Before taking the court for Penn’s season opener on Nov. 11, Antonio Woods had not played competitive basketball for a period of 1 year, 10 months and 9 days.
During his time off, which included an entire year — the spring and fall semesters of 2016 — when he could not attend any classes because of an academic suspension, Woods learned a lot about himself. He learned to budget his time better. He learned he wants to be a basketball coach someday.
But more than anything, the break helped him gain a new perspective on life, like when he worked at Temple University Hospital as a “transporter,” moving patients to different areas of the building.
“I would move patients to get CAT scans or MRIs or different types of tests,” Woods said Tuesday. “I would also take bodies to the morgue, so it was really humbling.
“I met a lot of patients who weren’t necessarily doing well, so just hearing their stories and seeing what they were going through really humbled me, hearing everything that had happened in their lives. It was just amazing to me how patients could still be upbeat despite everything that’s going on.”
Woods, a junior majoring in sociology, said he feels great to be back on track academically. He values receiving an Ivy League degree, which is why he did not consider leaving Penn and going somewhere else.
The 6-foot-1 guard called it “kind of surreal” to be back with the team. He was permitted to practice after his reinstatement last January but he sat out from competition “to get his feet back underneath him academically,” coach Steve Donahue said.
“I couldn’t be more proud of him,” Donahue said.
“Obviously, with the disappointment of basketball being taken away and how he reacted to it, he did an incredible job,” he said. “He went out and got himself two jobs and paid the bills and figured it out and made sure that he’s back on track for his degree and worked on his game in the meantime to prepare to help the team.”
Woods also worked with the Philadelphia Youth Basketball Organization and became a camp intern last summer. His duties also included mentoring youths in the organization’s Middle School Partnership Program.
Woods has started all 17 games for Penn (12-5, 3-0 Ivy League) and is averaging 8.2 points per game. It’s where he wants to be.
“Being part of the Penn basketball program in the Palestra every day, it’s just different,” he said. “So I’m not taking anything for granted. I’m just taking it one day at a time. Each game is a different opportunity. It’s being a part of something special.”