Corr Award: Jack Wood left a legacy of helping

When he found out he wouldn’t be able to play right before the biggest basketball game of his life in early  March, Jack Wood didn’t hang his head too long.

He did was he always does. He supported his teammates. He did whatever he could to help the team.

“Dude, you’ve got to be our leader from the bench,” Wood recalled a teammate telling him. “That’s what I did. I was always cheering and keeping everybody involved.”

It wasn’t enough to get the Wilton High boys basketball team over the hump in a double-overtime loss to Ridgefield in the FCIAC finals, but it was indicative of Wood’s character and dedication to others.

“He’s just a great kid. He was always helping others out at practice. He cares more about everybody else than himself,” said Wilton head boys basketball coach Joel Geriak. “He still came to practices, and was like a second coach on the bench.”

Citing this type leadership and character, Wood was honored at last Thursday night’s WHS Senior Awards Night as the 50th recipient of the Lt. John G. Corr Memorial Scholarship — the school’s oldest award and the most prestigious award a male student-athlete can receive at Wilton High.

The scholarship is awarded annually to the WHS male student-athlete who best exemplifies the character, dedication, leadership and conduct both on and off the field of John Corr, a 1962 Wilton High graduate who was killed in action Dec. 28, 1967, at Quang Nam in South Vietnam.

“(Wood) has committed himself to improving the lives around him,” said presenter Brewster Clancy, a 1992 WHS graduate and former winner of the Corr Award, who spoke on behalf of the Lt. John G. Corr Memorial Scholarship board of directors.

“He played with a passion and energy that inspired his teammates and all those around him. More importantly than any individual accomplishment has been a tremendous display of leadership and commitment to helping others,” he said. “He is a great friend to others and through his compassion and loyalty will always be there when needed.”

“It’s really awesome,” said Wood, who had the chance to meet former Corr award winners, Corr family members and coaches at a dinner Friday night to commemorate the award’s 50th anniversary. “It’s a huge honor. It’s great to be part of that group.”

Wood was a two-sport athlete at WHS, although injuries sidelined him his junior and senior seasons in lacrosse.

It was on the basketball court that he made his biggest impact, serving as a senior captain in what was probably the greatest season in the history of Wilton High boys basketball. The Warriors finished 20-7, reached the FCIAC championship game for the first time, and advanced to the Class L state semifinals — another milestone.

It was a combination of hard work, depth, chemistry and talent that powered the Warriors to new heights, and Wood said having Geriak as a coach was instrumental to taking the team to new heights.

“Playing for a coach you respect makes you want to play and practice harder,” he said.

If Wood’s numbers didn’t really stick out — 2.7 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.8 steals per game — it was because he was focused on doing the little things to help the team.

“He didn’t care about his stats. The only thing he cared about was helping the team win,” said coach Geriak. “He did everything you asked him to do. He doesn’t care about himself.”

“We all had our roles,” said Wood, noting that with Wilton almost always much shorter on the frontline than its opponents. The key for Wilton's “big” men — Wood, Kyle Shifrin, Robbie Hermann — wasn’t necessarily to rebound but set up teammates to get the rebound.

“We knew we weren’t going to outjump those guys, so we tried to box them out of the play and let our guards do the rebounding,” said Wood. “We were never concerned about that stat line.”

He added that those guards getting the rebounds — Kronenberg and Connolly — would have done the same for them had their roles been reversed.

Geriak called Wood the team’s “defensive heart”, and said had he not been torn his meniscus in the Warriors’ FCIAC semifinal win over Trumbull, things may have turned out differently in the finals.

“He was a big reason we didn’t pull out that game. We didn’t have certain people out there to make stops,” he said.

Wood, who was named to the All-FCIAC Defensive Team, finished the season with an amazing 25 drawn charges — despite missing five games.

“He’s willing to give up his body,” said Geriak.

When not playing in his particular sport, Wood was a loyal supporter of other Wilton teams, attending their games and cheering them on, said Geriak. He also coached a youth basketball team and helped out with several others — or just stopped by to watch a few games.

“I’ve always been a fan of sports, and other teams. Getting to work with kids and seeing friendly faces, it feels really great,” he said. “I was always ready to help someone, because if it were me, I knew they would help if I needed it.”

Wood, who had a 3.4 grade point average taking a rigorous course load, will attend the University of Connecticut in the fall.