The last time Utah Valley guard Trey Woodbury took the floor was March 12, 2021 at the Orleans Arena. Woodbury had a game-high 34 points at the Orleans Arena in a second-round loss to New Mexico State that ended his 2020-21 season.
2021-22 was supposed to be the year for Woodbury. The First Team All-WAC selection was set to return for Utah Valley and Mark Madsen. And, along with arguably the best big man in the WAC, Woodbury and the Wolverines were going to defend their 2020-21 regular season title.
But, just days before the 2021-22 season began, everything came undone. When Utah Valley took the floor at Boise State in its season opener, Woodbury was not on the sidelines. Questions arose. Utah Valley’s leading scorer was not on the bench. “What happened?” “Where is Woodbury?” “No Trey Woodbury on the bench for Utah Valley.”
The questions came in droves from fans and media alike. Woodbury averaged a team-high 15.6 points for the Wolverines in 2020-21. And expectations were that he was going to be at the top of league in scoring in 2021-22. So, when Woodbury was not on the bench in Boise, most everyone knew something was wrong.
It wasn’t until mid-December that report started surfacing that Woodbury had suffered a knee injury in practice four days before the 2021-22 season began. And with those reports, came the realization that Trey Woodbury may miss the entire 2021-22 season.
And, Woodbury did, indeed, miss the entire 2021-22 regular season. Perhaps it was sitting on the sidelines during recovery. Or maybe it was watching the Wolverines struggle through WAC play, finishing 10-8 and as the 7-seed. Or maybe it was the realization that if he didn’t take the floor at some point, he would not get a chance to play alongside teammate Fardaws Aimaq again.
Whatever it was, Trey Woodbury made a decision on Tuesday morning. And, Mark Madsen and his staff as well as the entire Utah Valley team had something to celebrate.
When Trey Woodbury came out of the tunnel in uniform at the Michelob Ultra Arena, eyebrows were raised. Tweets were sent out. The broadcasters for Tuesday night’s game were constantly talking about the big news.
And that single decision gave Utah Valley some life.
In his first action since March 12, 2021, Woodbury had five points, four rebounds and two assists as Utah Valley beat Chicago State, 69-47, to advance to Wednesday’s second round of the WAC Tournament.
— UVU Men’s Basketball (@UVUmbb) March 9, 2022
“Trey Woodbury playing tonight,” UVU center Fardaws Aimaq said. “It lit a fire under me tonight. Just seeing him out there, it reminded me of his game. And the love that we have for one another is something that can’t be taken away.”
With that fire, Aimaq got Utah Valley off to a good start on Tuesday. Aimaq himself actually led 10-8 over Chicago State out of the gate. The WAC Defensive Player of the Year and First-Team All-WAC selection finished with 20 points and six rebounds.
Blaze Nield was also in double figures for Utah Valley, finishing with 12 points. The Wolverines shot 49 percent from the field while holding Chicago State to 28 percent shooting. Brandon Betson finished with a game-high 21 points. But, a 23-3 run for Utah Valley out of the halftime locker room put the game out of reach. And made Trey Woodbury’s return to the Wolverines a little more sweet.
“I’ve seen that guy (Woodbury) working out in our gym every single day,” Nield said. “And coming back from an injury, I know how that goes. This summer I had surgery, as well. It’s super hard and every day is a battle. It’s an uphill climb. But to see him make it to the top and have a glimpse of getting back on the court, and that fun. Kind of seeing that old Trey Woodbury was super fun and exciting for me.”
Utah Valley takes on 6-seed Abilene Christian on Wednesday night at the Orleans Arena with tip set for 8:30 p.m. PT on ESPN+.