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Wednesday June 16th, 2021 10:21AM

Basketball: Buford grad Benjie Wood 'going home'

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter

BUFORD — Former Buford High grad Benjie Wood wondered if his time would ever come to go back home.

Three years ago Wood stepped down as Gainesville’s boys basketball coach to start the new Cherokee Bluff program in the Hall County system. He admitted he thought it would be his last move as a coach.

“When I took the Bluff job I really thought this would be my last stop,” he said Tuesday. “I wasn’t sure if I would ever get the opportunity to coach at my old school. Buford had Coach (Eddie) Martin and it’s all about timing and it just didn’t seem like it would happen.”

Sometimes, dreams do come true.

Martin stepped down last month as Buford’s boys coach. On Monday, Wood was approved by the Buford School Board to be the next Wolves coach.

“I think this is the right time for me to come home,” Wood said. “I love it at Bluff. Buford is the only job I would have left Bluff for. I’m very excited about getting to coach at my alma mater.

"So many people in the Buford community over the years have helped me and my family. This is our opportunity to give back.”

Wood brings a wealth of experience to his alma mater, having posted an overall record of 447-184 in his 27-year head coaching career that includes leading the Gainesville boys to the Class 6A state title game; two state semifinals appearances with the Johnson girls (2005-06) and two state semifinals with the North Hall boys (2010 and 2013).

In three seasons, Wood built the Bears from scratch, while leading them to a 49-35 record, a Region 7-3A runner-up regular-season finish in 2020-21, and back-to-back Class 3A second-round tournament appearances.

Despite the years and successes, Wood said he is not through learning.

“I’ve learned something from a lot of knowledgeable people everywhere I’ve been,” Wood said. “I’m sure I will learn a lot from people like Coach (Gene) Durden and Coach (Tony) Wolfe and everyone else there. It’s a great place to be and we’re excited about the opportunity.” 

Wood, a 1990 Buford graduate, will begin his stint as coach in the coming weeks. The Wolves finished third in a tough Region 8-6A in the 2020-21 season and were knocked out in the second round of the state playoffs.

Martin, who led the Wolves the past six seasons amassing a 139-36 record and capturing two two state championships (2017 and 2019) and one state runner-up finish, will be a tough act to follow.

Wood said they are only going to be looking forward, not to the past.

“I’ve met the kids only briefly so the first priority is getting to know them, and them getting to know us,” he said. “As far as expectations, there’s expectations everywhere you go. I’m not putting any extra expectations on anything right now because there is so much work to do before the season.

“I know there is a lot of talent but the focus is going to be just doing things the right way. We can’t wait to get started.”

(Bo Wilson contributed to this story.)

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