During his three seasons over four years at two different universities, Keyshawn Woods never played on a team that won a game in the NCAA tournament. He never suited up for a team that won more than 19 games or for a team that finished better than 10th in its conference. Just once did his team finish better than .500.
Woods averaged double-digit points off the bench last season for Wake Forest, but the Demon Deacons went 11-20 and finished second to last in the ACC. He figured it was time for a change.
“I pretty much just wanted to win,” Woods said last month at Ohio State basketball media day. “Just wanted to be in a winning culture. Just really wanted to win.”
He took a few visits, checking out Virginia and Louisville, before settling on Ohio State for his redshirt senior season. Woods said the team’s camaraderie ultimately sold him on it being the best option, but the Buckeyes likely wouldn’t have even been in play had they not surprised the country last year with a 25-9 record and second-place finish in the Big Ten.
For someone who was set on playing for a winning program, Woods couldn’t help but notice the success.
“It showed that coach Holtmann's a winner and he can bring a group of guys together,” Woods said. “That played a big factor into me coming here because of the man he is and the culture that he's built in just one year. For me, it was huge. And then, when I came on my visit and was actually around the guys, I can see why they won. And that's what drew me to come here.”
Woods is one of Ohio State’s five newcomers, but he’s the only graduate transfer on this season’s team that has just two other seniors – C.J. Jackson and Joey Lane. The Buckeyes lost four seniors, including Big Ten player of the year Keita Bates-Diop and Jae’Sean Tate, to graduation, so both production and leadership voids exist. Woods is expected to help full both.
“Keyshawn? Old man. All that comes with that in a good way, like wisdom, experience and wanting to do the right thing the right way.”– Micah Potter
In the offseason, Holtmann realized the team “desperately needed” a veteran perimeter player, so he targeted – and landed – Woods.
“He's been really solid for us. Kind of what we've expected,” Holtmann said two weeks ago at Big Ten media day. “I think he's waiting a little bit to assert a level of leadership. I think he wants his teammates to observe how he works on a day-to-day basis. But, as you mentioned, he is critical for this group.”
In both at Wake Forest, Woods averaged at least 25 minutes per game and scored double-digit points per game.
Coming off the bench last season, he averaged 11.9 points, 1.9 assists and 2.5 rebounds per game while hitting 43.9 percent of his shots from the field and 37.4 percent of his 3-point attempts. In the prior season, Woods put up 12.5 points, 3.5 assists and 2.5 rebounds per game on 49.5 shooting from the field and 43.8 percent shooting from deep in 33 games, including 22 starts. Before playing for Wake Forest, he spent his freshman season at Charlotte, where he put up 8.4 points per game off the bench.
Jackson will start at point guard for the Buckeyes, but the 6-foot-3, 205-pound Woods will factor into the team’s plans at the point both alongside Jackson and when the returning starter heads to the bench for a breather.
“I think those guys are pretty interchangeable in how they play,” Holtmann said. “Now, they're not as interchangeable defensively because C.J.'s a better defender than Keyshawn right now. But they're definitely interchangeable offensively.”
Woods said he believes Jackson and him complement each other since they both share the ball “really, really well” and get everyone involved. However, his versatility allows him to play both wing positions, as well. There’s a chance Woods starts at the other guard spot alongside Jackson.
“He's a solid player right now, has a terrific feel for the game, which means he's going to play a significant amount of point guard for us, as well as off the ball,” Holtmann said. “Really all three perimeter spots.”
Ohio State doesn’t necessarily have a plan set for which position it intends to play at Woods the most, Holtmann said, instead opting to go with wherever it needs him in different games.
Woods and Holtmann have been clear in discussions dating back months about where he can have the biggest positive impact on the team, though.
“Really big leadership role and being productive on both ends of the ball,” Woods said. “Really spreading the ball, getting people involved and being an offensive threat scoring-wise, as well.”
Though he’s been in the program for much less than a year and didn’t experience last season’s success, it’s important for him to build trust and take a veteran approach to the team that has four freshmen and three sophomores.
“Keyshawn? Old man,” Micah Potter said. “All that comes with that in a good way, like wisdom, experience and wanting to do the right thing the right way.”