Tuesday, March 12, 2013
OU signee Woodard goes out in style
By Bob Przybylo
There are certain traits Lon Kruger is looking for when eyeing potential Oklahoma basketball targets. Leadership jumps to the front. Character is up there. Ability is certainly in the mix. How he fits into the system factors into the equation.
Then there are those intangible qualities. In Edmond (Okla.) Memorial signee Jordan Woodard, the Sooners truly are getting it all.
But maybe what sets Woodard apart from the rest of the crowd is his unselfishness, his team-first attitude.
Jordan Woodard came through in the clutch in the state championship game for Edmond (Okla.) Memorial.
Woodard, a three-star point guard prospect, already had the OU offer when the Sooners had their team camp in June. He had spent the weekend in Chicago for an invitation-only point guard camp. He had no reason to fly from Chicago to Oklahoma City and drive straight to Norman for even more basketball.
But he did, saying he needed to start to develop that team chemistry for his senior season. It made a big impression on OU coaches and everybody else in attendance that Sunday. It felt like it was the beginning of what was going to be an unbelievable final chapter to Woodard’s high school career.
Woodard’s senior season, though, was not what he had envisioned. He missed 11 games with a hamstring injury and was never 100 percent despite the fact he tried to play it off like he was.
“Jordan’s playing on a torn hamstring,” Edmond Memorial coach Shane Cowherd said Saturday night. “He’s playing on one leg. For him to come out and do what he did, it’s something I’ll never forget.”
What Woodard did on Saturday night won’t be forgotten anytime soon by those that saw it. Edmond Memorial was trailing Midwest City (Okla.) High 48-47 with 7.1 seconds left in the state championship game Saturday. Woodard stole the inbounds pass and eventually tipped in the championship-winner as time expired in the 49-48 victory.
It was a dreadful championship game for Woodard, who was playing three games in as many nights for the first time this season. He only had five points and hadn’t made a field goal to that point. He had five turnovers and couldn’t finish strong at the rim the way he normally would.
All of that was erased in one moment, a 7.1-second span Woodard has called the best moment of his life so far.
“I thought it was slipping through our hands,” said Edmond Memorial three-star power forward Shaquille Morris, who has signed with Wichita State. “I was like, 'Oh my gosh, man.' I was just praying. Jordan – Jordan is a great player. He keeps fighting until the end. That’s who he is.”
It was that competitiveness that got Woodard in trouble. Woodard said he was so active with his AAU team in the summer and logged so many minutes at tournaments and camps that he never gave himself a chance to breathe.
Eventually the minutes caught up to him with the hamstring injury, depriving himself of a healthy senior season. For years Woodard had been the facilitator of the Edmond Memorial offense.
But with kids graduating, it was finally going to be Woodard’s team, his chance to put up the gaudy offensive numbers.
“It was definitely rough at times,” Woodard said. “It’s not how I planned my senior season to go, to have to battle injuries the whole way. But I just had to keep fighting, and it really helped our team come together. Other players had to step up, and they did.”
Woodard initially pulled his hamstring in December. He sat out two weeks and rushed his return before injuring it even more.
He came back in February and showed glimpses of why the OU coaching staff has been so enamored with him for so long.
His high point of the season came Valentine’s Day against Midwest City. MWC was undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the state, and Woodard scored 22 points in the victory with Kruger in attendance.
“It’s always great when Coach Kruger comes,” Woodard said. “That’s my future coach. I don’t put any extra pressure or anything. But it means a lot when he shows up. He’s always the first one to text me after a game to congratulate me.”
Woodard was considering Stanford and Memphis, but it was clear his connection with Kruger was going to make the Sooners a tough school to top.
A frequent visitor to Lloyd Noble Center for OU home games as a sophomore and junior, Woodard has almost felt like a part of the team as a senior. And he has been impressed with the vast improvement with the Sooners in Kruger’s second season as coach.
“Coach Kruger has a good grasp of the team and what he wants,” Woodard said. “Every time I’m watching, I’m trying to figure out where I might fit in. Every time I watch them, I haven’t had any doubts I made the right decision.
“I have so much respect for Coach Kruger and can’t wait to get down and see what I can do at the next level.”
Woodard helped Edmond Memorial win a championship as a sophomore. The Bulldogs lost in the state championship game his junior season and his career was punctuated in style with the championship-winner Saturday.
“When he was in the lineup, we lost three games with him the last three years,” Cowherd said. “That’s it. That’s what Jordan brings to a team.
“He’s the best player I’ve ever had, and he’s the toughest player I’ve ever coached. He’s a winner in every way possible.”