Rhode Island’s Class of 2020 took significant shape – early – with the commitment of Maryland native Elijah Wood.
A consensus 4-star recruit, 247 Sports ranks the 6-foot-5 Wood as the fourth best player in the talent rich mid-Atlantic state and 104th best player in the 2020 class nationwide. Among combo guards nationally, Wood ranks ninth.
Originally ticketed for the bayou, Wood de-committed from Tulane after a coaching change there and held offers from recent national championship game participant Texas Tech, along with Ole Miss, Auburn, Georgia Tech, Florida, and about a dozen others (per Rivals.com).
I connected with Wood for an in-depth conversation about his recruitment, fit with the Rams, playing style, and more. Here’s what David Cox’s newest commitment had to say:
Chris DiSano: Congratulations on your commitment to Rhode Island. How did you find the recruiting process? What were some of the challenges given the level of interest in you?
Elijah Wood: Thank you. As far as the process, some of the challenges were about figuring out which coach had my best interests at heart. Also, trying to figure out the right situation for me. I didn’t want to go to a so-called big time school or Power 5 school and have to deal with some of the things players have to deal with in terms of needing to be perfect. At Rhody, I felt like it was family. I felt like they’ll give me a great shot to develop and be the best that I can be.
Wood on David Cox, who served as the lead in his recruitment — ‘He has such great knowledge of the game. He’s a very good person. Whenever he’s recruiting you, you should take that into full consideration.’ #URI
— Bill Koch (@BillKoch25) May 27, 2019
CD: You initially committed to Tulane before the coaching change. After that went down, how did you and your family regroup? Who did you lean on besides your family and how did you take those next steps?
EW: I prayed to God, talked with my family, and talked with my mentor, coach Brandon Howell. I was really just trying to figure out what the next move would be.
It was a tough time and I had my heart set on Tulane and thought that we were going to do well the next couple of seasons. But I believe everything happens for a reason and that God puts challenges in people’s paths but only gives the toughest battles to the strongest soldiers. I thought it would be the best to re-open my recruitment. I was getting texts from many people, got a lot from Rhode Island, and they were very involved from the jump. I appreciated that.
EW: Last year, URI offered me. I obviously chose the other route at first. But I felt like when I de-committed, they were on top of me. They were making me a priority and that felt really good. I’ve been taught since I was younger that you go where you’re needed, not where you’re wanted. So I felt like I could be needed at Rhode Island and it is the perfect place.
CD: So we just covered how they approached you and the way it transpired. As far as substance, what did you appreciate most about the conversations you had with people associated with the URI program?
EW: All of the coaches were very genuine. I felt it would be more than basketball. It would be a lifelong connection instead of just four years… and kicked out the door.
— N4L (@The301elijah) May 27, 2019
CD: Let’s talk about your game. When you’re asked about your game, you mention passing ability first almost all the time. That’s telling. Can you dive deeper on that topic?
EW: I love sharing the ball because it gets everyone involved, and that means highlight plays for the fans too. I love getting involved with the fans and the cheers. Passing makes you dangerous. It makes it difficult to guard you. I also feel like you don’t get the label as a selfish player — and I don’t like being labeled as selfish anything. So those are the main reasons.
CD: Okay, moving on to how you score the ball. How are you most comfortable scoring it right now? I’ve seen some video, but that’s a small sample.
EW: Yessir. Since I was younger I’ve always been a fast break type of player and that’s where my passing shows out a lot. But as I’ve gotten older I’ve learned how to score in different ways. I feel like I’m improving in learning how to score more efficiently. Sometimes you have your off nights, but if you put the work in more often than not you’ll be on. For me, how I try to score depends on the night and what is needed.
CD: Defensively, it’s known you have good length. What do you pride yourself on?
EW: In high school, I’m able to block a lot of shots and generate steals. For the college level, I’m most focused on getting the right size on me, so I can learn how to stick with bigger guys, be versatile and play different positions. That will help the team so I won’t be a liability. I’m focused on getting bigger so I can play at the level and play high quality defense. Because if you play defense as a freshman, you’re going to see time.
CD: It doesn’t have to be an NBA-player, but is there someone you try to emulate or pattern your game after?
EW: For me, I like skinny guards. Pat McCaw, Dejounte Murray, Jamal Crawford. I’ve watched a lot of film on John Wall too, because I want to have his game a little bit. But I’m going to have to be realistic with myself and I’m probably going to be more of a Murray type of player: skinny, but crafty and can still get the job done. Those are the players I look at.
CD: What’s an area of your game you plan to focus on as you enter the college ranks?
EW: Probably my range. Since I’m going to be a little skinnier, I want to be able to pull-up from deep so I can not be too involved with the opposing defense and get caught up in the other stuff. If I’m able to expand my shooting range, they’re going to have to step out and then I can operate from there.
CD: This season, what are your individual and team goals before you get to Kingston?
EW: For individual goals, I’m trying to get to 200 pounds before freshman year. I’m already at 185 right now. I’ve been working on my weight. Hopefully I gain an inch or two also. Trying to increase my three-point percentage into the upper-30s. For team goals, to have a great record.
CD: You got at this a bit earlier in the interview, but if you look at everything comprehensively, what makes Rhode Island a great fit for you?
EW: The coaching staff is excellent, the players are very good. We have a chance to get to the NCAA Tournament a lot. A couple good games in the Tournament and you’re in the league. The campus is great and I heard the kids are lovely. I’ve heard the fans are fantastic too. Seems like a lovely place.