Feb. 20, 2012
RALEIGH, N.C. - Redshirt senior Paige Woodard took a different path than that of her teammates in becoming a member of the NC State women's basketball team.
While the majority of the roster was heavily recruited by Division I programs out of high school, Woodard went on to play basketball at Converse College in Spartanburg, S.C., after graduating from North Raleigh Christian Academy in 2007.
After suffering a knee injury her freshman year, Woodard transferred to NC State, and tried out for the Wolfpack women's team.
"I tried out my sophomore year, which was my first year at NC State, and made it past the first cuts," said Woodard. "I had switched my class schedule around and was meeting the team doctor when they found out that I had played the year before. I had tried to tell them initially, but I guess there was just some miscommunication, and they realized I couldn't help them that year (due to NCAA transfer regulations), so they said the couldn't use me."
Woodard proceeded to join the team as a manager the following 2009-10 school year under new head coach Kellie Harper and her staff. She heard that the team would be holding tryouts, and decided to ask for the opportunity to try to make the cut one more time.
"I told coach Kellie, I don't want this to hurt my position as a manager, but i would love to try out," said Woodard. "She said sure, come try out, either way it won't affect your position as a manager. So I tried out but was told that they didn't need my services at the time."
Woodard stayed on as a manager for the team that season, but still had the itch to be on a Varsity team at NC State. So, she decided to give the cross country team a shot.
"Two summers ago, I started emailing [head women's] coach [Laurie] Henes about being on the team, just seeing if she needed a walk-on," Woodard said. "She gave me some times that I needed to shoot for in order to be on the team."
Woodard spent three weeks working the cross country camp that the NC State cross country team puts on each summer in Asheville, N.C. She was able to get to know Henes, as well as some members of the team, and get in some quality training in the mountains.
"After camp, coach Henes offered me a position as a walk-on, which I was pretty surprised about since I hadn't been able to reach those times yet," said Woodard. "The girls on the team were very welcoming and able to teach me about track and cross country, two sports which I had never done before."
Woodard was faced with a lot of adjustments upon joining the team in the fall.
"It was really tough in the fall, I was not used to running eight to 12 miles in a day, let alone at a certain pace," said Woodard.
Woodard was starting to get the hang of running, and had just competed in her first indoor track meet, where she ran the mile in 5:22.19, when she got a call from Harper. Guard Kim Durham had gone down with a concussion, leaving just eight healthy players on the women's basketball squad.
Harper asked Woodard if she would join the team, which was in Atlanta at the time, to play against Georgia Tech the next morning. Woodard accepted, and hung up her spikes for the opportunity to spend the rest of the season as a member of the women's basketball team. At the conclusion of the season, Harper offered Woodard a permanent spot on the roster.
Woodard has gone through a lot of adjustments this year in becoming a full member of the team, and feels that being a part of the team from the start, instead of joining midway through the season, has been highly beneficial to her.
"This year, as a full member of the team through the whole season, it's been great being able to get to know the girls from the get-go, instead of being thrown in in February when the team had already kind of meshed," said Woodard. "The plays came more naturally because I'd been here when they were first put in.
"Just the camaraderie of being able to spend six days a week with my teammates for a whole season, knowing coach Kellie and the coaching staff better, and being more comfortable with what my role is on the team, I think that's been very beneficial."
Woodard's main role on the women's basketball team is to help her teammates get better. She pushes people in practice, drawing on the endurance that she picked up from being on the cross country team to help her in the conditioning workouts. Woodard makes sure to do extra lifts and drills to improve her skills.
"Last spring, when coach Kellie said that I could stay on the team, she said playing time would probably be limited and she didn't know how much time I'd spend on the court," said Woodard. "I told her that that was fine, my goal would be to work as hard as I can to get on the court, and if I do then great for me and the team, if I don't then hopefully that means I'm pushing someone else to get better to earn that time."
Woodard also spends a lot of time running scout team, taking time to learn the opposing team's offense so that her teammates will be prepared on game day. The extra effort put in has not only helped her teammates, but has also helped Woodard's game. She scored her first bucket this season, at the Pepsi Rainbow Wahine Invitational in Honolulu, Hawaii.
"While we were in Hawaii, Breezy got a steal and hit me for a wide open layup in a game, and just to get my first bucket at NC State, that was huge," said Woodard. "I had hoped it would come sooner, or maybe more often, but I'm definitely thankful for Breezy passing that one up when she could have taken it in herself.
"Just getting that first bucket makes the rest of the shots that I've taken not quite as nerve-wrecking or emotional, so it was definitely a great point in the season."
Aside from helping her teammates out on the court, Woodard is also able to aid them in the classroom. A graduate student in teaching, with a middle grades social studies education concentration, Woodard has taken many of the classes that her teammates are currently enrolled in, and is able to tutor them as needed.
Woodard will graduate in May 2013, and will be certified to teach both social studies and math to grades 6-9. She has a minor in coaching, and hopes to teach and coach upon graduation.
By Bona Jones, NC State Media Relations Assistant