You can measure the height of a basketball player, and Nebraska senior guard Emily Wood is listed at 5-foot-5 on the roster.
That can make it more difficult to make it on a college basketball team, but Wood has done so, first as a walk-on, and then as a scholarship player. And now she’s making her biggest contributions during her final season.
Due to some players starting the season injured, or being injured since then, Nebraska has used a few different starting lineups. Wood has started the Huskers’ past two games, the first starts of her college career.
You can measure height, Wood says, but that’s not everything.
“One thing that I’ve always been a huge believer in is that while size, speed, strength, those are skills and attributes that people can measure and really look at, but I’ve always been a huge believer that your mind and your brain is another one of those things,” Wood said. “And heart, and even though you can’t see those two things, being able to bring those every single night, I think that’s been able to give me a chance to play at this level that maybe other people wouldn’t have thought that I could do.”
Wood has seen her playing time go up each season. She played in 10 games as a freshman, 21 as a sophomore and 29 as a junior.
This season she’s played in all six games. She is averaging 5.0 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 17.7 minutes per game. She is shooting 52.6 percent (10-of-19) from the field, including a team-best 58.8 percent (10-of-17) on three-pointers.
Wood is from Salina, Kansas. One of her club coaches was the father of former Husker assistant coach Dayna Finch, and that’s how she got on the Huskers’ radar.
“Through the recruiting process I had some different options, and a few scholarships at some Division II, and lower-level Division I schools, but it was always my dream to play at the highest level I could, and when I was offered a walk-on spot here, given everything that Nebraska has to offer, and the position it would put me in after basketball, it was really difficult to turn down,” Wood said. “It just worked out well, and it’s been really a dream come true.”
Wood also played soccer and volleyball growing up, but there was always something special about basketball.
“I just always had a passion for basketball,” Wood said. “Growing up, me and my dad would spend hours and hours in the driveway, or in the gym just getting better. I was just drawn to it, and love the game.”
While she didn’t play much as a freshman, the Nebraska coaches decided to reward her hard work in practice with a scholarship before her sophomore season.
“That was like the coolest moment ever,” Wood said. “That was something that I had been dreaming of for a long time. I got to make that phone call to my parents. I’ll remember that month for a long time.”
Her work ethic also shows in school. Through college credit classes that she took in high school, and summer school courses taken before her freshman year officially began, Wood was close to being a sophomore in status the fall of her freshman year.
She needed only three seasons at Nebraska to graduate with a degree in management.
“That was a pretty neat moment as well, to get my degree, because that’s a huge piece of being a student-athlete is earning that degree,” Wood said. “It’s also been a huge blessing to get to continue on scholarship and work on my masters. That is going to be able to set me ahead when basketball is over.”
Wood is working on her MBA. After this season her goal is to become a college basketball coach. She’s already been accepted into a program for aspiring coaches that’s held during the NCAA Final Four each season.
She’s had a lot of great coaches who have invested in her as a player and person, Wood said, and she’d like to do the same thing as a coach.
“And I’m competitive, so I think I would have a really hard time doing something not in the sports world, if I’m being honest,” Wood said.
This season Wood is trying to set the bar for the rest of the team with her work ethic in practice and games. She thinks the Huskers (4-2) are off to a good start to the season.
“I think one neat thing about this team is that there is not necessary a superstar, but a lot of people who have worked really hard and can bring what they bring every single night, and together I think we can be a really good team in that aspect,” Wood said.