Seventh Woods’ new life as a Gamecock? ‘It’s been great.’
The shirt’s top was black, the bottom white, but the message was clear across Seventh Woods’ chest. “South Carolina” is what was outlined in garnet as Woods spoke to media members on Friday for the first time as a Gamecock.
“It’s probably like every day,” said the former Hammond star, “somebody else tells me, ‘Just happy you’re home.’ I hear about it every day. It still feels surreal to me, being around home. This is where I grew up and stuff like that. So it definitely feels unreal, but I’m thankful for it.”
Woods’ story has been well-chronicled to this point. The teenage phenom-turned-four-star-recruit pledged to the Tar Heels over the Gamecocks in November 2015. He then was part of a national title team, but never had the individual success in Chapel Hill that many expected. The crooked path has led him to Columbia again, the place that saw his quick rise as the “the best 14-year-old in the country.”
Woods will be 21 when he officially suits up for South Carolina. Per NCAA transfer rules, he’s sitting out the 2019-20 season. There was no applying to have that waived — like many players in the sport are doing these days — because Woods is content with his position. In other words, he knows a year in the practice gym only is a good thing.
“Being able to have a year off just to strictly work on my game,” Woods said, “prepare myself for a different situation, different system, I feel sitting out a year will be great for me and I’m just going to try and use it to the best of my advantage to get my teammates better, get my coaches better, just make something out of my senior year.”
Woods is walk-on now, but he said there’s a plan in place for him to go on scholarship for 2020-21. In the meantime, he has some goals to accomplish. Develop a better jump shot. Become a leader in the Carolina locker room. Set himself up for a big finish to his college career.
“No,” Woods said when asked if he’s reached his full potential, “not even halfway. Playing pickup with the (USC) guys, I feel like I’ve done stuff that kind of surprises me just because I haven’t done it in so long. So I’m excited just to be able to sit out this year and work on my game more and just come out and show what I can do.”
As for his previous life, Woods said he never googles his name and only peeks at his old high school highlights when they pop up on social media. What’s ahead is a run with Frank Martin and a program he once signed with years earlier.
“It was very close,” Woods said of choosing Carolina over Gonzaga and Michigan, “but Coach Frank kind of had an advantage because he recruited me three years before that, so we already had a relationship. I trust him, he trusts me, so that’s probably the biggest thing for me.”
Woods on Sunday will participate in the South Carolina Pro-Am at Heathwood Hall. The soon-to-be Gamecock will be in the same event as former Gamecocks such as P. Dozier and Devan Downey.
“I talked to PJ right before I decided where I wanted to go (after leaving UNC),” Woods said. “Just kind of gave me the rundown, told me how great the coaches were and just how they helped him and how they can help me the same way.”
South Carolina Pro-Am schedule
SUNDAY - JULY 21
2:30 PM JETS VS. CHICK-FIL-A TWO NOTCH RD
3:45 PM HONDA OF COLUMBIA VS. HOOD CONSTRUCTION
5 PM LEEVY’S VS. BERNIE’S CHICKEN
TUESDAY - JULY 23
6 PM CHICK-FIL-A TWO NOTCH RD VS. HONDA OF COLUMBIA
7:15 PM BERNIE’S CHICKEN VS. HOOD CONSTRUCTION
8:30 PM LEEVY’S VS. JETS
THURSDAY - JULY 25
6 PM JETS VS. HONDA OF COLUMBIA
7:15 PM LEEVY’S VS. CHICK-FIL-A TWO NOTCH RD
8:30 PM BERNIES CHICKEN VS. HOOD CONSTRUCTION
SUNDAY - JULY 28
2 PM Championship
*All games to be played at Heathwood Hall.