“Jeremiah Wood loves surprising people. Whether it’s getting on the honor roll in his final year at Central-Hower High School and scoring a 21 on his ACT, both of which he needed to be eligible to even step on college basketball court, or graduating with a degree by the beginning of the fall semester-which many thought he couldn’t do and now is on pace to-he relishes in proving detractors wrong.””
Jeremiah Wood loves surprising people.
Whether it’s getting on the honor roll in his final year at Central-Hower High School and scoring a 21 on his ACT, both of which he needed to be eligible to even step on college basketball court, or graduating with a degree by the beginning of the fall semester-which many thought he couldn’t do and now is on pace to-he relishes in proving detractors wrong.
Wood, a senior on UA’s 19-8 basketball team, can add another to his list of surprises. After tearing the lateral meniscus in his right knee-the same knee that forced him to sit out half of his freshman season and all of his would be sophomore season, one month ago- Wood made it back to the court faster than anyone could have hoped.
When Wood was forced to sit out the second half of the Zips 20-point loss to Western Michigan because he knocked knees in the trenches three times, on top of playing on a knee with a torn ligament that he didn’t yet know about, the outlook wasn’t positive. He couldn’t bend his knee-at all.
Originally they thought he would be able to return by the Mid-American Conference tournament, but that sounded more like Keith Dambrot was standing at a well, flipping pennies in while wishing out loud.
When Wood came back from his previous knee injury, it took him almost an entire season to regain his form. Around this time last season, the hulk-like center strapped the Zips on to his extra-wide shoulders and carried them within seconds of an NCAA tournament birth.
This year, however, Wood had less than four weeks to prep for the tourney-but he didn’t waste any time. He started rehabbing his knee the day after his knee surgery by riding on a stationary bike for 12 pain-filled minutes.
He has rehabbed and had his knees treated everyday since the injury in an attempt to be at full strength for the MAC tournament.
This is all that matters, Wood said. You can lose every game to this point and win the MAC tournament and you get a ring, you get to the NCAA’s and you make history.
Which is something that will be difficult to do if Wood is anything less then conditioned.
Right now, the Zips are in second-place in the MAC East Division. They’re two games behind No. 23 Kent State and lead Ohio University by one game, the final two UA opponents of the season.
The Zips are four games ahead of Miami (Ohio) with three games to play, so they are guaranteed a first round bye in the MAC tournament, and can grab any of the top four seeds. Western Michigan, on the other hand and other division, has four games remaining; all against the much weaker MAC West. Barring a collapse they’ll finish with 13 conference wins and will grab one of the top two seeds.
As always in the MAC, there is a lot of uncertainty and the tournament seeds will likely be decided on the final day of the regular season at Rhodes Arena against Kent State.
Which is why Wood’s health is so integral. Since the practice in which Wood tore his knee, the Zips are 5-4 and have suffered losses to the likes of Northern Illinois and Central Michigan, two below average teams, although he only played in half of those games. His first game back, a 57-52 loss to Virginia Commonwealth, Wood said his mobility was fine but his leaping ability was hindered. He did record 14 points and 12 rebounds in 23 minutes, but shot 4-of-13 on field goals.
Not bad all things considered, but the Zips will likely have to go through OU, which has two top-notch post players, MU who has arguably the best post player in the conference in Tim Pollitz or Kent State who have very active big men.
With Wood’s bum knee and the inconsistent play everywhere else, the Zips season in doubt.
But Wood is looking at the situation as one last chance to surprise everyone.
That’s all I do, he said. People say I can’t do something and I go out and do it.