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January 16, 2014
Sooners frosh is used to playing with the 'older guys'
In the Sooners' five-game exhibition tour of Belgium and France last August, they'd averaged better than 90 points per game, showing signs of the kind of team it could be in a few months time. Then, in November, they were tested for the first time during winning time.
After senior [db]Cameron Clark[/db] tipped in a basket, Oklahoma trailed by four points in Brooklyn with 31 seconds left to play in a game against Seton Hall. Kruger called timeout and Woodard used the regrouping period to talk to his teammates.
"I told them we were just going to play hard until the end," he said. "There's no way we're going to give up. Anything can happen. It's been so many miracles in the game of basketball. There's no reason what we can't have one."
SCOOPHD: WORD ON (JORDAN) WOODARD
Marcus and Petra Woodard arrived early for the game. Oklahoma was playing No. 18 Kansas at Lloyd Noble that night.
They took their seats a few rows up on the west side of the arena during warm-ups, as is their custom, to watch their youngest son, Jordan, prepare for the game.
Dressed in Sooner colors, Petra jokingly says she knew Woodard could play "in the womb." Only a mother could know such things.
Around the time most children are given their first set of training wheels, he was playing defense. Woodard began playing basketball at age 3.
"My husband just tell him 'Jordan, don't let them catch. Don't let them move,'" Petra says. "He was always zoned in on the ball -- always. He never really paid attention to the player. It was between him and the ball."
Woodard played with his older brother, [db]James Woodard[/db], at the YMCA and the two would remain teammates for the next 14 years. But it was during those years of playing ball at the Y when the family still lived in Luther, Okla., and Marcus still coached his sons that informed Petra just how good her youngest child could be.
Woodard had always played with older boys growing up so he could play with his older brother. It wasn't until around the sixth grade that he began playing with boys his own age, and that didn't go so well in the beginning. But not for the reason you might think.
He was bigger, taller, stronger than his peers. He didn't have problem getting to the basket and could score between 30 and 40 points at will.
"Looked like Shaq," Marcus says. "Shaq at the point guard."
"I had to keep his birth certificate in my purse," Petra says.
"We had to do that pretty much everywhere we played," Marcus says.
"Even though he was younger than the people he played, I had to keep his birth certificate to prove that this is his age because he was so much more mature," Petra says.
"He was advanced, yeah," Marcus says.
"Physically mature, mentally more mature than those kids," Petra says. "I had to do that with all my kids. It was bad."*******************************************
In 2011, Woodard was in the beginning of his Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) summer season with Athletes First, one of the elite youth basketball programs in Oklahoma. The program lays claim to 89 collegiate athletes, eight players drafted into NBA and two in the NFL.
During Woodard's sophomore year of high school, he was the starting point guard on one of the more impressive Athletes First teams in recent memory. The squad featured Oklahoma State guard Stevie Clark and Wichita State forward Shaquille Morris.
But that team full of talent was losing to another equally impressive team called the New York Gauchos at a Nike Elite Youth Basketball League game in Dallas. NBA stars like Chris Mullins, Mark Jackson, Kenny Anderson and Stephon Marbury are Gauchos alumni, and the program had a reputation for developing top Division I prospects.
It didn't look like Athletes First was going to pull off the victory until late. Marcus and Petra haven't forgotten what happened in final minutes of the game.
"They were down, and it was, like, what?" Marcus says. "Two minutes?"
"Two minutes, 28 seconds," Petra says.
"Two minutes, 28 seconds, and he scored 21 consecutive points to win the game. It was crazy," Marcus says. "I've never seen anybody in the NBA do that. It was crazy."
Woodard had made himself into a point guard before he arrived at Edmond (Okla.) Memorial High School, but with boys basketball coach, Shane Cowherd, he was allowed to flourish. He became the driving force behind the offense and was relentless on defense.
By his sophomore year at Edmond Memorial, Woodard had won a state championship. It was the first of three straight state finals appearances he made with the Bulldogs, but it is the last game of his prep career that resonates.*******************************************
Woodard sat out much of his senior year with a torn hamstring. He'd missed 11 games. He pushed through the early rounds of the state tournament only to aggravate the injury again during Edmond Memorial's double-overtime victory against Owasso High School in the semifinals.
There were thoughts near the end of his season that perhaps he should forgo the rest of his high school career. Cowherd didn't want to see Woodard do permanent damage to already injured leg.
"I told him I think this is it," Cowherd said. "I think we shut it down. We'll try to play tomorrow without you, but I'm not willing to see you do something that could really drastically hurt you for the future."
Woodard pleaded with Cowherd to let him play, to let him finish. He just wanted one more game.
Cowherd spoke with Woodard's parents and his Edmond Memorial staff before the decision was made, but when the battle for the state title against Midwest City High School was waged at the Mabee Center in Tulsa, Okla., Woodard was on the floor.
Midwest City fought Edmond Memorial the whole way and held a 48-47 lead with just a few seconds left to play. The Bombers also had the ball.
The Bombers wanted execute a routine inbound pass. Just get it to a like-colored jersey and run out the clock.
"I knew pretty much the only place the inbounder could throw the ball, so I baited him, went to the defender, and we switched," Woodard said. "He threw it all the way across the court. That's a cardinal sin."
Woodard threw a hand at the pass and redirected the ball to Edmond Memorial's Tyler Holcomb. Holcomb put up a shot in the lane. It didn't drop.
"After he missed that, I really thought it was over," Woodard said.
Holcomb fought for the rebound. He put up another shot, and it bounced around the rim. Woodard, who had fallen out of the play after his deflection, appeared below the net just as the shot circled the rim.
"It came off perfectly where I was standing," Woodard said. "I just jumped over the defenders and got the tip."
Then the buzzer went off. Woodard won his team the state championship with his only made basket of the game.
In his final season of schoolboy ball, he was named an all-state selection after averaging 15.4 points, 7.1 boards and 6.8 assists per game. He was named to the state tournament's all-tournament team in each of the last three years.*******************************************
Out of the timeout in the game against Seton Hall at the Barclays Center Woodard stole the ball from SHU forward Brandon Mobley. Woodard found Clark with a pass, and Clark turned the pass into an assist with a lay-up. Now it was two-point game.
Woodard picked Mobley's pocket for a second time, but this time Mobley fouled Woodard. Woodard walked to the line shoot a pair. He made the first and missed the second, but Clark was there for the offensive board.
Clark missed his jumper with 17 seconds left to play. Woodard was there for the board.
The ball ended up in the hands of sophomore guard [db]Buddy Hield[/b], and he was fouled in the act. Hield hit his first free throw, and, after a Seton Hall timeout, hit his second.
In 23 seconds, Oklahoma scored five unanswered points and won 86-85. In 23 seconds, Woodard accounted for an assist, a steal, a rebound and a point.
"It's his determination to do what it takes to win," Marcus said. "You saw it in the Seton Hall game. You saw it in his high school senior year, the championship game."
"He just never gives up. He'll do whatever it takes to win until that buzzer goes off."