Mind over matter: Walk-on is more than just an athlete

There isn’t much hardwood glory for walk-on basketball players. Junior walk-on Charonn Woods knows this better than anyone.

Yes, his minutes will be limited, but the satisfaction of simply playing the sport makes it a worthwhile experience.

“I love competing in practice every day against great players, even if I don’t see the floor during a game,” Woods said. “I feel like my role on the scout team has helped my teammates prepare for the opponent and given us that much more of an edge to win the game.”

While a lot of the public’s attention goes to the starters, the work of a walk-on is no less excruciating.

“You go through all of the same off-season conditioning drills and the same hard practices that your teammates go through, not expecting any significant minutes come game time,” Woods said.

During a season where senior guard Sam Maniscalco missed most of the season, Woods’ minutes have gone up significantly. With only one minute of playing time last  season, Woods has logged in playing time against anyone from Duke to University of Tennessee-Martin.

At Tennessee-Martin Woods scored his first points of his collegiate career, a feat he can recall with almost cinematic precision.

Woods stole the ball and ran the floor on a fast break off a defensive play by freshman Walt Lemon Jr.

“As I dribbled closer to the basket the defender set up to take the charge and my instincts took over,” Woods said.

With an opponent ready to take the charge, Woods faked a step one direction. When the player took the bait, Woods jolted to the other side and finished.

“It felt great to see my teammates and coaches cheering for me,” Woods said. “It felt even better to see my dad, who had driven three-and-a-half hours from St. Louis, sitting on the sideline as I made my first basket as a Brave.”

The focus and dedication needed to score just one basket is apparent in Woods’ account, but his ability to turn that focus and dedication off the court is just another example of what separates Woods from the average college student.

“I was blessed to be able to start off my collegiate career focused,” Woods said. “I came in knowing that I wanted to go to medical school and that this would require maximum effort in the classroom every day.”

After joining the team last year and balancing a 4.0 GPA, Woods has had to make some sacrifices.

“I had to put down my Xbox controller,” he said. “I used to play faithfully, but with academics and athletics eating up 70 percent of my time, my life as a gamer is no more. I play from time to time, but I use what little free time I do have to maintain my social life.”

Even though Woods has had to sacrifice quality time with the Xbox 360 and study for an exam the night of his 21st birthday, he said being a part of the men’s basketball team is something he will never forget.

“Being able to travel and be a part of collegiate athletics is an experience like no other,” he said.