Huskie star builds family legacy

Courtney Woods, women’s basketball junior guard, dribbles past her defender in the Huskies’ 84-77 home loss March 5 to Eastern Michigan.

By Eddie Garcia

DeKALB — Not every kid can say they grew up being coached by a professional basketball player, but that was the reality for one NIU athlete for whom basketball is a way of life.

Courtney Woods, women’s basketball junior guard, began shooting a basketball shortly after learning how to walk.

At just 3 years old, her mother, Dana Woods, formerly Dana Fish, bought her daughter an indoor children’s basketball hoop that Courtney immediately became attached to.

“Because I played, my husband played and her older brother and sister played, she just grew up on the court,” Dana said. “[Courtney] definitely showed her love for the sport at an early age. She had an indoor hoop before she had an outdoor hoop and was already shooting at the age of 3.”

Dana was a basketball player for the Sutherland Sharks, a professional Australian basketball team located outside of Sydney, for nearly a decade.

Before her time with the Sharks, Dana attended the University of Idaho where she was an All-Time Letter winner from 1980-1984. She left as the No. 2 leading scorer in school history with 1,335 points and No. 3 in blocked shots with 82.

Dana was known as a shooter, something she instilled in her daughter. She said she hardly ever drove inside to score the ball, despite the 3-point line being added a year after her career as a University of Idaho Vandal.

“I kind of grew up knowing how good my mom was,” Courtney said. “I always looked through her clippings from high school when I was a kid, so I knew that she was insanely good, but I probably didn’t realize how good she was until I looked up her records.”

Courtney frequently attended her mother’s games for the Sharks at an early age and was almost always seen dribbling on the sidelines.

She was running give-and-goes in the backyard with her mother at the age of four and played for the junior club team of the Sharks around the age of 7.

Dana said by the time she was hitting the courts, she could do layups with either hand on a 10-foot basket.

“She has always been pretty good,” Dana said. “She always liked [basketball] and always worked hard. She had good all-around skills, didn’t have any bad habits and just really loved the game. Courtney was the only kid that coach would have them run line sprints and she’d be smiling the whole time.”

Courtney played for a variety of club teams, joined different organizations and attended multiple basketball camps as an adolescent.

Dana said she knew when Courtney was around 12 years old that she may be able to follow her footsteps and play collegiately in the states if she wanted to.

“We coached her a lot ourselves, so I knew that she was good enough,” Dana said. “I went on to the Next College Student Athlete website that [organizations] have, and I loaded her film, which received an awful ton of hits. I then narrowed it down to the top 10 schools that I thought she had a shot at, and then we did a big recruiting trip.”

Ironically, Dana said NIU was not on the list of the original 10 schools, which included Cornell University, University of Texas-San Antonio and St. Francis College in New York, among others.

To some extent, Courtney accidentally became a Huskie after one of the assistant coaches reached out for a quick detour on her two-week long recruiting trip. As soon as the meeting was over, she almost immediately felt she belonged at NIU.

“She liked NIU the best,” Dana said. “We all liked it almost instantly after the meeting.”

Courtney recently finished up her junior season as a Huskie and shares an increasing amount of similarities to her mother’s collegiate career.

The junior guard currently ranks No. 10 on NIU’s all-time scoring list with 1,520 points. Similar to her mother, who remains a career-record holder for the Vandals to this very day, as she ranks No. 10 in scoring and No. 7 in all time rebounds with 778.

If Courtney can have a repeat year in the 2018-19 season, she would finish as the No. 2 leading scorer just like her mother did when she graduated from the University of Idaho in 1984.

Through the guidance of her family, Courtney’s efforts on the court have made a huge impact on her team’s success. Lisa Carlsen, women’s basketball head coach, said she has high hopes for Courtney’s future.

“She is going to work in the offseason for what may be a future possible pro-career for her,” Carlsen said. “I don’t want to say she is focusing on it like it is a distraction because it is absolutely not, but I think it is time as kids get farther and farther into their career to have a little bit more of those pointed conversations on the ‘then what?’ I think that can only be positive for her and only can be positive for the team.”

Courtney said playing professionally is something she has always wanted to do throughout her life.

“I always wanted to play in Europe, and I think this year is definitely kind of time where I realized ‘ok I can definitely do that’,” Courtney said.

From her first shot at age three, to a possible all-time made 3-point field goal leader at NIU, there is no roof to what this Brisbane native can achieve.

“If you have no weaknesses, they can’t stop you,” Dana said.