The sweat poured down Seventh Woods’ forehead as he crouched down during a break from a workout at the A.C. Jackson Wellness Center.
The Columbia native and former Hammond standout was back in a familiar place this past week in the hot, steamy gym that Woods’ trainer Marseilles Brown called “the dungeon.”
Brown put Woods through a tough workout that focused on Woods’ explosiveness and hundreds of jump shots. Woods looked frustrated at times.
He had a lot on his mind during the 90-minute workout.
A decision looms on where Woods will finish his college basketball career. He announced last month he would be leaving North Carolina and playing somewhere else for his senior season. His top choices for his next college are South Carolina, Gonzaga and Michigan.
But what might be on his Woods’ mind the most is how to regain confidence that had been lacking the last few months. That is Woods’ goal over the next year or so before he can step on a court in a real game situation.
“I’m just focusing on me, mold myself into a gym rat, spend a lot of time around people I put my trust into on and off the court and build myself into a better player,” Woods said after the workout.
Those people include Xavier Miller, a close friend who played at Gray Collegiate and now at Erskine. They also include Brown, who has been working with Woods since he was 11 years old.
Brown, like Woods, transferred during his college basketball career and left Richmond for Hampton. He understands what Woods is feeling and hopes to bring back his confidence and swagger that he had coming up through the high school ranks.
“You can tell he wasn’t playing like he was capable of playing, which is often the case from going from high school to college,” Brown said this past week. “He looked like he wasn’t allowed to do anything.
“My job is to hone his skills, same thing we did when he was younger. I just wanted him to know that he is still that guy. I believe in him. I haven’t seen too many people like him, and I just want to bring that out in him.”
Woods’ star began to rise as an 11-year-old when clips of him hit YouTube. His mixtape as a 14-year-old has more than 15 million hits on YouTube. As a sophomore at Hammond, one of his dunks earned top play on ESPN SportsCenter — beating out a dunk by LeBron James.
The 6-foot-2 guard was a four-star recruit coming out in high school and was S.C. Gatorade Player of the Year as a sophomore in 2014. He helped Hammond win the SCISA 3A state championship.
Woods eventually chose the Tar Heels over South Carolina and Georgetown. At UNC, Woods had his moments and was part of the Tar Heels’ 2017 national championship team.
Woods, however, described his three years at UNC as a “roller coaster ride” filled with many ups and downs, including injuries and lack of playing time. This past season he had his best game as a Tar Heel with 14 points in a win over Gonzaga but averaged just 2.5 points and 10.5 minutes per game on the season for the Heels.
“Beginning of season, my confidence is where I thought it needed to be. But middle of season, I kind of hit a couple of bumps and faced a lot of adversity, so it took a little dip,” he said. “I lacked confidence in my last year at Carolina and am using this year to get my mind back straight, be with the people I love and be with the people that will push me. I know what I am capable of. I’ve just got to be confident and show it.”
Woods began contemplating leaving UNC near the end of ACC play. He discussed it with his parents when the Tar Heels’ season came to an end after a loss to Auburn in the NCAA tournament.
UNC coach Roy Williams sat down with Woods twice following the season, and Woods made his intentions known that he wanted to leave the program. He became just the fifth player in Williams’ 16 years at UNC to leave.
“I told him I wanted to put my name into transfer portal. He did what a coach is supposed to do. He pitched me to stay, of course,” Woods said. “But he understood what I was going through and tried to help in any way possible. But just made a decision and haven’t looked back since then.”
He is focused on rebuilding his name and his game, and he liked the phrase “Seventh Woods 2.0” during a recent interview in describing the next phase of his basketball career.
This next year will go a long way in helping determine that. NCAA rules won’t allow Woods to play in a game at his new school this coming season, but he will be busy adapting with his teammates and learning the new system at wherever he decides to go.
Woods said it will be a blessing not to have the spotlight on him this season while he rebuilds his game for what he hopes to be a big senior season and possible pro basketball career down the road.
“Definitely want to play basketball for money and support my family in any way possible,” he said. “I came too far not to play basketball after college. All my life that is what I wanted to do. I have a realistic chance and want to see where basketball can take me. Use this year sitting out as a jump-start for my confidence and kind of staying under the radar, not having any pressure.
“I honestly hope people forget about me next year so I can take the world by surprise my senior year. I feel the ability is there, my IQ is there. Only two things have been holding me back is injuries and confidence. If I’m confident in my game and having a coach that is confident in my game, I feel like I can take my game to another level that nobody has seen — even me.”