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April 4, 2013

Woodward looking forward to new challenges

In Minnesota boy's basketball's Class 4A division, Graham Woodward and his Edina High School teammates began the season ranked No. 2 in the state.

Woodward, one of Patrick Chambers' four incoming freshmen for the Nittany Lions' Class of 2013, entered the year with the admittedly high expectations that come with that type of respect. The initial results, however, didn't match the expectations.

"We started out the season kind of rough, actually," Woodward said. "We had high expectations, and I think guys kind of felt as though they didn't need to work as hard, or felt as though we were just good enough so we would win games."

In order, Waconia, Lakeville North, Austin and Woodbury all reeled off wins against Edina, sending the Hornets to an 0-4 start. Undeterred, Woodward and his teammates regrouped, finding their footing with an 11-2 record through the end of January and, ultimately, a 22-3 run through their final 25 games.

Leading the way with 26.5 points, 5.5 assists, four rebounds and three steals per game, the 6-foot, 175 pound senior gradually improved as the season progressed, helping guide the Hornets to a Lake Conference Championship and Section 6AAAA championship, as well as a berth in the highly-competitive Minnesota boy's basketball state playoffs. Throw in three wins against rival Hopkins, and Woodward said he was happy with the accomplishments of Edina's best season since 1968.

"Throughout the season, I felt as though I was really able to get my teammates involved," Woodward said. "Toward the beginning of the season, I probably shot it a little more than I should have. I felt like I needed to figure out when to pass and when to shoot, because it was just something that needed to come naturally. When we started to get on our run, that was something that I was really able to figure out."

Dropping buckets in a variety of ways (shooting 42 percent from beyond the arc, knocking down pull-ups from 15-feet and drives in the lane), Woodward actually cited his 10 assist average during the team's final seven games - including a run to a third place finish in the state tournament, capped with an 84-49 win against Eden Prairie - as one of his best successes of the season.

"I was just able to find my teammates, and they were beginning to get confidence too, just being able to play their role," he said. "By making the shots and doing the things they did, they were becoming very confident, which was ultimately what led to our success, I feel like. That was kind of something that I really grew throughout the season and really helped our team have success."

For his efforts, Woodward was named as a Minnesota Mr. Basketball Finalist, earned a berth on the All-State Tournament Team, and was elected to the 2013 Minnesota Associated Press All-State boys basketball first team.

With his successful senior season completed, Woodward can now focus on the next step in his basketball career, beginning with his arrival on Penn State's campus June 23. Having already done considerable work in the weight room, and planning to do more, Woodward said he's looking forward to the challenges of the Big Ten,

"I can't wait. I'm really looking forward to it," he said of starting his college career. "It's a new challenge and a new adventure. It's a new journey that I get to embark on this summer, and I can't wait. I know it's going to be so much fun, and I can't wait to do it at Penn State."

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