January 6, 2013
By Kelly McHugh
The 2013 season was a challenging year for K-State junior guard Ashia Woods, to say the least.
Last January she tore her Achilles tendon, a season-ending injury, and was forced to sit on the sidelines while undergoing rehab.
The normal recovery time frame for an Achilles injury is about 12 months, but Woods recovered in only nine months - and she made her 2013-14 season debut on Nov. 28, in Freeport, Bahamas, during the Wildcats' matchup with SMU.
"It's getting better, but it's just a mental thing that I'm trying to push through," explained Woods. "You can't be nervous, timid or lack toughness, and that's something I'm going to try not to do because of my injury."
While 2013 may have been a struggle, Woods' has overcome it, and has proved that she's ready to make 2014 just the opposite.
In her first performance of the new year, the Wichita native scored 27 points against none other than No. 9 Baylor, one of the nation's toughest teams. In her first eight games back, she is averaging 10.9 points and 4.7 rebounds per game and has 22 steals.
"For only my eighth game back, it's still kind of surprising to me that I'm putting up the numbers I am," said Woods, "and not just scoring-wise. That's not all I focus on, rebounds, steals - I didn't quite expect it coming back from an Achilles tear, but it's really exciting to see that I can do these things and it builds my confidence."
Though off the court, Woods wasted no time during rehab. When it came to practice with her team, she looked in from the outside. She watched her teammates in drills and studied her coaches as she listened to their corrections. She became a student of the game and had the opportunity to notice things about basketball that she didn't necessarily catch on the court in the heat of practice.
She was forced to see the game's bigger picture from the sidelines and chose to study it to improve her own game.
"I understand more of what the coaches want from us and what it takes," explained Woods. " I listened more because I couldn't do anything else - I didn't start running again until the end of August - there was a lot more just learning."
Now, feeling that her basketball smarts are better than ever, Woods reflected on the most important thing she learned during her recovery period:
"To be tough, to be mentally tough, to know the game is going to have a lot of changes. There's going to be runs and you're not going to play well every day. You're not going to make shots all the time, so to do what you do best and know what you can control: defense, rebounding - the little things."
Teammates see it too. Senior forward Katya Leick said Woods' smarts and intensity coming into the Big 12 season is a breath of fresh air for the Wildcats on the court.
"Coming off of injury, to be able to do so well and go in so aggressively, have no hesitation, it's great," Leick said, "I wasn't really worried about her being nervous. I think that Ashia's ceiling is unlimited - the sky's the limit for her - and the one thing that I can say is that we can expect that she's going to work hard. The points that come with it and the rebounds that come with it are great, but other than that, we always know that she's going to be there for us and that's really exciting."
And it's not just her teammates that notice Woods' tough mentality. Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey had nothing but good to say about Woods on Jan. 2, after her team took on the Wildcats in Bramlage Coliseum.
"If she does that every night, they're going to win a lot of ballgames," Mulkey said about Woods' performance against the Bears. "She had a breakout night, and if she does that every night, they're going to have a great year."
With the sky as her limit, Woods knows as her team's Big 12 Conference schedule continues to get harder. It's going to take toughness from the entirety of the K-State women's basketball team.
"(My goal) now is to lead these freshmen to become tougher," Woods said about her hopes for the rest of the season. "We can't do it without them, and I just want them to know it's grind time. It's time to grow up, mature and get some tough wins."
K-State (6-7, 0-2 Big 12) will return home after a tough 67-53 loss at Texas yesterday afternoon and take on Oklahoma State at 7 p.m., on Jan. 8 in Bramlage Coliseum. The game will be televised on FOX College Sports and aired by the K-State Sports Network.
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