Newports News, VA (WAVY) - It's not every day a high school coach makes an immediate jump to the Division I ranks. Then again, the journey of Jermaine Woods isn't that average either.
Born and raised in Villa Heights in Norfolk, Woods grew up with his mother, his grandmother, his brother DeAngelo and his sister Dineisa. All of them shared a two-bedroom apartment in a rough part of town. Woods first made his mark on the hardwood playing at Granby High School, but the most important marks he made were on his report cards.
Woods' mother, Dinese, gave him the motivation and inspiration to push and work just as hard off the basketball court as he did on it. "My mom never missed a game; high school or college," shared Woods, "When I went to Belmont Abbey (College), she took that five-hour drive outside of Charlotte in Gastonia and just always kept things in perspective for me."
That perspective was simple: basketball only gets you so far. "(She would say) Get your grades. Don't be one of the guys in the neighborhood that thinks of what you could've done," remembers Woods.
Instead, he became one of only two African-American students to graduate Granby with honors in 1999.
On the basketball court, Woods played one year for Belmont Abbey before transferring to Christopher Newport University in 2000. Needless to say, he brought his jump-shot with him.
"When I first got (to CNU), I missed a shot in practice," said Woods, "Coach (C.J.) Woollum said, 'Why are you putting your head down? You have the ultimate green light.'
"Those were the exact words and ever since then, I've just been shooting the ball every time I get it."
Three years after hearing those words, Woods etched himself into the CNU record books. His 1,327 points rank tenth all-time in school history, while his 113 three-pointers in a season and 257 treys in a career are both school records.
After a brief stint playing overseas, Woods decided to put away the shoes and put on the whistle. He's coached the girls basketball team at Maury High School for the past three years. That stint ended with a phone call in late-June, after he interviewed for an assistant job with the Virginia Tech women's basketball team just a few weeks earlier.
"(Head Coach Dennis Wolff) called me up, and my life changed," Woods said, a smile stretching from ear to ear, "He called me and said, 'We want you on our staff.'"
Interestingly enough, the last time Woods heard life-changing words from a head coach, he ran with those words right to the record books.
Woods will help revive a Hokie program that finished last season 10-20, and suffered through a stretch during which it lost nine-straight games. Nobody can say whether or not his chapter in Blacksburg will have a storybook ending, but Jermaine Woods has no intention of letting one of his most important and lasting lessons be forgotten:
"Be a good person, be a good student and athletics will come," he says.
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