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49ers freshmen Woods, Dorn make splashy entrance

Torin Dorn and Keyshawn Woods have been college roommates just long enough that they are able to dish on each other.

“Keyshawn loves R&B music, and he can sing a little, too,” Dorn said. “Some old-school Usher, a little New Edition.”

Countered Woods: “Watch out for Torin when he’s got his video camera. If he could make a (behind-the-scenes) video of anything, that’s what he’d do.”

Dorn and Woods have established a close relationship – “we’re like brothers now,” said Woods – as quickly as they have made their collective mark as freshmen guards for the Charlotte 49ers, who play a Conference USA game Saturday against Rice at Halton Arena.

Dorn and Woods both grew up in the Charlotte area and attended local high schools (Dorn at Vance; Woods at Northside Christian). They both say they came to Charlotte to help the 49ers reclaim the national basketball relevancy they’ve lost over the past decade.

“We talk about it all the time, from the first time we got on campus last summer,” Dorn said. “We want to change the culture of the Charlotte program, to help bring it to new heights. We want to change the face of the program.”

Individually and together, they have put their stamps on the 49ers and in Conference USA. Dorin has been named the league’s freshman of the week twice – the second honor coming last week after he scored 26 points and had 10 rebounds against Western Kentucky. Woods leads the league and is tied for 17th nationally in 3-point shooting at 50.0 percent, including a four-of-five performance last Saturday against Marshall.

“One (Woods) has the ability to make others better and score when he’s asked to,” 49ers interim coach Ryan Odom said. “(Dorn) has the ability to ignite a crowd and get on a major roll. They’ve been great in their own way. They complement each other so well.”

Dorn in attack mode

Dorn grew up in an athletic family. His father, Torin Dorn Sr., was a standout running back and defensive back at North Carolina, then played defensive back for seven years in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders and St. Louis Rams. Younger brother Myles is a highly regarded defensive back and wide receiver on Vance High’s football team.

“I always told Torin that you can’t follow in my footsteps; you’ve got to make your own path,” Dorn Sr. said. “I think that stuck with him. He’s always known that if you want something bad enough, you have to work for it.”

Torin Jr. didn’t play football growing up – instead playing basketball, baseball, golf and running track. He also developed an interest in making movies and videos. He has filmed Vance football games for the past three years and made inspirational videos for the team. He also put together Myles’ recruiting video.

“I go out there every Friday night. I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” said Dorn, who is minoring in film studies at Charlotte and hopes to get an internship at a television station while he is in college.

“I’m interested in every aspect of filmmaking – the creativity, being able to inspire people with the work that I do and seeing viewers’ reaction to it,” he said. “I love provoking thought and telling a story.”

In much less subtle ways, Dorn tells his own story on the basketball court. Playing mostly as a reserve (he’s started one game), Dorn leads the 49ers in scoring (averaging 12.1 points). He’s also Conference USA’s leading freshman scorer.

Dorn (6-foot-5, 201 pounds) doesn’t waste time trying to find his way into a game’s flow. He’s constantly on attack, finding holes in the opponents’ defense and exploiting them.

“His athleticism, his ability when the defender is on him to elevate and make a play, that’s hard for a freshman to do,” Odom said. “Sometimes the physicality of the game is a big eye-opener for a freshman. But Torin had a college-ready body that’s really helped him.”

Said Dorn: “I want to stay in attack mode.”

Woods deadly from behind arc

Woods grew up in Gastonia, beginning his high school career at Gaston Day before finishing at Charlotte’s Northside Christian, where he played for former 49ers star Byron Dinkins.

Basketball was important to Woods, who was the N.C. Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior at Northside. But academics and the church played equally important roles for him and his family.

An accounting major, Woods said if he didn’t keep at least a 3.7 grade-point average in high school, there were consequences – usually involving basketball privileges.

“I don’t play around with grades,” said Woods’ father Deon Jefferie. “I didn’t see grades as something to be rewarded for, but as a way to punish you.”

Woods kept his grades up and stayed in the gym, where he has developed as a combo guard who’s dangerous from 3-point range and can also run the team from the point.

“The main thing about Keyshawn is how hard he works at his craft,” said Jefferie. “When he was a kid, he would get mad at me if I didn’t feel like taking him to the gym to work on his game. If he can’t get his workout in, it literally ruined his whole day. He’s still that way.”

Of equal importance to Woods is his faith. He said he’s happiest when he’s sitting with his family at Elevation Church or listening to his grandfather Charles Woods preach at Ebeneezer Baptist Church in Rock Hill.

“That’s something I miss when we’re traveling,” said Woods. “But my grandpa said if I listen to gospel music on Sundays, it’s fine.”

Woods (6-foot-3) usually comes into games with Dorn, often before the first media timeout. He will likely take over as the 49ers’ starter at point guard when senior Pierria Henry graduates.

“He was a no-brainer for us (as a recruit),” said Odom. “We like big guards at Charlotte and he had tremendous size for his position. He shares the ball, can defend at multiple positions and he obviously can shoot it.”

The 49ers – whose most recent of 11 NCAA tournament appearances came in 2005 – offered Woods a scholarship when he was in ninth grade. He verbally accepted, then stuck with the 49ers when more prominent programs came after him as he developed into a star at Northside.

“The 49ers’ basketball program used to be bigger than what it is now,” said Jefferie. “Kids of this generation don’t understand what it was. Keyshawn and Torin do, and they want to get it back to where it used to be.”

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