Gopher Sports: Introducing Daja Woodard

Ignatius L Hoops

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Closing out the series, it's Daja Woodard, a 6'3 junior college transfer from Mobile, Ala. She played in 21 games as a sophomore for Jones College with 18 starts, averaging 9.3 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.7 blocks and 1.2 steals per contest as she helped lead the Bobcats to the Region 23 Tournament championship and a spot in the NJCAA Division I National Tournament. Woodard spent her freshman season at Pensacola State College where she nearly averaged a double-double with 14.8 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per contest while shooting 48 percent from the floor.

GopherSports.com: What made you decide on Minnesota?
Daja Woodard:
"What made me choose Minnesota was the whole program in general, including the staff and team. I just felt like I was at home when I came on my visit; everybody welcomed me."

GS: Were you aware of Coach Whalen as a WNBA player?
DW:
"Yes, Coach Whay was the player that got me to watch the WNBA. I wasn't watching until I found out who Coach Whay was. I would sit in front of the TV every game to watch her.

GS: What drew you to her?
DW:
"I want to be a guard so bad so it was her guard skills, her pass game and leadership. When her team was down, she would be the one picking them up, talking and communicating all the time. That's just the type of player you need on your team, and I feel like that's something she can pass on to me and that would make my game better."

GS: Obviously COVID has altered just about everything in the country. How did it affect last season for you?
DW:
"We made it to the regional championship and won, so it stopped there for us before we went to Nationals. I was kind of devastated because I wanted the season to go on, but then again I want everyone to be as safe as possible. So if that meant we had to stop right there, then that's what we had to do."

GS: What were you able to do to keep your game up once your season ended and before you got here on campus?
DW:
"Anytime I could get in the gym I would. The coaches would send us certain workouts to do if we could get to a gym, or they would give us workouts if we didn't have a gym. I would just stay on top of it and do what they tell us to do for that week just to stay in shape and come prepared when I got here."

GS: Have you noticed a difference in level of play from junior college to now with the Gophers?
DW:
"Yes, you have to hold yourself way more accountable here. You have to make sure you get in the gym on your own time, make sure you're paying attention to the plays, overcommunicating, everything."

GS: Have there been any particular teammates that have helped you with your transition to Minnesota?
DW:
"Yeah, I would really say that the whole team has, but Diva (Hubbard) and Jazz (Powell) have really told me certain things that they think I need to know and stuff they've experienced. They've told me certain pros and cons of being a student-athlete at D-1."

GS: For fans that haven't seen you play, how would you describe your game?
DW:
"Unique. I'm good defensively and offensively; there isn't too much I cannot do on the court."

GS: There's a clip on YouTube of you dunking. When did you first realize you could dunk?
DW:
"I realized eighth grade year when I transferred from one school to another. I had a coach really sit me down and tell me that I had a talent that's unbelievable and unique. He said he just really wanted me to tie in to it. I asked him what he meant, and he told me that I could jump out of the gym, I just didn't realize it. He said if I was willing to learn, he could teach me how to dunk. So I let him teach me and I've been dunking since the eighth grade."


GS: What was that feeling like the first time you did dunk?
DW:
"I was so excited. I felt like I just broke a world record or something. I know there aren't too many female dunkers."

GS: Have you dunked or tried to dunk in a game?
DW:
"I've tried but I missed. I tried my 10th grade year of high school and then last season at my last school. Both times I let the ball go, like I tried to grab the rim or jumped too hard and it bounced off the back of the rim."

GS: You're going to wear No. 0. Is there any significance to that number?
DW:
"I chose No. 0 like it's a new beginning. When I switched from my first junior college to my second, I didn't want to wear the same number. I wanted to make a new mark for myself and put out a new name."

GS: Did you know that no one has worn No. 0 before at Minnesota?
DW:
"I know, I'm going to make history."

Off the Court with Daja
Favorite Food:
I'm from the South so any type of Southern food; my favorite meal is fried pork chops smothered in gravy, rice, homemade mac and cheese, collard greens with hot sauce and cornbread.
Hidden talent: I know how to cook; I don't have a best dish but if you name it I can cook it.
Favorite WNBA Player: Coach Whay
Favorite Basketball moment: I have two. In high school my freshman year we made it all the way to the championship, but we lost. But I did set a record with 22 rebounds. And then in junior college, when we won a national championship because that was my first time ever winning a ring
 
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