Women’s Basketball: Northwestern’s Sydney Wood is ready for her closeup: How the graduate student forward is setting her sights on victory this season


Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

Graduate guard Sydney Wood drives to the basket, contesting defensive pressure from a UW-Parkside player. Coming off a season long injury, Wood will play a central role for Northwestern this season

Skye Swann, Assistant Gameday Editor

After an epic junior year, when Sydney Wood had a breakout performance across the court, she entered the 2021-22 season ready to put the Wildcats back into Big Ten Championship contention. 

But Wood’s dreams for a productive senior year came to a halt after a season-ending leg injury last November.  

Ultimately, sitting on the sidelines and watching her teammates WNBA star Veronica Burton and graduate forward Courtney Shaw play, the Northwestern graduate student guard said there was no doubt she would return for a fifth season with NU. Going through two big injuries during her collegiate career, she knew last season’s ending was not the way she wanted to finish her career, and she saw the team’s potential to get back to the Cats’ 2019-20 Big Ten Championship win. 

“I didn’t get to finish out the way I wanted to at Northwestern, with the injury early on last season,” Wood said. “I love the coaching staff and my teammates, so I wanted to come back to hopefully make it to the NCAA Tournament.”

Ahead of the 2022-23 season, Wood discussed how the odds were stacked against NU, with the group being extremely young and losing central players like Burton and Lindsey Pulliam. Yet, these losses have pushed her to become a better leader on and off the court. 

One point of contention for the Cats last season was the team’s inability to finish the game offensively in the second half, coach Joe McKeown said. He said Burton had to play most of the game, and it was hard to have such a young team jumping straight into Division I level play.  

Additionally, McKeown said with Wood returning to the court, she will be a main focal point for NU’s offense and can really do everything on “all ends of the court.” McKeown noted that Wood’s ability to be an offensive threat but also give 100% effort on the defensive end will be a real asset the team was missing last season. 

“Sydney had to fight through some injuries last year, so I think she felt like she wanted to come back,” McKeown said. “Having (Syd and Courtney) back this season means a lot because both have that leadership experience.”

Wood has allocated time this offseason into becoming a stronger and more vocal leader for the squad. She credited both Burton and Pulliam as being very poised on the court and always keeping the team motivated, even if they were down themselves. 

As she and Shaw have the experience on the team in the heavy hitter games, like the Big Ten Championship and NCAA Tournament competition, the dynamic duo will be the force of nature for the Cats to have a successful season. 

Beyond their relationship on and off the court for the Cats, Wood and Shaw go back all the way to Amateur Athletic Union days in Maryland. Both natives of the state, Shaw said the pair played against each other growing up and saw one another at the same tournaments. 

“I’m excited for everyone to see her and what we were missing on the court,” Shaw said. “We both get each other and have unspoken communication.”

Shaw said the connection back to the pair’s Maryland roots makes their bond on the court even stronger and they know the ins and outs of each other’s playing styles. As the two women are arguably the faces of NU’s offense and defense, their roles on the floor will be central elements to NU’s success and momentum the entire season. 

With the season underway this month, Wood said she is ecstatic for her fifth year — recalling the sadness she felt last season while sidelined with an injury. Although there were significant mental obstacles with coming back, Wood said she’s ready for this year and going to give it all on the court. 

Alongside Shaw, Wood will be leaving her mark on the Cats’ women’s basketball program this season. She will prove the depth of NU’s offense — plus get a chance to return the squad back to glory.

“I’m really excited (to get back on the court),” Wood said. “It was a long journey getting back from injury so I’m excited to play with my teammates again.”

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