Woods Expanding His Game

Seventh Woods entered the HSOT Holiday Invitational with a reputation as a dunker. He exited the event with the reputation as a scorer.

Hitting seven consecutive threes in a single quarter can have that type of effect.

"It's confidence," Woods said. "If you have confidence in your shot you feel like you can make anything."

In that 4th quarter, on that Thursday night against Trinity High, he did just that.

The origins of the improvement that have created this confidence can be found in the hours Woods is putting into his game, specifically his perimeter shooting.

Woods cited the benefits of heavy repetition – "getting a lot of shots up each day." His coaches have been witnesses to the effort.

"He's been working really hard," Hammond coach Mark McClam said. "…. Between three of us (coaches), we rotate at 6:30 in the morning shooting on the gun with him. So he gets off 2-, 3-, 400 shots every morning at 6:30. The kid has worked the last 12 months really, really hard on his jump shot."

There was more to what Woods displayed at the HSOT Invitational than made three-pointers. The Columbia (S.C.) Hammond sophomore didn't just hit open shots, he showed an improved ability to use his speed not just to blow by defenders in the open court, but to create open jump shots for himself in the halfcourt.

The ten million views of Woods's mixtape has generated hype and drawn crowds to his games, but it's not an accurate reflection of his abilities. A mixtape company's intention is to entertain, not evaluate.

Yet the reality is that Woods – still eight months from turning 16 years old – has a lot of development in front of him.

"Woods presently is more athlete than he is a basketball player," Scout.com's Rob Harrington wrote after a recent Woods viewing. "Having said that, given his athleticism and his age, how could that not be the case?"

The effort and commitment are there, so there's no reason the think the needed development won't follow. He's proven he can succeed against elite competition, as evidenced by his success at last month's HSOT Invitational, but even more so at the prestigious USA Basketball Mini-Camp last October.

Improvement as a scorer is undoubtedly important, but for Woods to be the true floor general he envisions for himself at the college level, he knows what needs to develop.

His 65 combined points (on 61% 3FG) in his (significantly overmatched) team's first two HSOT games came with 16 turnovers.

"I'm trying to develop my game more as an all-around point guard and leader on the court," Woods said.

Scouts are convinced of his potential, ranking him No. 11 in the 2016 class and the No. 2 point guard overall.

So is Roy Williams, who has offered him a scholarship. The Tar Heel head coach traveled to watch Woods play five months before Woods's 15th birthday. And Williams has done so again many times since. He attended Woods's games during the July AAU circuit, visited his school's open gym in September, and watched him two more times in December.

"They're coming at me hard," Woods said of the Tar Heels.

Woods, in turn, has attended a UNC game in each of the last three seasons.

He confirmed that UNC is one of three schools to which he's made campus visits – he attended a Duke game last season and has made countless trips to nearby South Carolina.

"I grew up in South Carolina so I was at a lot of their games," said Woods, whose Hammond school is five miles from the South Carolina campus.

Woods says he's going to look at "style of play and loyalty of the coach" when assessing which college is the right fit for him. When asked for details about what specific style of play he prefers, it's unsurprising considering his unparalleled speed that he cited "high paced game, full court, running the ball."

The search for any other recruiting clues led to a discussion of Woods's relationship with the 2016 class's top prospect, N.C. native Harry Giles, who also holds a UNC offer.

"We're like brothers," Woods said. "We've been playing against each other since I was 11.

That's the extent of recruiting info you'll get from Woods, who usually passes of recruiting questions.

"I let my parents handle it so I can just play basketball," he said.

Mid-way through his sophomore season, there's a lot of basketball left to be played.

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