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Scotty Wood continues basketball travels in Europe

SHARPSHOOTER: Scotty Wood, a 2009 Marion High School alum, puts up a shot Wednesday during his workout at McCulloch Junior High School. Wood will depart for Montenegro soon and his seventh year of professional basketball in Europe.

By CHUCK LANDIS - clandis@chronicle-tribune.com

Basketball has helped make Scotty Wood a world traveler, and soon the former Marion Giants standout is headed to his next destination.

Wood was back in Marion this week with his wife Toni Ann and three-month old daughter Raleigh visiting family and friends. He leaves Saturday for Montenegro in southeast Europe to play his seventh professional season, this year for Buducnost VOLI of the Montenegrin League and EuroCup, two of the highest levels of basketball in Europe.

“(VOLI) is like Real Madrid and Barcelona — big name teams,” Wood said Wednesday, “And EuroCup is the next level up, so it’s a very good and competitive league. I’m so excited for this year. It will be a lot of fun, for sure.”

Wood starred for the Giants from 2006-09 and gained all-state honors before moving on to North Carolina State University, Raleigh, and set school and Atlantic Coast Conference 3-point and free throw shooting records. After college, he embarked on a professional career in 2013 and the bulk of his experience has been in Europe.

Returning to Marion gave Wood opportunities to work out once again in Bill Green Arena, and to have Giants and Wolfpack teammate Julius Mays rebound his shots. Mark Fauser interviewed Wood for his Marion Sports Hall of Fame project and gave the family a tour of the hall, where Wood is prominently featured. Wood said the exhibit was quite an eye-opening experience for Toni Ann, a North Carolina native who was unaware about the love for high school basketball.

“It was a lot of fun to show her the history,” he said. “ ... Honestly, Indiana basketball — especially high school basketball — is all kinds of ... Wow! You don’t see gyms like this or the amount of people in the crowd.

“I went from playing in the North Central Conference, which was huge and probably the biggest and best there is, and then to (North) Carolina where NC State, Duke and North Carolina is the cream of the crop when it comes to college basketball.”

A slender 6-foot-6 guard and prodigious long-range shooter, Wood’s greatest skill has become more in demand in the NBA since he went undrafted in the 2013 coming out of college. Wood spent time with the Los Angeles Clippers (2013) and Lakers (2014) and Golden State Warriors (2016) in summer league or training camp but was waived before the season.

Wood and his shooting prowess has found a niche with various European teams, including Spain for three seasons and another two in Turkey. He also played one season in the NBA Developmental League in 2016-17.

“I haven’t given up on my dream, but I’m not actively pursuing an NBA team camp,” Wood said. “I’d definitely be open to listening, but I’ve made such a good living over in Europe and I’ve enjoyed myself. I’m perfectly content with playing professional basketball in Europe and continuing my career over there.”

The 2019-20 season will be Wood’s most ambitious with VOLI and the team will play around 60 games beginning in late September or early October and then the playoffs. Buducnost VOLI games can be viewed locally on YouTube.com or the EuroCup web site. VOLI has been champions of the Montenegrin Cup in 12 of the past 13 years and reached the quarterfinals of the most recent EuroCup in 2018.

“I’ll play EuroCup games on Tuesday and Wednesday and come back and play (Montenegrin Cup) on Saturday and Sunday,” Wood said. “It definitely will be a busy year, but it keeps me going and occupied where we don’t have too much downtime and makes the season go by pretty quick.”

While soccer is the predominant European sport, basketball is becoming the most popular in Spain, Turkey and the Serbian countries around Montenegro. The region has produced NBA stars like the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greece) and the Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic (Serbia).

Goga Bitadze, the Indiana Pacers’ No. 1 draft pick in July, played for Buducnost VOLI in 2018 and hails from Georgia, another Baltic country.

Wood is one of two former Giants standouts currently playing in Europe along with James Blackmon Jr. and part of a lineage that includes John and Joe Sutter and Jovon and Joseph Price. Playing overseas has its perks — no taxes and the team provides housing and transportation — but Wood said it can have hardships.

“I tell people I get to play the sport I love and make money doing it,” he said. “But it is difficult on family and difficult for my wife being away from her family. Our families have been over to visit, and we try to stay in touch as much as possible, but there is a time difference. It’s nice that we’ve got face time and video chats and everything else and can keep in touch the best we can.”

Yet, Wood said his wife, who played softball for NC State, encourages him to continue playing for as long as possible and live out his dream.

“I just turned 29 and my wife keeps telling me I need to play until the wheels fall off,” he said. “She doesn’t play softball anymore and misses it, and she tells me I’m going to keep playing.

“I still get enjoyment out of it and I’m going to keep doing it until I can’t do it anymore or they stop paying me decent money. ... My wife wants our daughter to see me play and comprehend it, and I would like to play until age 33. You never know beyond that.”

Ten years have passed since Wood last stepped on the court in a Giants uniform. His career highlights included a Class 4A runner-up finish in the 2008 IHSAA state tournament, and being on the 2008 Indiana All-Stars. 

“The main thing is I understand how much of an honor it was just to wear the (Marion) jersey. There’s been so many great, great players come through here,” Wood said. “My wife doesn’t understand how big basketball was and how much of an impact it has on the community and how they rallied around the team and athletics in general.

“Looking back, it was a great way to showcase my skills and we had a bunch of great years while I was here,” he continued. “Obviously, I’d loved to had a state championship and a couple of other things, but that’s the way it worked out. I’m just thankful and honored to wear the jersey.”