Two months removed from the University of North Carolina’s fifth NCAA basketball national championship, rising seniors Joel Berry II and Theo Pinson are preparing for their title defense while reigning ACC Player of the Year, Justin Jackson, and Tony Bradley are among four Tar Heels who are strengthening their skills prior to the NBA Draft. While the spotlight shines bright for these current and former Heels, all eyes will look towards backup point guard, Seventh Woods. The 2017-2018 season for Woods will feature his sophomore campaign, as he looks to bounce back from his shortcomings in the Heels’ national title season.
As a point guard at the University of North Carolina with the likes of Phil Ford, Kenny Smith, Raymond Felton, Ty Lawson, Marcus Paige, and Joel Berry II to emulate, the pressure is high with the tolerance of many fans extremely low. Although these point guards had impressive careers and resumes, it’s a lot easier to believe Woods will have a similar path than others may think.
Various point guards etched into UNC history, their jerseys hanging in the rafters, emerged onto the scene and elevated their game during their sophomore season. Marcus Paige’s points per game jumped from 8.2 in his rookie campaign to 17.5 as a sophomore, while he elevated both his free throw and three point percentages. As a sophomore, Tar Heel great Kenny Smith, improved his scoring average by 3.2 PPG and his assists by 1.5 per contest, all while tallying a career-high 37 1⁄2 minutes per game. Final Four Most Outstanding Player, Joel Berry II, increased his scoring average from 4.2 points per game his freshman season, to 12.8 his sophomore campaign.
Berry’s rise to stardom began during the Tar Heel’s national runner-up season in 2016. The Apopka, Florida, native flourished during the regular season and blossomed into a young star during the Heels’ NCAA Tournament run. Berry was UNC’s second-best scorer, averaging 12.8 points per game, and led the team in both assists and steals. With his consistent outside shooting, the sophomore led the Tar Heels from behind the arc, shooting 38 percent.
Prior to dominating the 2017 Final Four and earning Most Outstanding Player honors, Berry tallied double digits in five of UNC’s six tournament games in 2016, recording 20 points in the heartbreaking loss to Villanova in the national championship.
While Woods’ career and path to success differentiates in its own way from the aforementioned Tar Heel legends, the road to success should appear clearer during his sophomore campaign. Coming out of high school with lofty expectations and the learning curve of the college basketball landscape, the elevated stage and names seemed to temporarily halt Seventh’s rise to stardom.
Although the success of Woods will directly impact the Heels as a whole, the importance of the upcoming season for Woods’ solely has far-reaching implications. After dominating high school basketball and the AAU circuit, there’s little doubt that the underwhelming freshman season in Chapel Hill impeded the high flyer that is Seventh Woods. One tough season with obstacles and setbacks cannot diminish or retract the potential and outlook for Woods, but another under-performing season could derail his future. For Woods, if a repeat of last season is in the cards, that repeated lack of success may have an impact on his confidence and on the level of his play.
Following the departure of Berry, the transition of the point guard reigns to Woods needs to happen smoothly or Roy Williams and the staff could look to 2018 guard Coby White as the successor at the one. There is no telling if the Hall of Fame coach would contemplate this, but the performance from Woods could potentially open the door on this idea.
With one year under his belt and motivation for a bounce back season, the recipe for success for Woods may appear in the cards of fellow teammate Joel Berry or former Academic All-American, Marcus Paige. Soon, both guards will have their jerseys lofted in the rafters at the Dean Dome and both guards used their freshman offseason and sophomore preseason to elevate their game. Woods could greatly benefit from Berry and duplicate his blueprint for success while being the rising senior’s understudy. The relationship between the two could greatly influence Woods’ future and enable him to command the ship for UNC in the future.
When Woods committed to Roy Williams and the Tar Heels in November of 2015, he was playing high school basketball in his home state of South Carolina. The same South Carolina that has produced 2017 UNC commit Jalek Felton and Zion Williamson, the No. 2 player in the class of 2018. The commitment of Woods and Felton to Chapel Hill has kept the ball rolling on South Carolina prospects coming to UNC after the two became the first since Brice Johnson. The location of various prospects may seem insignificant to the casual fan, but if the move from the Palmetto State to Chapel Hill translates to success, Roy Williams and the Heels could reap the benefits. A breakout season for Woods in 2017-2018 may catch the eye of Williamson and improve the chances of the Tar Heels landing the high school phenom.
The sophomore campaign for Seventh Woods will define his future at the University of North Carolina, the potential of the upcoming seasons for the Tar Heels, and could set the tone for North Carolina’s recruiting pitch to South Carolina recruits. With Woods seeing increased playing time and backing up Joel Berry full time, he will receive every chance possible to right the ship and start the next chapter in his career at the University of North Carolina.