Sydney Wood dribbles against Wisconsin. The sophomore guard is in the midst of a breakout season for the Wildcats. (Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman)
Sydney Wood dribbles against Wisconsin. The sophomore guard is in the midst of a breakout season for the Wildcats.

Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

Women’s Basketball: After breakout season, Sydney Wood is ready to create her own legacy in March

March 6, 2020

Women’s Basketball

As students rushed the court and streamers fell from the rafters, Sydney Wood was celebrating Northwestern’s first Big Ten title since 1990 with her teammates. Two days later, she was named an honorable mention to the All-Big Ten team.

The recognition comes after a breakout season for the sophomore, in which she ranked second on the team in assists, steals and blocks in her first year as a starter.

She’s also had her share of big games — against Michigan, she scored 14 points, including 10 in the third quarter, to lead the Wildcats to their first win in Ann Arbor since 2015. Just over a week later, she scored 12 points in consecutive games against Wisconsin and Ohio State, coming a rebound away from a double-double against the Buckeyes. She shot over 80 percent from the field in all three of those wins.

The 5-foot-11 guard has shown off her rebounding ability all season, snagging at least seven boards in nine games. She has excelled on the defensive end, recording at least three steals in eight games.

As the NCAA Tournament approaches, NU is preparing to compete on college basketball’s biggest stage. In many ways, Wood’s been getting ready for this moment for her entire life.

She grew up in Olney, Md., a suburb of Washington, D.C., and attended St. John’s College High School, a private Catholic school in the capital.

In her freshman season at St. John’s, all three point guards on the team were injured. So Wood stepped up, taking on a new position to become the varsity starting point guard.

“She had never played the point guard position,” St. John’s coach Jonathan Scribner told The Daily. “It was a tough run, but she learned a lot and she did well.”

In the following years, St. John’s went on to win consecutive state championships, and was ranked third in the country by USA Today in 2017-18. According to Scribner, 13 St. John’s alumni are currently playing for Division 1 programs — with eight starting.

Even with other standout players around her, like current Virginia Tech star Aisha Sheppard and North Carolina standout Malu Tshitenge-Mutombo, Wood averaged double-digit points her junior year, and was named team captain as a senior.

The Olney native’s high-school performance earned her recognition from scouts, as she was given a grade of 94 and ranked 24th at her position and 87th overall by ESPN.

Scribner still thinks Wood should’ve gotten more recognition.

“She was definitely under-recruited,” Scribner said. “You have to really watch and see all the little things she does, especially defensively.”

Part of Wood’s under-recruitment might be explained by her lack of statistical flashiness — in nearly 30 minutes per game this season, she’s averaging just over five points. To Scribner, Wood’s always been more focused on creating opportunities for her teammates and doing whatever it takes to win.

“If she was asked to score a lot, she could,” Scribner said. “She never was one to try to pad her stats. She’s a great teammate, and she wants to get other people open.”

In addition to her selflessness and talent, Scribner said Wood’s maturity and basketball IQ helped her succeed at the high school level.

For Wood, she started developing those skills well before high school.

Wood’s father Kenny graduated as the all-time leading scorer in New York public school history, and was a part of the Richmond team that upset No. 2 Syracuse in the first round of the 1991 NCAA Tournament. Her uncle, Howard Wood, led Tennessee to the Sweet 16 in 1981, and played a year in the NBA for the Utah Jazz.

“It was really like a bonding thing for me and my dad. We used to work out a lot,” Wood said. “That background has really helped me. It’s always been something that I’ve been passionate about.”

From playing pickup with her sister to learning about the game from professionals, Wood spent much of her childhood learning about basketball and fostering a love for the game.
In the future, Wood plans to still be around sports in some capacity, whether that’s as a player or otherwise.

“I have such a love for basketball,” Wood said. “I love watching it, I love reading about it. It’s just something that I really want to stay involved with, and I don’t know what avenue, but I know I want to be around the game.”

Wood’s coaches and teammates said they believe she’ll excel at whatever she does.

“She’s wickedly smart, and actually a really really good people person,” Scribner said. “I have no doubt that whatever she decides to pursue she’s gonna do very well at.”

As for the immediate future, Wood and the entire Wildcats team will soon be put to the test against the best teams in the country in the Big Ten tournament. Senior forward Abbie Wolf said she thinks Wood is up to the challenge.

“I’ve been so impressed from the day she got here,” Wolf said. “I’m pretty sure all the Big Ten is scared of her.”

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