When James Woods entered high school, he set some ambitious goals — winning a provincial title all five years with the Walnut Grove Gators basketball program.
“I wrote that on a piece of paper and put it in my room and tried to work towards it every day,” he explained. “But obviously that was a pretty tough goal to accomplish.”
Ultimately, he came up short of that goal, but did manage a fairly spectacular five years with the Gators.
In both Grade 8 and 9, Walnut Grove was third in the province.
In Grade 10, the Gators finished second — although the team which beat them, Brentwood College, was forced to later vacate the title after it was discovered they had used an ineligible player.
Woods won most valuable player the following year as the Gators claimed the BC 4A boys title while this past March, the team came seventh. And while they finished off the podium, they can take solace in the fact they lost in the quarter-finals to the eventual bronze-medal winners, with Woods earning a provincial first team all-star honours as well.
His success doesn’t surprise Pasha Bains, one of Woods’ coaches with the Richmond-based Drive Basketball, a club program.
Woods first came to Drive when he was in the third grade.
“Even back then, you could tell he was special,” Bains said. “And his passion for the game has never changed. You could tell basketball was something special he was meant to do.”
At six-foot-one, Woods does not dominate physically, but he plays bigger than size, never afraid to drive the lane and use an array of moves.
“Ever since I was young, height never really phased me. I just had the mindset that whatever happens, happens,” he said.
“Just trying to have that killer mindset, that killer instinct, wanting to be the best and play to the best of my capabilities.”
Accolades haven’t changed him either.
“You can feel his passion and heart when he plays the game,” Bains said. “And you could see how much his play uplifted his teammates and inspired them to be better. Basketball-wise he is one of the most skilled young players I have ever seen.
“His mix of dribble moves, floaters, off the dribble three-point shots were among (the best) I’ve ever seen in B.C. high school basketball. He lives for the big moments and always plays his best in the biggest games.”
And while his high school career may be done — Woods capped it off on Saturday, hitting the final shot in a 96-92 victory at the BC boys all-star game in Richmond, earning MVP honours in the process — the 17-year-old is nowhere near done with the game.
He is in Bellevue this weekend and Portland the next with Drive on the AAU circuit.
The goal is to land a scholarship offer, preferably south of the border at a Division 1 program but Woods is open to playing either Division 2 ball or stay in Canada at the U Sports level, should it be the right fit.
If not, his plan is to play a year of prep school basketball, either at Huntington Prep in West Virginia or in Orangeville, just outside of Toronto.
All of this is being done in the pursuit of Woods’ ultimate goal: playing professionally.
“I am going to do whatever it takes,” he said.