Anyone who knows Nicole Woods understands that basketball has been her passion since she was little.
Woods also cares deeply about the people in her community.
So it is no surprise that the Gastonia native and former standout at Hunter Huss and Belmont Abbey would try to give something back to the community she loves.
Last week Woods put on the first annual Nicole Woods Basketball Camp at Huss High School.
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“I really wanted to build a foundation,” Woods said. “We had great kids and tried to teach both basketball lessons as well as life lessons.”
Woods was able to achieve one of her dreams last fall, signing a professional contract to play for the Nottingham Wildcats of the England Basketball League.
It was Woods' first time away from home, and she had her bumps early.
“I cried the first two weeks I was there. We had no heat in our house, and the only time I was out in those two weeks was to practice,” she said. “But finally I started to get comfortable and joined a church, and the last four months (she was there from October through April) seemed to fly by.”
During her time there, Woods was able to tour England and travel to Italy and France, among other places. On the court she averaged 16 points and eight assists and helped the Wildcats to a 14-9 record.
Woods is not going back to Nottingham next fall, though, and thinks her playing days, at least at that level, are over.
But basketball is not over for her.
That is where the camp comes in. Woods charged just $75 per child for the camp (most camps cost at least $200), and a number of kids who may not have been able to afford it were sponsored by various businesses. Her goal is to be able to have 100 kids attend the camp for free.
There were the usual parts of the camp, such as working on ball-handling and defense.
But Woods also worked in guest speakers, and part of the camp curriculum was a “life lesson” section.
Woods talked to the kids about things such as self-esteem, character and treating people with respect.
Each child received a T-shirt, a water bottle and daily lunch. Woods says that the best part of the camp for her was seeing improvement in so many kids in just 31/2 days of work.
While the camp was for the kids – to help them become better players – Woods says she got as much out of the camp as anyone.
“At the end of the day people here look at me as a basketball player, and that's OK. By me doing this, I can help people.
“If I have a little name recognition and can use that to help the kids in the community, then I am more than happy to do that.”