Columbus (MS) High School head coach Sammy Smith has seen his share of talented players. And it appears he has another talented on in Robert Woodard, Jr.
"Everywhere I go they are always telling me that they heard that I have a nice player," said Smith. "But remember, he's only a 9th grader. He is potentially a good player but he still has to develop. But he has a good foundation and should develop into a solid, solid player."
He explains what the coaches like about Woodard.
"Obviously, they like that he is going to be well-disciplined, he's going to play hard, and the game is going to come so easy for him because he is so studious about the game," said Smith. "They also like his body, his upside. He is a 6-foot-5 kid with a 7-foot wingspan. He shoots the ball well. But there are some things that he has to work on. But, at the same time, if he continues to work on those things that he can't do now, that is going to make him just that much better."
While he has a lot of talent, Coach Smith feels Woodard's intangibles are what set him apart from many of the other talented players.
"One of the most unique things about Robert is he is humble," said Smith. "He gets that from his family because he has had a good upbringing. As a basketball player he loves the game but, at the same time, he realizes he is only as good as the players around him. He's not selfish and he realizes that he has to find his niche. Some kids, who get the hype early in their career, forget about working hard. But he works hard everyday."
Woodard learned early on about hard work from his father, Robert Woodard, Sr. The senior Woodard played at Mississippi State and has a hustle award named after him by his former MSU coach, Richard Williams.
"Having a dad like that teaches me to work hard," said Woodard. "I really want to work even harder than he did."
Woodard realizes not only his strengths as a ball-players but what he also needs to work on.
"There are a lot of things that I need to work on, ball-handling being one of them," said the talented freshman. "My strengths are hustling down the court, rebounding, shooting and being able to pass the ball."
He's using camps like the Mississippi State team camp to build on his strengths and improve his weaknesses. And also to help him build chemistry with his teammates.
"Coming to camps helps me to build my game and see how the game works," said Woodard. "It also allows me to get a feel about my team and how they operate on the court."
Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.