Guard adapts to US

By Krystal Ward

DeKALB | In August 2015, Courtney Woods, women’s basketball sophomore guard and forward, went from living 30 minutes from the beach in the suburbs of Brisbane, Australia, to the corn fields of DeKalb.

Culturally, Woods said she’s learned people are kind of the same whether in Australia or the U.S., but admits there are small things such as phrases, because of her accent, that are different.

“The language was obviously a big part,” Woods said. “Like, I obviously say my vowels a little bit differently. So, I say tomato [tu-mah-toh] instead of [tu-ma-toh], and I say bark on a tree like [Johan Sebastian Bach]. They come and go, so you kind of just notice it every now and then.”

She’s found favorite restaurants in IHOP and Potbelly’s—neither located in Australia. At Potbelly’s, she gets the big grilled chicken and cheddar with bacon, lettuce and mayo. At IHOP, she orders the breakfast sampler with the eggs over easy, Nutella crepes instead of pancakes and a chocolate milkshake.

Woods’ roommate and teammate Ally May, women’s basketball sophomore forward, said Woods enjoys IHOP so much, she’ll walk there by herself.

“The girl is obsessed with Nutella,” May said. “So the fact that [IHOP] have those banana-Nutella crepes, [she] gets a whole serving of that.”

Transitioning from high school basketball in Australia to collegiate basketball in the U.S. came with a few obstacles.

Woods was used to being the strongest player on her team, so playing in college was a big adjustment.

In her first year at NIU, the sophomore from St. Margaret’s Anglican School helped the Huskies earn an 11-19 overall record and 4-14 in Mid-American Conference play. This was a drastic difference from her high school record of 70-4, which included three championships in three seasons.

When Woods committed to NIU, Kathi Bennett was the head coach. Bennett abruptly resigned in April 2015, according to a May 2015 Northern Star article.

Woods then had the option to decommit from NIU and commit elsewhere, but liked the culture and attitude Lisa Carlsen, who replaced Bennett as head coach in 2015, brought to the table, so Woods decided to stay commited.

“I wanted to play,” Woods said. “That’s why I chose NIU, and I really wanted to build a program as well. I like that NIU is on the way up.”

Woods and Mikayla Voigt, sophomore guard, were the first freshman duo to score at least 300 points in their first season since 1986-87. Woods, who wants to break the record for three pointers in a game, said the team’s goal this year is to break the .500 winning percentage for the first time since 2007.

Basketball runs in the Brisbane native’s family, as her mother played collegiately at the University of Idaho from 1980-84.

Australia’s time zone is 16 hours ahead of the U.S., so Woods’ parents wake up at 3 a.m. to watch her games. She wears an Australian flag on the sole inside of her basketball shoes as a reminder of whom and what she’s playing for.

“It kind of gives a reminder of who you’re doing it for,” Woods said. “It kind of reminds me of my parents especially, like how much they gave up for me to come here and that I’m representing my country. Not many Australians make it out here, so I get to represent that which is really nice.”

Woods said she misses her parents and friends back home but doesn’t get as homesick as one might think. During spring and summer break, Woods sometimes travels with May to her home in Hartland, Wisconsin, but will travel to Seattle to spend Christmas with her grandparents.

Woods’ growth hasn’t gone unnoticed by May, as she has seen more independence from her roommate since last year.

“It’s always a little transition at first, figuring out everything,” May said. “It’s completely different. It’s her first time being on her own, let alone [living in] a different country, but I don’t think anybody can handle it better than she has.”