put up 14 points and 10 rebounds per game with Leo this past season.

"It was good. We lost trying to get downstate. I averaged a double-double. It was fun with the team. I think I did good. I stepped my game up from freshman year. Next year I will do even better."

He has stepped up his profile with outstanding play for the Mac Irvin Fire AAU team. He plays with the 16 and Under group. It has been a good experience.

"It has been going good. I have been having fun with the team."

Woods has been playing up with the 17 and Under team when the Fire play events in the Nike EYBL. Playing against older players and the best competition brings out the best in him.

"It was real fun. At the same time, it was kind of hard because we were playing against people that were as good as us."

This is a very intriguing prospect because of his rare combination of size, athleticism and skills around the basket. Illinois has made an early impression with Woods and should remain a player in his recruitment.

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