Guard Tray Woodall evolves into scorer after slow start to Pitt career
February 4, 2013 10:00 AM
Pitt''s Tray Woodall drives to the net against Syracuse's Trevor Cooney in the second half Saturday at Petersen Events Center.
By Ray Fittipaldo Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
It was apparent from the start that Tray Woodall was an adept passer. In his first college game in 2008, he dished out five assists in 15 minutes against Fairleigh Dickinson.
Scoring, on the other hand, wasn't as easy. In 10 games that season, which was shortened because he took a medical redshirt, Woodall never scored more than four points.
Woodall eventually grew into the role of a scorer and tonight he can do something only six others in the history of Pitt basketball have achieved.
With 22 points against Seton Hall, Woodall will become the seventh player in school history to score 1,000 points and dish out 500 assists.
After scoring 13 points in Pitt's 65-55 victory Saturday against Syracuse at Petersen Events Center, Woodall has 978 career points. He already has 542 assists, having surpassed the 500-assist milestone recently in a loss at Rutgers.
Seton Hall (13-9, 2-7 Big East) vs. Pitt (18-5, 6-4), 9 p.m. today, Petersen Events Center.
Coming off 65-55 victory Saturday against Syracuse. ??? Has won five of its past six games. ??? Lost at Seton Hall a year ago, but has won five of the past seven in the series. ??? Playing Seton Hall for the final time as a member of the Big East Conference. ??? Leads the all-time series against the Pirates, 31-21.
Coming off 65-59 loss Saturday against Cincinnati. ??? Two Big East victories have come against DePaul and South Florida, the only two teams behind the Pirates in the Big East standings. ??? Coach Kevin Willard played at Pitt from 1994-97 when his father, Ralph, was coach. ??? Led by Fuquan Edwin (16.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg), Eugene Teague (12.0 ppg, 7.7 rpg) and Aaron Cosby (11.6 ppg, 2.6 rpg).
Pitt has won the past four home games against Seton Hall by an average of 18 points.
The list of others that reached 1,000 points and 500 assists reads like a who's who of Pitt's all-time great guards. It includes Brandin Knight, Carl Krauser, Jerry McCullough, Sean Miller, Levance Fields and Darelle Porter.
"It would be an honor to join those guys," Woodall said. "I know when I got here no one expected me to do it."
Woodall has been tutored by two of the players on the list. Woodall was recruited by Knight, who has been on Jamie Dixon's staff since 2008 after serving as Pitt's point guard from 1999-2003.
And Woodall received on-the-job training from Fields, who played with Woodall for one season in 2008-09.
While Knight, a four-year starter, and Fields, a three-year starter, were fixtures in the lineup from the beginning, Woodall's career path was much more circuitous.
For starters, he came to Pitt with much less fanfare. Woodall did not start for his high school basketball team as a senior. Under legendary coach Bob Hurley at St. Anthony's High School in Jersey City, N.J., Woodall came off the bench for a talented team that included five other seniors who signed with Division I schools.
How good was that St. Anthony's team?
Tyshawn Taylor scored 1,580 points and had 575 assists at Kansas. Florida's Mike Rosario, who played his first two seasons at Rutgers, has 1,471 points. Jio Fontan has 965 points and is completing his career at Southern California after transferring from Fordham.
Woodall had a hard time cracking the starting lineup at Pitt, too. He started 11 games as a redshirt freshman when an injury sidelined Jermaine Dixon for the first part of the season and four more as a sophomore when Pitt earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Last season was supposed to be a breakout season for Woodall, but it turned out to be his most frustrating one. He only played in 28 of 39 games because a sports hernia forced him to miss 11 games in the middle of the season. He played hobbled the final 20 games and had to take pain-killing injections before games just to suit up.
Woodall had surgery in the summer to repair the sports hernia and he has not missed a game this season. He leads the team in assists (5.6 per game) and is second on the team in scoring (10.8 ppg), behind Talib Zanna (10.9 ppg).
Woodall has reinvented himself over the years. There was a time when fans cringed when he shot a 3-pointer. He made just 1 of 12 attempts from behind the arc as a freshman. He shot 27 percent the next season and 29 percent the following season.
Now he's one of the team's best outside shooters. He improved to 38.6 percent last season and is shooting 37 percent this season. More than one-third of his 978 points have come from behind the 3-point line. He can thank his improved shooting stroke when he becomes the 41st player in school history to reach 1,000 points.
"It would mean a lot to do it," Woodall said of scoring 1,000 points. "There have been a lot of great players here. But I'm not focused on it. I'm just doing whatever I can to help the team win."