“A Swiss Army Knife”: Sydney Wood adds another tool to her toolbox

By Eric Rynston-Lobel

Last year, Lindsey Pulliam called Sydney Wood “the glue” to the Big Ten championship roster.

“She does all the little things that may not come up as much in the stats and everything or may not be talked about as much, but she does all the little things that we need to get done,” Pulliam said.

As such, Wood often flew under the radar.

But Head Coach Joe McKeown couldn’t have asked for much more from Wood, who ranked in the top-three on the team in assists, blocks and steals. Entering 2020-21 though, McKeown challenged Wood to become a consistent scoring threat as well. After losing Abbie Wolf and Abi Scheid, the ‘Cats needed to find new scorers on offense. McKeown knew Wood was more than capable.

“The one thing I’ve asked her to do is basically be positionless,” he said in late October. “She’s creating her own shot now. Just gives us that weapon of another option to score. She’s finishing, and that’s something she’s worked really hard on.”  

In Monday’s 80-51 win over Minnesota, she scored a career-high 19 points, while adding eight rebounds, an assist, a steal and a block. This comes on the heels of a 14-point performance against Eastern Illinois in the season opener.

“I came out today, and I was playing really confident,” Wood said after Monday’s win. “My teammates, everybody shared the ball really well, so the defense wasn’t really able to focus on one person. I was just able to take my opportunities when I had the chance. Our bigs were setting really good screens, and we ran some really good sets, so I was able to get downhill and do what I wanted to do.”

McKeown called Wood a Swiss Army knife after the game, reiterating her ability to play any position and play it well. He knows he’ll need more performances like this one if his team wants to repeat as Big Ten champions this season.

“She really doesn’t care if she scores, defends, rebounds — just a great all-around player,” he said. “I was happy that she was able to get out and attack and was really aggressive offensively, and I think that helps us. She plays both ends of the floor as hard as anybody we’ve had here in awhile.”

The biggest difference between this year’s team compared to last year is size. After losing the 6’4” Wolf and the 6’2” Scheid from the starting lineup, the offense has evolved to play at a much quicker pace with four guards and Courtney Shaw (6’0”) at the center position. 

This allows Wood to have more opportunities to score in transition and continue to show that she can do it all.

“I feel like her mindset this year is also understanding that she can score the ball at will, and I genuinely believe that,” Veronica Burton said of her teammate. “I think everyone on this team believes that, and it’s very difficult to stop her in practice every single day. Her mindset changing and being aggressive on the offensive end consistently has been huge for us.”