From many, there will be one. And while there’s still no guarantee contending athletes will win their own state at this point in the season, a number of elite performers are making a case for Gatorade National Boys Basketball Player of the Year consideration. Here’s the scoop on the latest top candidate.
Hammond School (Columbia, S.C.)
Greatness Present: Those who have seen him in action certainly know what Seventh Woods can do when he’s healthy. This is a young man, after all, who has been described, with apologies to ’Nique as a human highlight reel.
This season, however, the future Tar Heel has proven that even when he isn’t 100 percent, he’s still darn good. Though he’s been battling a knee injury this winter, Woods is still averaging 18.5 points, five assists and 3.1 steals per game for a Hammond squad that is ranked No. 18 in the USA TODAY Sports Super 25 Expert Rankings.
Then again, Woods is no stranger to overcoming adversity. It was just over a year ago now that he was mourning the tragic loss of his grandparents, who perished in a house fire. Back then, less than 24 hours later and while playing with a heavy heart, Woods managed to pour in 37 points in a Skyhawks win. It’s doubtful, then, that he’ll let a knee contusion keep him down long in his quest not only for a second straight South Carolina Independent School Association 3A championship, but also for his second Gatorade Player of the Year honors in three seasons.
In the meantime, Hammond seems to be holding down the fort while their star player recovers. The Skyhawks (22-2) held on for a thrilling 65-60 triple-overtime win over Ben Lippen (Columbia, S.C.) last week.
Even if Hammond is proving they can win without Woods, his return from a bruised left knee that has already kept him out two-plus weeks is critical. And Woods is surely out to prove he’s not injury-prone (he missed much of the AAU summer circuit with a wrist fracture). After all, if you need a player who has the ability to fly above the defense for a slam dunk, Woods is your man.
Greatness Past: In addition to leading Hammond to the South Carolina Independent School Association championship as a junior last season, Woods also earned Gatorade South Carolina Boys Basketball Player of the Year honors as a sophomore in 2014 when he averaged 20 points, 4.1 assists and four steals per game. He also was a member of the USA Basketball Men’s U16 National Team that went 5-0 and won the 2013 FIBA Americas U16 Championship in Uruguay.
Greatness Future: Woods has committed to play for the University of North Carolina after being courted by the likes of Georgetown and South Carolina.
Make no mistake: The Gatorade State Boys Basketball Player of the Year races aren’t over, and the National POY race is now heating up. Time remains for one standout student-athlete among thousands to rise to the top of our list. Check back for daily updates on the top contenders making their case.