Column: Dream season

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 30, 2006

John Focke, Behind the Mike

For former Albert Lea High School basketball standout Ben Woodside, his first season at

North Dakota State University was a dream come true.

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Only it was played with a broken wrist.

Woody red shirted his first year at NDSU, but last year took the reigns of the Bison, leading the team to a 16-12 finish as well as being named MVP of Division I Independent schools by

In addition Woody racked up honors on the All-Academic team, first-team All-Independent Team, and was voted &8220;Newcomer of the Year.&8221;

All of that on a wrist that was so badly broken that after the season Woodside would need a bone graft from his hip to fix it.

According to Woodside, he originally broke his wrist during his red-shirt freshman year, &8220;I was undercut and came down on the wrist, and had it in a cast for six weeks.&8221;

After that cast came off it was time to start the season and despite more pain, Woody said he wanted to play.

The season started with two straight wins before the Bison fell to the University of Minnesota in front of a huge Albert Lea fan base who made the trip to Williams Arena to see Woody play.

After each game though, Woody said the wrist was really sore. &8220;It was a dull pain, and I had to ice it after every game, something wasn’t right but I wanted to keep playing.&8221;

The Bison would go on to beat Eastern Michigan of the MAC Conference in late November before going on a tough road trip where they won just once in four games. The road was not friendly to the Bison, where they went 4-11.

According to Woody winning on the road is more difficult than most realize, &8220;You travel thousands of miles, sleep in a different bed, it’s just really hard to get ready to play in that environment.&8221;

Well it didn’t stop the Bison from posting one of the biggest upsets in college basketball on January 21 when Woody led the NDSU to a 62-55 victory of Wisconsin in front of more than 17,000 fans at the Kohl Center.

It was a game that put NDSU on the national map, a goal of the team at the beginning of the season.

Not to mention putting Woody’s name on the tongues of many college basketball analysts as he went for 24 points while shooting 50 percent from the field and 11-for-13 from the free throw line.

All of that with a severely broken wrist, one can only imagine the response of Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan, or Kammron Taylor upon hearing that news.

After the big win over the Badgers, NDSU would win five of their last eight games finishing four games above .500 for the second straight year.

While recovering from his latest surgery, Woody said he will be spending a lot of time in the weight room working on his lower body, and looking forward to next season.

&8220;It should be a very exciting season, they call us (the five freshman who started last year) the Fab Five, and excitement is high in Fargo.&8221;

Excitement might be even higher this year with a fully healthy Woody.

(John Focke is the sports director at KATE. His column runs every Friday.)