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Player of Week: Woodard II gives new-look Falcons leadership

 

Adam Minichino

 

 

You name it. Robert Woodard II can do it. 

 

Statistically, the 6-foot-7, 220-pound senior forward has done a little bit of everything for the Columbus High School basketball team. Woodard II leads the Falcons in scoring at 19.5 points per game. He also is the team's leading rebounder at 9.9 per game. 

 

Throw in 11 double-doubles and 2.4 assists, 1.7 steals, and 2.1 blocked shots per game and you begin to wonder what Woodard II doesn't do. 

 

But the numbers tell only part of what Woodard II means to the Falcons. 

 

With three new additions to the program, Woodard II also has had to be a leader to help transfers fit into the style of play under first-year coach Anthony Carlyle. 

 

If that isn't enough, Woodard II has grown into a more vocal presence and a motivator. As a result, Woodard II is letting his emotions show more and his passion to come through on the court. 

 

On Saturday, Woodard II put all of his roles together and delivered one of his best games of the season. Woodard II had season highs of 36 points and 19 rebounds to lead Columbus to a 63-41 victory against Cordova (Ala.) in the 27th-annual New Albany Kiwanis Hotbed Classic. Woodard II's performance earned him his team's MVP award. 

 

"I just felt good," Woodard II said. "I can't really explain it. I was able to do whatever I wanted to whenever I wanted to." 

 

On Jan. 23, Woodard II started the week with 11 points in a 48-34 victory against Tupelo that helped Columbus (16-6 overall) improve to 3-0 in the district. 

 

For his accomplishments, Woodard II is The Dispatch's Prep Player of the Week. 

 

"He just did it in a different fashion," Carlyle said. "He hit two threes, he made some nice, mid-range pull-up jump shots, he caught it in the post and finished, and he got some offensive rebounds and finished. It wasn't just one thing he did. He just did a lot of everything to be able to score. I just think that is what you have to do to score." 

 

The Columbus girls will play host to Tupelo at 6 tonight in the first game of a girls-boys doubleheader. The boys game is scheduled to start around 7:30 p.m. 

 

Woodard II, who will play basketball in the fall at Mississippi State, is averaging 19.5 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.7 steals, and 2.1 blocked shots per game. The 2017 Gatorade Mississippi Player of the Year has emerged as an even more versatile threat on a team that features senior Denijay Harris and senior newcomers Casey Smith, Aaron Johnson, and RJ DeLoach. 

 

Against Cordova, Woodard II was 16-for-30 from the field, including 2-for-4 from 3-point range. He had 12 offensive rebounds to help him record a season high overall. He added two assists and two steals to help Columbus win its fifth game in a row. 

 

"I have stepped my rebounding up a lot," Woodard II said. "I try to advance every year as well as push my teammate every day. If I feel the vibe is down at practice, I try to get them pumped up or do something to get under their skin to make them want to work harder." 

 

Woodard II said he has learned to talk to his teammates in a different way and not to get on them if they make mistakes. Instead, he said he has tried to be more encouraging and to pick them up if something happens. 

 

Woodard II said his ability to relax and to let his emotions come through on the court has helped him blossom. 

 

"I don't feel as tight as I used to, so it is more like a pretty smooth game and being calm with the players at the right moment keeps the right vibe," Woodard II said. "It has expanded my horizons as far as how I should get my message across."  

 

Carlyle agrees Woodard II has learned how to motivate and lead his teammates. He acknowledged trust had to be built since he is the program's fourth coach in as many years. But he said Woodard II has taken the message to heart and accepted the encouragement of the coaches to be more vocal. 

 

"I have been on him all year about being that," Carlyle said. "I think that was a little out of his comfort zone because he is kind of a mild-mannered guy and he goes in and does his work. That is great, but I just think to take that next step you have to be able to push the people that are around you. 

 

"I think in the last month he has done a great job buying in to what I have been asking him to do and being vocal and being a guy that is pushing guys at practice every day." 

 

Woodard II said he feels comfortable with his teammates and believes the Falcons are starting to jell. He feels he has played a key role in helping the new players adjust to life in Class 6A and that the Falcons are in position to make a run at a state title if they continue to improve and to embrace Carlyle's defensive principles. 

 

"I like where we are," Woodard II said. "I feel like during the Christmas break when we went to the Arby's Classic (in Tennessee and finished second) we really found ourselves and came together and found the style of play and how we wanted to play."  

 

Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor

 

Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.

 

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