Believe it or not, we’re less than two weeks away from basketball season. That’s right, both men’s and women’s basketball games are right around the corner. To kick off our coverage of the 2021-22 coverage of the women’s team, we will preview each player on Northwestern’s roster. We begin to wrap it up with senior captain Sydney Wood, from Olney, Md.
Who she is
Senior; 5-foot-11, Olney, Md.; two-time All-Big Ten honorable mention; All-Big Ten defensive team.
34.4 minutes per game; 10.8 points per game; 2.9 assists per game; 5.6 rebounds per game; 2.6 steals per game, 1.1 blocks per game, 50.7 FG%; 25.0 3P%; 64.7 FT%.
In her second year as a starter for Northwestern, Sydney Wood continued to grow and maintain an already solid presence in Joe McKeown’s rotation. Primarily recognized for her defensive play, the senior took large strides on the offensive side of the ball as well, cementing herself as one of the most well-rounded players to step foot on the court in Welsh-Ryan Arena. With the loss of Abbie Wolf and Abi Scheid after the 2019-20 season, Wood needed to improve her offensive game, and that’s just what she did, doubling her points-per-game from 5.1 to 10.8, most of which she did from within the arc.
She continued to impress on the defensive side of the ball, albeit was overshadowed by fellow All-Big Ten defensive team member Veronica Burton. Wood led the Wildcats with 140 total rebounds and also collected a team-leading 28 blocks. Aside from her defensive team honor, Wood earned her spot as an All-Big Ten honorable mention and was recently named a team captain for the upcoming season alongside Burton and Lauryn Satterwhite. The senior has the respect of her teammates as well as McKeown himself, and she is poised remain a consistent contributor to this Wildcat squad, both on and off the court.
Wood’s most dynamic characteristic is her versatility — she has the unique ability to play pretty much anywhere on the court and succeed. Last year’s review would have polled the senior as a largely defensive player, almost acting as a distraction on offense while pushing the ball to her other four teammates for scoring opportunities. However, Wood improved in nearly every point category, boosting her overall field goal and her two-point percentage by around five points. She was the third leading scorer behind Burton and Lindsey Pulliam, and she maintained her role as a playmaker by contributing 73 assists on the season.
Again, you can’t mention Wood without mentioning her proficiency on defense. A keystone of McKeown’s blizzard formation alongside Burton, she was not someone opponents wanted to make sloppy offensive plays around, as she averaged 2.6 steals per game and frequently managed to slip in and disrupt offensive plays. Additionally, she cemented herself as one of the top 10 shot-blockers in the conference and recorded 79 defensive rebounds. As an anchor of the blizzard defense, Wood is a crucial piece in maintaining Northwestern’s defensive success and her experience will help acclimate the ‘Cats’ wealth of younger players to its complicated, fast-paced play.
While Wood’s offensive production improved drastically last season, some holes still remained in her play. The captain was not a fan of pulling up from downtown, with a whopping 97.8% of her shots coming from inside of the arc. Last season she attempted a total of eight three-point shots and only made two, putting her far below average by both team and conference standards. Her ability to make shots from the free throw line isn’t ideal for a starting player either, as she only finished 64.7% of her free throw chances, putting her in the bottom third of NCAA players nationally. Aside from shooting, Wood’s main drawback is her tendency to turn the ball over. For a player of her seniority, sloppy play shouldn’t be a factor, but Wood led the Wildcats with 2.2 turnovers per game last season. Though there aren’t many gaping problems in Wood’s play, there are some small tweaks the senior could make to clean up her play as the season begins.
In most simple terms, expectations are high for Wood this season. She has been a consistent starter for McKeown and her experience on this team is invaluable, especially for underclassmen on the squad. Without Pulliam and Jordan Hamilton in the starting five anymore, Wood will have to rise to Burton’s level in terms of her offensive play. Especially because Northwestern struggled scoring points last season, any improvements in Wood’s free throw and three-point shooting could be the difference between losing and winning close games. The senior should continue to play an integral role in McKeown’s blizzard scheme and maintain the defensive prowess Northwestern already displays, with improved offensive efficiency, Wood could be the other double-threat the Wildcats need to make another run at the conference title.