Girls basketball: Riverside standout Wood doesn’t mind to hand out rejections
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The NBA's all-time leading shot blocker, former Rockets center Hakeem Olajuwon, once said "blocking shots is an art, which is all about anticipation and timing."
Riverside sophomore center Brittany Wood is painting a pretty picture in the low post.
Wood has gained so much respect around the state as a shot blocker that saying opposing players adjust their shots would be a gross understatement.
A case in point would be that, by the second quarter of this week's game against Ripley, the Vikings were not just wary of taking shots in the paint. They quit even looking for them.
Still, the 6-foot Wood ended up with 10 blocks on the way to a triple-double that included 16 points and 13 rebounds.
"She's the best (post player) I have seen in the state," Coach Scott Garretson said. "Her game speaks for itself."
Wood is averaging 16.6 points, 12.2 rebounds and 7.0 blocked shots per game for the Warriors, all with opposing defenses concentrating on her and with an inexperienced backcourt trying to get her the ball.
It is not difficult to trace the roots of her success. While Olajuwon was nicknamed "The Dream," Wood is simply a dream to work with.
"She's very coachable and a great team player," Garretson said. "She dedicates herself year round to basketball and improves every day."
When Wood is not on the basketball court, she usually can be found studying.
She carries a 4.625 grade point average while taking Advanced Placement classes.
"I am the nerd in my family," Wood said. "School is something I love, just like basketball, and I take my grades very seriously."
A self-described "chunky little kid," she was pushed to get involved in sports when she was 8 years old to lose weight and get fit.
Considering her family background, basketball was the natural choice.
"Basketball runs in my family," Wood said. "My mother (Nichelle Payne) was an All-Stater at East Bank and my dad played for Valley."
Her grandparents also played, but in other states.
"It's hard to go back in my family and find somebody that didn't play and wasn't good at it," Wood said, matter-of-factly.
That sort of family tradition could put a lot of pressure on a youngster. Wood does not look at it as a problem, though.
"I use it as motivation," she said.
Locating where she gets her shot-blocking prowess from is a little more difficult.
"I honestly could not tell you," Wood said. "Everybody thinks it has a lot to do with jumping, but really it's about timing."
Actually she often does not even leave her feet when blocking the shot of a smaller player. She also does something else that nearly all coaches teach and nearly all players ignore. When Wood blocks a shot, it is almost always straight down, where she can grab it. Often she seems to take the ball right out of an opponent's hands as the shot is released.
"That's what all the coaches say to do," Wood said with a shrug.
While shot blocking has come pretty much naturally to her, there are a couple of other areas of the game she has had to work on quite a bit. One is on the court.
"People know her and they will do whatever they can to make sure she doesn't see the ball," Garretson said. "But she has learned to really hit the boards and does a great job on the offensive glass."
Against Ripley half of her buckets came on putbacks off the offensive glass.
The other area she has improved greatly in involves attitude.
"I've really improved my confidence and don't get down on myself as bad as before," Wood said. "I'm a perfectionist and that makes it hard."
Another reason she expects a lot from herself is her 12-year-old brother.
"I want him to look up to me," Wood said.
At the rate she is going, there are going to lots of people looking up to Brittany Wood before long.