Hammond’s Seventh Woods is a YouTube sensation; is he the next LeBron James?
10/12/2013 10:34 PM
10/13/2013 12:51 AM
Seventh Dayvonte Woods, the sixth child of Louis and Monica Woods, was named according to one of his father’s favorite scriptures.
“God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it,” reads the third verse of the second chapter of Genesis.
“I like my name. God finished his work on the seventh day,” Woods said. “It’s special and original.”
It is also somewhat prophetic.
Among the blessings the Woods’ bestowed upon their last child — born seven years after the next youngest sibling — is a prodigious talent at the game of basketball.
At 14 years old, Woods has been under a national spotlight for more than three years. This past season, his freshman year, the spotlight intensified to the point that some fans and analysts have suggested he is the next LeBron James.
With a name that carries so much symbolism, it is not surprising that Woods is unfazed by such assessments.
“He doesn’t pay much attention to it,” Woods’ mother said. “His thing is not to be the next LeBron, it’s to be the best Seventh Woods he can be.”
As it stands, he is not the typical 14-year-old basketball player.
He is 6-foot-2, 175 pounds and was the youngest member this past summer of the USA Men’s Basketball U16 team, which he helped win the FIBA World Championship.
On the national basketball talent trackers’ radar since fifth grade, Woods is listed as the No. 3 point guard and the No. 17 player in the nation for the Class of 2016 by Future150, a prospect tracking website. He is 21st in the nation on the ESPN25 list and has a five-star rating from Scout.com.
Highlight clips of Woods first appeared on the Internet when he was 11, when he made his first dunk at an AAU national tournament game.
His dreams of playing college and NBA basketball are far from long shots.
Woods’ talent became apparent to his family at a young age.
Older brothers Erik, Chris, Charles and Louis Jr., were active in football and basketball by the time Seventh came along. Before he could walk, he was in gyms and on fields soaking in the action.
By the time he reached school age, he was taking on his brothers on the family’s backyard basketball court.
“They didn’t take it easy on me, but I felt good being able to play with them,” Woods said.
One day, Monica Woods remembers, Louis Jr., ran into the house to let her know that Seventh was holding his own on the court.
“He was so excited, Seventh could really shoot,” she said.
Soon after, the family put Woods on a recreation league team, and by the second game, the child began to blossom.
“It was a one-day-at-a-time type of thing, and of course, at 5- or 6-years-old, he didn’t really take it very seriously,” Louis Wood said.
At 10 years old, Seventh said, he began to understand what he could do with basketball.
“I started playing on a team two years older than me. One game when I was 11, we lost but I had, I think, 24 points. After the game, two of the players from the other team wanted to be on my team. They wanted to play with me, and that really let me know,” he said.
Mark McClam was at a Crayton Middle basketball game watching his son play against Alcorn Middle when he first saw Seventh Woods.
“I knew he was a nationally ranked player, and his name definitely stands out,” McClam said. “But I didn’t know much about him, and I didn’t think about it after that.”
TRAINING FOR FUTURE
The Woods decided to have Seventh finish middle school at Hammond, a private school on the opposite end of the city from their home in North Columbia.
“Some people question our decision to have him at Hammond, but he is there for academics, because college is the next step for Seventh,” Louis Woods said. “We believe that he has enough talent in basketball to be successful at whichever school he plays for.”
McClam became the boys’ basketball coach for Hammond at the same time Seventh enrolled, and this time he took notice.
“His basketball intellect and his athleticism are off the charts,” McClam said. “We try to make sure that we add to his game, that we put games on the schedule that will challenge him. And we have several coaches on staff that have played college basketball and professionally overseas to help guide him.”
While leading the Skyhawks with 19.3 points and 4.3 rebounds per game through his freshman season, Woods worked with a personal trainer to add skills to his repertoire.
Trainer Marseilles Brown, owner of Hoops and Life Basketball Training, had heard of Woods when they began working together in 2011.
“But he was holding back,” Brown said. “It took six months before I saw the Seventh Woods that you see in the highlights. One day, he just broke out. He just started working as hard as he could.
“And that’s a lot of what we work on now; him not holding back. It’s not just the moves, it’s training his brain,” Brown said.
The trainer spends an hour at a time drilling Woods on footwork and ballhandling, helping him develop a convincing shot fake, making him shoot jumpshots from out of bounds.
Woods tunes out his trainer’s goading as easily as he does jeers from opposing fans. He grits his teeth and works harder, until he has sweat through his two shirts.
Brown and McClam said Woods’ even-keeled approach is half the key to his success.
“He does not rattle, he does not ruffle. You would not know if he just dunked on you or he just got dunked on. He is just that composed,” McClam said.
“As good a basketball player as he is, he’s that humble, that respectful, that genuine,” Brown said. “The good and the bad, he doesn’t let any of it go to his head.”
As Woods career continues, his profile is likely to increase and the comparisons are sure to keep coming.
In most cases, Brown said, those appraisals are inaccurate, though not totally unfounded.
“Ninety-five percent of people on the Internet don’t know what they are talking about,” he said.
But Brown, a southern Virginia native who knows Allen Iverson, cannot help but make some comparisons of his own.
“He’s the best 14-year-old I’ve ever seen. I was playing with Allen Iverson at his age, and he’s head and shoulders above that,” Brown said.
All of it might be flattering to Woods, if he felt it applied to him. But he prefers instead to focus on his own course.
“Being compared to Lebron James at this point in my life, it doesn’t mean too much right now, because I know I still have a long way to go,” he said. “Maybe it means that people see some doors open for me, but I’ve still got to work hard to keep those doors open.”
In the gym with Brown, the comparisons are there for motivational purposes, to remind the boy of what he should aspire to.
Because, despite his name, Seventh Woods knows neither he nor God has finished working yet.
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