Woody Newton struggled to turn back to basketball.
It had always been a huge part of his life, and it was something that his father, Atwood Newton Sr., supported him in and shared a love for.
But on Nov. 7, basketball became far less important and was pushed to the side when Newton learned his father died.
“It's very tough,” Newton said. “I gotta think about that every day. There’s not a day I don’t go without thinking of my pops.”
Newton’s passion for basketball, and sports in general, came from his father. He remembers Newton Sr. taking him to see the hometown Washington (at the time) Redskins play a game every season, including a game quarterback Robert Griffin III ran for a 76-yard touchdown against the Vikings. The two often went to watch Newton’s favorite Wizards player Gilbert Arenas, and later John Wall.
All those game days and experiences fed Newton’s passion and drive to further his basketball career.
“Without my father, I wouldn’t play sports,” Newton said.
After receiving the news, Newton returned home to be with his family and was away from the team for nearly a month. OSU was in the Bahamas participating in a tournament the day of the funeral, but coach Mike Boynton sent an assistant coach to attend and show the program’s support.
“It just shows how much of a family-oriented program it is and just that in this program basketball isn't everything,” Newton said.
A season ago, center Moussa Cisse dealt with the loss of his mother and spent time away from the team. He had to lean on his teammates to help regain his focus when he returned.
Now, it was Newton’s turn to rely on his team for support.
“Just being able to be with my brothers, my teammates, Coach Mike, LB (assistant coach Larry Blunt), they helped me through it, you know, keep me level-headed and make sure I'm always good if I ever need anything,” Newton said. “So, it’s tough, but I'm getting helped through it.”
Newton averaged just more than four minutes a game in his first four games back. He said it took some time to get back into the groove and that he’s still searching for rhythm from the 3-point line. But now, he Boynton are starting to see more comfortability.
Boynton said struggles on the court can make the weight of an off-the-court situation even heavier. But he sees signs that Newton has found more of that rhythm lately, playing 21 and 19 minutes the last two games and scoring 11 points.
“What I've seen since he's been back is he's slowly getting back to just having an urge and desire and hunger to do this and kind of not be burdened by what he's lost but really trying to take advantage of what he still has in front of him,” Boynton said.
Newton said he's still learning how to fight through the pain of losing his father. That's something that doesn't change. But with the help of coaches and teammates, he's pushing through.
“I'm glad that he's here with us," Boynton said, "because I think we all need each other.”