In August, Darrick Wood watched as the NCAA ruled four of his NIA Prep (NJ) teammates ineligible to play college basketball.
A few days later, the 6’3” rising senior committed to St. John’s. It was then that he knew he needed to make a change.
“[NIA Prep] was having some school issues and problems with the NCAA,” Wood told JohnnyJungle.com. “I just didn’t want to be associated with that.”Wood chose to transfer to Bridgton Academy, located in small Bridgton, Maine, for his senior season, before heading to college.
And along with that came an adjustment.
Bridgton, Maine, boasting a population of 2,751, has very little in common with Wood’s hometown of Washington, DC, and is equally as different from Newark, NJ, home of NIA Prep.
A website for the town lists “100 Things to Do In Bridgton,” among them, “#13 Hunting partridge in a quiet meadow” and “#29 Ice fishing in a bob-house on Moose Pond.”
Some call it “simpler living,” some call it just plain “different.”
But this departure from the norm has given Wood a chance to slow down and work toward his goal: playing for St. John’s.
“[Bridgton] is an all-boys school in the middle of nowhere, so you get to focus,” says Wood. “When you want it so bad, you make those sacrifices because something good is going to happen in return.”
Wood is a lanky, athletic combo guard who is ranked just outside of Rivals’ Top 100 for the Class of 2012, checking it at #104. He is a pure scorer and has the bounce to be a match-up problem against less athletic 2-guards, along with the size to create a problem for smaller point guards.
He averaged just over 14 points per game for NIA Prep last season and was part of a New Jersey Playaz team that won the iS8 championship this Fall.
Wood committed to St. John’s on August 20th, almost three weeks after his newly-found friend and fellow Class of 2012 commit Ricardo Gathers of Riverside Academy (LA) did the same.
“I liked the coaching staff. They really know what they’re doing,” said Wood on his decision to commit to the Red Storm. “I know they were there for Kyle [Anderson] too, but they were out at a lot of my games this summer and showed me love.
“My big concern was my mom being comfortable with where I was going and St. John’s felt like one big family and they welcomed me in.”
Wood says he and Gathers text on and off and they discuss where they see the program going.
“The Cinderella season they had last year showed that the coaching staff matters,” he says. “And with me and Ricardo coming, we’re going to tear it up. We’re bringing back the old St. John’s. We’re just going to be excited to be there.”
Since his move to Bridgton, Wood has put in the work on the court and in the classroom, according to his coach, Whit Lesure.
“He’s off to a good start. He’s adjusted fine academically,” Lesure told JohnnyJungle.com. “He’s a good kid, a ‘yes sir, no sir’ kind of guy. Teachers and advisors really like him.
“On the court, he flips the switch and he’s emotional and competitive, which are two great things to have as an athlete. In addition to athleticism and bounce, he has a great motor.”
Fellow St. John’s commit Amir Garrett, who was ruled ineligible to play for the Red Storm in the first semester of the 2011-2012, is also at Bridgton Academy and is working toward eligibility. The two have become friendly, of late.
“Me and Amir are cool. We played a few games together and we have that St. John’s bond,” says Wood. “He says he’ll be ready [for St. John’s] in December.”
Along with Garrett, Gathers, and ineligible center Norvel Pelle, Wood attended St. John’s Tip Off 2011, an event that he says he enjoyed.
And though he will not step onto campus and enroll in classes for at least another eight months, Wood is quickly becoming a fan favorite because of his presence on social media, where he consistently voices his support for St. John’s and his excitement to arrive in Queens.
“I made a commitment that I was going to be [a member of the Red Storm],” says Wood. “If I have something to say about St. John’s, it’s just me tweeting my excitement. I can’t wait to be in that red and white jersey.”