COLOMBIA – He shouldn’t be here.
The first thing that comes to mind when we talk to Seventh Woods is why this is happening. The 22-year-old, with a hardened expression and nothing that was expected in the full beard grown by someone so young, projects a certain tiredness.
It is understandable, since the last eight years have been almost the opposite of what was projected. Star of the stars in South Carolina’s illustrious history of prep basketball, Woods should be in the NBA now, teaching other native children like Zion Williamson and Ja Morant to refine their professional games.
College would be a quick jump for Woods, a seven-month distraction before becoming the next Russel Westbrook, as a brilliant profile marked him during his senior year of high school. Instead, he is in his fifth year of college and his second in South Carolina, his new home after three unsuccessful and unsuccessful seasons at his childhood dream school, North Carolina.
Woods was never a talkative speaker, eager to talk about his game as much as playing it. He was almost terribly shy in Hammond, the school just 11 kilometers away, where he became a YouTube sensation at age 14.
Now? There is emotion behind the scars of the battle. There is also caution, as Woods’ path towards his first game at USC – still an unknown date due to the COVID-19 schedule – is nearing its end.
This is where the fund has fallen so many times.
“I feel great,” said Woods. “Having to stay out last year, having to watch the season go as it was, just made me more anxious to want to come back this year and get the most out of my team.”
Of course, this year also comes after a hole. Sure, this year mimics his three years at UNC, where he wasn’t necessarily bad, but he was a far cry from the potentially loaded road prepared for him after those prominent immersion rolls on the internet.
It is called rhabdomyolysis and is caused by the breakdown of muscle tissue. Wastes created from dead muscle fibers reach the blood and can create serious kidney problems.
Woods had never heard of that and he certainly never felt. Both changed after a weightlifting session this summer.
“I got really sick after my first lift in the weight room. It was a scary moment, I was in the hospital for a few days, but I got over it, ”said Woods. “Fortunately, blessed enough now that I’m in a position where I don’t feel any of that anymore.”
He’s 100 percent healthy now, but being in a hospital during the COVID era was another boost in Woods’ career. Of course, he was recovering and his family, coaches, teammates, friends were just a phone call away.
But none of them can visit.
“I feel that this was the most difficult thing I have ever faced in my life. Being in the hospital, being COVID and not being able to receive people to see me, ”said Woods. “Just being able to talk about it now, I am very blessed to be able to have this conversation and get out of the hospital.”
That leaves him to rebuild the other part of the past five years. His experience at UNC left him with the unique vision of his dream coming true, but not really.
He played 94 games over three seasons (but averaged just 1.8 points). He won a national championship in the same Final Four the Gamecocks were in (but he only played three minutes with no statistics in the title game). He struggled with a stress fracture in his foot as a second year and played 20 games (but coach Roy Williams criticized his “wrong decisions” and said ironically that he should be renamed Fifth or Sixth Woods, since Seventh was not yet appeared).
Woods was transferred to the USC for a fresh start and had an entire year to prepare for it. As Gamecocks coach Frank Martin said, there was never any intention of trying to qualify Woods in 2019-20.
“The whole thought process was, let’s redshirt and kind of get out of that spotlight for a while and take a deep breath,” said Martin. “He’s been under a microscope since he was 13. I don’t know how he did it and kept his sanity. “
Even that came with a dose of bitterness. If Woods had remained at UNC, he would almost certainly have played long after point guard Cole Anthony was injured nine games this season. Williams switched four guards in search of an answer and staggered into a 14-19 season, the second largest total loss in school history. Perhaps Woods could have reversed that.
Woods would still be waiting to see if a greater presence at UNC last year would have taken him to the NBA, as recruitment was postponed to 18 November. Instead, he is at USC, with another chance at stardom that so many thought he would have.
“It is a totally new system. I can only sit back and learn everything, how my new coaches train, my new teammates, ”he said. “Just find a comfort zone that you can enter this year and make the most of it.”
Sporting No. 23 that he wore at school (and wanted to wear at UNC, but a guy named Jordan put it on the rafters), Woods has a healthy body and karma to his advantage. It’s been 23 years since Gamecocks won the SEC’s regular season championship for the first and only time.
This was helped by another transfer from South Carolina native UNC Larry Davis, who also won a national championship with Tar Heels before returning home.
Surrounded by other guards, Woods hesitated when asked if he would start from the point – “I hope so,” he said – but Martin and his colleagues praised his work ethic, his game and his veteran leadership. It can be said that he is the only remaining member of the team at the Final Four 2017, as long as it does not specify much about which team he was in that season.
Why is this happening? All Woods says and knows is what he was made for. He didn’t write those exciting stories about how he would win the NBA. He didn’t post that video of himself when he was 14 on YouTube or sent SportsCenter a dump so nasty that he beat LeBron James to the top spot in the Top 10.
“It wasn’t the way everyone thought the book would be written, but that’s okay,” Martin recently told basketball analyst Jon Rothstein. “Everyone writes their own book.”
Woods’ book has had so many depressing chapters, hasn’t it been ordered to have a happy ending?