It was UNC over USC for Hammond’s Seventh Woods.
The highly-touted senior’s love of North Carolina and playing in the ACC won out as he picked the Tar Heels over the Gamecocks on Wednesday – the first day of the fall signing period.
Woods made his announcement in the gymnasium, in front around of about 1,000 people at Hammond High School. Among those in attendance was South Carolina women’s basketball player A’ja Wilson, a former Heathwwood Hall standout and close friend of Woods.
After a few remarks, Woods’ mother Monica, handed him a bag and he pulled out the UNC hat as the crowd made a loud roar.
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“I went with my heart,” Woods said. “It was definitely tough. Everyone was pulling me to South Carolina and wanted me to stay home and help build the program. “But North Carolina has always been my dream school. They are ranked No. 1 in the nation, so I’m going to the best school in the nation right now.”
Woods’ love of North Carolina started at an early age, and he wears No. 23 because of former UNC and Chicago Bull legend Michael Jordan. He said he hasn’t thought about what number to wear in college since Jordan’s 23 is retired.
Hammond coach Mark McClam remembers Woods wearing a UNC bracelet to school as an eighth-grader.
“North Carolina is a good fit for him. South Carolina would have been a good fit for him,” McClam said. “But at the end of the day, he followed his heart and ended up at North Carolina.”
Woods’ announcement drew anticipation, not only in Columbia but across the county and his name was trending on Twitter Wednesday morning.
Woods said he made up his mind Monday and kept his choice hidden from everyone except his mother and father. Monica Woods said it was 50-50 between UNC and USC, and her son spent much time in prayer leading up to the decision.
“I am very proud of him. It was really tough,” Monica Woods said. “South Carolina is great. They recruited him well and became like family. He had to go with his gut feeling.”
Woods called the USC and Georgetown coaches about an hour before announcing his decision. He said telling the USC coaching staff was one of the hardest things he has done, but they understood his decision and there was no hard feelings.
Woods told UNC coach Roy Williams on Monday night to let him know of his decision. He said Williams let out a big scream over the phone when Woods told him he would be a Tar Heel.
UNC started recruiting Woods when he was an eighth-grader.
“Roy Williams and his coaching staff, they believed in me from day one,” Woods said.
The 6-foot-1 guard joins center Tony Bradley and forward Brandon Robinson as Tar Heel signees for the Class of 2016. The Tar Heels also are in the running for five-star guard Rawle Alkins and five-star center Udoka Azubuike.
According to ESPN, Woods’ addition gives the Tar Heels the No. 6 recruiting class for 2016.
“He breaks you down off the bounce and has the uncanny ability to get to the rim,” ESPN recruiting analyst Paul Biancardi said. “He is processing how to run a team and how to make the team better and set people coming off the ball.”
Biancardi said Woods can play point or shooting guard in college and will be a “committed defender” at the next level.
Woods is one of the top recruits in the Class of 2016 and is ranked 34th nationally by Scout, 35th by Rivals, 55th by ESPN and 56th by 247Sports. He played in the Under Armour Elite Top 24 game in Brooklyn, N.Y., in August.
Woods burst on the landscape as an 11-year-old when clips of him hit YouTube. His mixtape as a 14-year-old earned more than 13.6 million hits on YouTube. As a sophomore, one of his dunks earned top play on SportsCenter, beating out a dunk by LeBron James.
Woods averaged 16.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 3.6 steals in helping the Skyhawks win the SCISA 3A state championship last season.