We are now less than two weeks away from the start of Northwestern women’s basketball! Next up in our player preview series is Sydney Wood, a player who looks to bring a spark in her return.
Who she is
Graduate student; guard/forward, 5-foot-11; Olney, Md.
Four games, 28.6 minutes per game, 3.8 points per game, 5.3 rebounds per game, 3.8 assists per game, 18.2 FG%, 0.0 3PT%, 58.3 FT%
Following a 2020-21 campaign in which Wood played in every game for Northwestern and was third on the team in scoring average (10.8 PPG), the grad student figured to be a major contributor to Joe McKeown’s squad in 2021-22. Though Wood started each of NU’s first four contests, the Maryland native went on to miss the rest of the season due to injury.
While a four-game sample size is anything but reflective, Wood’s scoring was not nearly as efficient or effective as it had been in the year before. Her scoring average dipped a full seven points per matchup, while her true shooting percentage of 27.5% was nearly half of the 54.5% clip in 2020-21.
When able to take the floor, Wood is a prototypical stat-stuffer. During her shortened senior season, Wood’s averages ranked second on Northwestern in rebounds, third in assists, second in steals and first in blocks. Talk about a player making her impact felt in nearly every facet of the game.
On an expanded note, Wood is a particularly stout defender. Per CBB Analytics, Wood’s 4.4% steal percentage was second on the 2020-21 ‘Cats (you can probably infer who was first). Likewise, Wood did well to avoid fouls, her personal foul efficiency of 1.45x ranking behind only Veronica Burton that season.
Offensively, Wood primarily shines at the rim: 52.1% of her 2020-21 field goals were within four feet of the basket, being converted at a 62.7% clip. This is especially critical when Wood is inserted as a guard, with her 5-foot-10 frame able to generate mismatches.
Yes, it was only four games of a 2021-22 season, but Wood’s numbers at the rim plummeted last year. The ratio of Wood’s shots within four feet remained relatively similar (54.5%), yet she cashed in on just 8.3% of those attempts.
The larger concern for Wood remains her ability to score when not extremely close to the tin. In her last full season, the grad student elected to take just 18.5% of her shots outside of four feet or the paint. Likewise, Wood has not found much effectiveness from deep, going just 6-for-27 (22.2%) from downtown in her career in Evanston.
Wood should also be careful not to lose the ball, too, having led the Wildcats in turnovers with 56 two years ago.
Being elected a team captain and coming off of a junior season in which she was named to the All-Big Ten Defensive Team, expectations were high for Wood last fall and winter before injuries cut her year short. When Wood announced her decision to return to the program in late March, many were assuredly excited about the potential of the grad student’s impact on and off the court.
For Wood, a major question remains durability, as she hasn’t played in a game since Nov. 21 at DePaul. How McKeown manages her workload, particularly by mixing in younger players like Mel Daley, will be compelling.
Regardless, Wood should reclaim a starting role in 2022-23. As one of the elder stateswomen of this team, Wood is undoubtedly a catalyst for its intended success in the upcoming months.