So as I’m out of town this past weekend with limited access to the interwebs, of course big news comes in for UofL basketball. Tony Woods, a 6-10 center who was just granted his release from Wake Forest, will transfer to Louisville and should be eligible to play during the 2011-2012 season. That all sounds very simple and not too newsworthy, but in actuality, it is far from it.
There are two issues with consider with Tony Woods. First, the on-court effect. Woods is obviously huge at 6-10 and 250 lbs. Despite only averaging 4.6 points and 3.2 rebounds last season at Wake, he’s very talented and was a high school All-American (Jordan Brand).
The knock on Tony Woods is that he does not play hard all the time. I don’t know if that is reality or the perception, but reputable people in the college basketball world, who watch considerably more Wake Forest basketball than I do, back up the claim, so I think we can safely assume it’s accurate. Rick Pitino has had success in the past getting players to learn how to play hard, and based on that, I think this is a good move.
Also, considering the lack of ready to contribute big men in the 2011 recruiting class, which the Cards are still working on, the possibility of landing Woods generated a lot of interest from many schools. Looking at Tony Woods from an on the court, purely basketball perspective, I think this is a good move for UofL.
However, there is another element to this deal that stops me right in my tracks. Woods was recently arrested and plead guilty on misdemeanor assault charges involving his girlfriend (and mother of his child). According to police, Woods, while holding his child, shoved his girlfriend to the ground, which prompted the charge of assault in the presence of a child. That charge was dropped.
To me, putting your hands on a woman is one of those things that just crosses the line. If this were a misdemeanor charge because Woods got into a fight with a guy after an argument, that’s no big deal. It happens to a lot of people, athletes or not, so that would not bother me. But putting your hands on a female, regardless of what she’s done to aggravate you, is simply inexcusable.
There are those that argue, he’s a twenty year old father who simply lost his head and made a mistake. He’s not the first one to ever do this, he does not have a history of acting in this manner, and deserves a second chance.
I actually agree with every bit of that. Tony Woods is learning how to be a father, on top of learning how to be an adult himself. It cannot be easy for anyone in that situation. In my opinion, Woods does indeed deserve a second chance. However, I am just not convinced that second chance needs to be here at Louisville.
For the record, Rick Pitino and his staff apparently did their due diligence on Woods. According to reports, before they brought him to campus, Pitino spoke with a LOT of people close to Woods and after those discussions, was convinced this was a risk worth taking. That research, if you will, at least reassures me somewhat that this was not a knee jerk reaction from a coach desperate for a ready to contribute big man in 2011.
I am not saying this move cannot work out, or that I can’t eventually get behind it. If Woods comes to UofL, goes to class, practices hard, is a good teammate, and doesn’t get so much as get a parking ticket while he’s here, then I will get on board. It would be the classic redemption story, which all of us like to see. Having said that, I still don’t think it’s the right move.
We are coming off a year of off-court issues involving our coach and his indiscretion with a woman who he hooked up with, then was extorted by. Not exactly a boatload of positive press comes out of that. Even though the UofL basketball program itself did nothing wrong, it suffered as a result of our coach. The Cards lost a lot of momentum, particularly in recruiting. In my opinion, the last thing this program needs is another negative headline or ammunition for those schools recruiting against Louisville.
Again, this could work out. Woods could come to UofL, be a model citizen, perform well on the court, and help the Cards win a Big East title. Not that it has to work out exactly that way, but if it develops along those lines, then I will admit to being wrong and applaud the move. However, as of right now, I just don’t think it’s the right thing to do.