Woodruff leads from Wildcats’ bench

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Woodruff leads from Wildcats’ bench

Xander Fu

Xander Fu

Xander Fu

Hanson Lee, Senior Sports Reporter

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Men’s basketball forward Sage Woodruff may not be a starter for the Wildcat’s this year, but his success coming off the bench has had a major impact on the team thus far.

Woodruff grew up in Los Angeles, California where he has played basketball for as long as he can remember.

“My dad put the ball in my hands when I was one or two years old,” Woodruff said.

Woodruff would eventually attend Fairfax High School in Los Angeles where he had the opportunity to be a part of a rich basketball environment.

Woodruff said that the aspect of Fairfax basketball that benefited him the most was the coaching, especially having the opportunity to play under legendary head coach Harvey Kitani.

“It’s the culture down there, basketball’s a major sport at Fairfax,” Woodruff said. “It was exciting playing for [Kitani] and learning new things every day.”

For Woodruff, having both the experience and learning opportunities at the high school level helped shape him into the current player that he is today.

Woodruff began his college career at Riverside Junior College near his home in Los Angeles. It was there he would spend his first two years competing at the collegiate level.

After his time at Riverside Junior College, Woodruff wanted a change of scenery and was looked to venture outside of his home state of California. This led to Woodruff finding his new home beyond state lines at CWU.

Woodruff said that he found a liking for CWU, specifically the basketball program because he already knew some guys from California that were on the Wildcat basketball team at the time, making CWU a better fit for him.

Although it was tough leaving behind family and friends, Woodruff said that transitioning from a big city to Ellensburg has helped him grow up.

“It was a culture shock,” Woodruff said. “I had to get used to being in a small town.”

Woodruff is a senior this year and is in the process of playing his final season as a Wildcat. Even though this is only his second season with the team, Woodruff’s experience on the court has helped him move into more of a leadership role this year.

“This year he’s done a much better job as far as stepping up,” said Drew Harris, assistant head coach for the men’s basketball team.

Woodruff has become a presence on the court for the Wildcats this season. In 19.7 minutes per game, Woodruff is third on the team in scoring, averaging 10.5 points per game and has strongly contributed towards the offensive flow of the Wildcats this season.

“I worked real hard over the summer,” Woodruff said. “It’s been gratifying to see it pay off.”

From a coaching standpoint, Harris said that Woodruff’s abilities as a versatile scorer on the offensive end of the basketball court has made him a strong asset for the Wildcats this season. With the contributions that Woodruff has been able to provide for his teammates coming off the bench, Harris praised Woodruff’s ability to consistently score and always be there for his team in games.

“He’s very talented, probably one of our best offensive players,” Harris said. “He can score from shooting the ball or he can score from driving the ball.”

Fellow teammate, Malik Montoya reflected on what his experience was like first connecting with Woodruff the moment they became teammates at CWU. Montoya said that he remembers joining the team and hearing about Woodruff’s abilities as a scorer, but watching him shoot the basketball was a different experience.

“We were in practice and he was shooting lights out,” Montoya said. “He’s like our sixth man… He doesn’t need to start, but as soon as he comes in he’s pretty much known as an all-star player.”

Like Woodruff, Montoya was also a transfer athlete who joined the basketball team last season. Montoya said that this made it easier for them to connect as teammates because they could both relate to playing in different basketball environments at the collegiate level.

For Woodruff, being able to improve his game and build chemistry with Montoya and the rest of his teammates has been an enjoyable experience, and has motivated him to work even harder on the basketball court.

“Change always starts with yourself,” Woodruff said.