Calling from the Azores, a Portuguese island group, Antonio Woods had an incredibly positive tone. His kind, welcoming voice and openness was a refreshing reminder of the humility of one of Penn’s best basketball players in recent years.
The Cincinnati native had a decorated career at Penn. Entering the school in 2014, Woods sought to be a multiple-sport athlete. Starting at quarterback in high school and on the basketball team, Woods was determined to play both sports at Penn. However, the eventual five-time Ivy League Rookie of the Week ultimately decided to focus on basketball, starting in 15 of the Quakers' 28 games his freshman year.
After a solid rookie campaign, Woods started his sophomore year strong. The guard started the first 13 games and averaged 11 points per contest. However, an academic suspension forced Woods to leave the program for the next season and a half.
He came back for the 2017-18 year as strong as ever. Starting 32 of 33 games — only left on the bench for Senior Night — he averaged 7.7 points and 3.6 rebounds, helping lead the Quakers to an NCAA Tournament berth. The junior shined in the tournament, scoring double digits in a loss to top-seeded Kansas.
Entering his final season with the Red and Blue, Woods had solidified his position on the team. A mainstay on the court and a defensive anchor, he continued to start and averaged 10.1 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. He also recorded 16 points in Penn's 78-75 victory against defending champion Villanova.
A reliable contributor at Penn, Woods had always dreamed of playing basketball at the professional level. Although he did stay at Penn after his NCAA eligibility, Woods constantly kept his eyes on the next level of basketball. He worked incredibly hard to train and prepare himself for the jump after graduation.
His hard work paid off. After graduation, Woods signed with SC Lusitania, a professional team from the Liga Portuguesa de Basquetebol.
“That was my dream growing up, to be able to become a professional basketball player,” Woods said. “Right now, I’m just living that dream and I’m thankful for all the people that helped me among the way … everybody who played a part in my role at Penn and helped me graduate, I am very thankful for every single one of them.”
Based in the Azores, Lusitania has been proven to be a strong fit for Woods.
“The game is very similar to the offense we ran at Penn, so I thank Coach Donahue for that,” Woods said. “I even let him know that we have some of the similar sets, as far as the player movement and passing … of course playing with a shorter shot-clock has been an adjustment. A lot more possessions, a lot of quick looks, quick opportunities to score, set up your teammates, but overall, I would say it has been a smooth transition.”
Despite the change, Woods has proved to be an essential contributor to the team, averaging 12.9 points per game on 48% shooting from the field. His versatility is also showing through his 3.5 assists and 3.0 rebounds per game.
As his first professional season is beginning to wrap up, the 6-foot-1 guard is optimistic about the future.
SC Lusitania is sitting in a strong position in the league. Currently fifth in the rankings, the group has clearly improved since its 10th place finish the year before. When asked about the future, Woods says he has aspirations of one day joining the NBA.
“That’s the end goal. The NBA is the number one league in the world. If the opportunity presents itself, I would definitely be a fan of making that jump,” he said. “You know, I’m just getting started. This is my first year playing international so hopefully, I will be able to have a long career, and I would love to.”
Overall, Woods is happy with his first year and appreciates being exposed to different cultures.
“I’m learning a lot about the island itself and its history. I’m meeting a lot of people and trying to get down my Portuguese,” Woods said. “It’s getting there little by little … I love learning about different cultures, experience different food, meeting new people, just living life. I like to sightsee, I love traveling the world, so just to have this opportunity is a blessing.”
As his rookie year ends, it will be exciting to follow Woods' path. His mark on professional basketball has just begun, and he will surely be someone to watch moving forward.
All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.