James Woods has grown used to the fact that on first impression, the basketball world has so often second-guessed him.
The fact that those judgements have been proven wrong at every step of his journey hasn’t fazed him in the least, however, and just to prove that point, the senior point guard from Langley’s Walnut Grove Secondary put an absolute exclamation point on his B.C. high school career over the weekend at All-Star festivities in Richmond.
The B.C. high school Quad A championship MVP as a Grade 11 in 2017, Woods led his Gators back to the dance last month as a senior, and although Walnut Grove was unable to repeat as provincial champs, he was still able to put a final stamp of vindication on his career by dominating the proceedings during all-star weekend.
Woods was not only selected the MVP of the showcase Quad A vs. Triple A all-star game after scoring 14 points, including the contest’s final bucket off a tough runner with 10 seconds remaining to seal a 96-92 Quad-A victory (full box score below), the 6-foot-1 point guard also won the weekend’s slam dunk contest.
To Woods, the disappointment of not winning the B.C. title in his senior year left what he calls a lasting void.
Yet there is no question that one of the province’s more diminutive stars took pride in the fact that he answered the challenge each game of playing as B.C.’s reigning top-tiered MVP.
And that’s no easy task.
“It was definitely a cool experience to be named the MVP as a Grade 11,” he said, “and with that, there came a challenge every game this year… and to have that target was a real challenge for me. It was kind of like being on an obstacle course. But it was cool to find ways to overcome that, to find the best way to solve it and find solutions for myself.”
B.C. high school AAAA MVP as an 11? B.C. high school all-star game MVP? B.C. high school slam dunk champion?
Is this the same kid the basketball world has continually second-guessed? Is this the same kid who still hasn’t gotten his definitive post-secondary basketball scholarship offer?
WHY HE’S ‘BOY WONDER’
From the time he first started to play basketball as a third grader with Drive Basketball, James Woods has existed within something of an underdog environment.
“He is probably the biggest gym rat I have ever seen in Drive history,” says the program’s founder Pasha Bains. “He came in Grade 3, and he is completely self-made.”
His nickname back then was Boy Wonder and for good reason because Woods, a small player at every stage of his career, has never failed to exceed the expectations of those who stood on the sidelines in judgement with a show-me attitude.
“The best thing about his career is that he wasn’t supposed to be good enough in Grade 8, then the same thing in Grade 9, and then again in Grade 10,” says Bains. “That nickname, it stuck, and in the end, Boy Wonder never went away. I couldn’t be more proud of his high school career. Stats wise, with an MVP and he won the title? I think it’s one of the best ones we’ve seen, and in the beginning, who would have thought that?
“We live in such a critical age when kids are smaller,” Bains continued. “But James always believed in himself. Who would have thought that he would win a dunk contest?”
READY TO PROVE HIMSELF AGAIN
Last Saturday, in a game filled with a galaxy of stars, Woods presence on the floor over the final seconds was huge for the victorious Quad A team.
Last season, the Triple A team beat the Quad A side. And on Saturday, over the dying stages of the fourth quarter, the game was tied 92-92.
Woods, however, was able to feed Semiahmoo’s Alberta-bound forward Adam Paige for a layin to break the stalemate, setting the stage for Woods runner.
“I know my teammates and coaches trusted me and they wanted me to take the last shot,” said Woods. “So it was an honour to take it.”
Byrne Creek’s Martin Djunga scored a game-high 28 points in the loss for the Triple-A all-stars and was named his team’s game MVP.
Hitting the final shot of his high school career, Woods will now take his act on the road with Drive over the next two weekends in AAU tournaments in Washington and Oregon, hoping his goal of a Div. 1 offer surfaces.
If that doesn’t happen, Woods says he will likely go the prep school route next season at either Orangeville or Huntington, each highly regarded in terms of their ability to get players to the NCAA D1 level.
That said, he adds that there are also great programs at the NCAA D2 and Canadian U Sports levels and that he is closing no doors.
“My goal is to play Div. 1 but playing time would also be a big factor,” said Woods. “I want to be involved right away. (NCAA) Div. 2 is also an option and there are a lot of good (U Sports) programs, too.”
He wants to reach the heights, just the way he did when he finished off the dunk contest with his final slam.
That’s the one where he met his own well-timed lob with a perfectly-timed right-handed windmill finish.
“I am a pretty stoic guy but that one made me react,”admitted Byrne Creek head coach Bal Dhillon, who, as the head coach of the Triple A team, was in the gym watching on Saturday. “He is not a really big guy, but the way he plays and the way he jumps is incredible.”
Not the biggest. Not the fastest. Not the flashiest.
“But he’s fearless and he’s a baller,” says Bains of a player who just has an innate ability to get things done. “Right now, there are so many little guys in Grades 3-7 playing youth ball,amd wondering about where they fit. Hopefully they all look at James Woods and see how he just worked his butt off to get where he is, how he didn’t grow to 6-4, but he he never listened to anyone about how he couldn’t get there. Now he’s at the top of his class.”
Boy Wonder. It still fits.
QUAD A 96 TRIPLE A 92
Jake Willemsen 5, Nishad Tarak 9, Bradley Braich 8, Vlad Mihaila 7, Jack Cruz-Dumont 9, James Woods 14, Adam Paige 11, Gabriel Takeawoa 8, Isaac Ickovich 15, Jusuf Sehic 10
Reid Jansen 11, Martin Djunga 28, Nick Sarai 19, Alex Wallace 4, Majok Deng 2, Bryce Mason 10, Daniel Afanasivevskyy 12, Giovanni Manu 9, Burke Brussow 2
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