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Lynette Woodard: Harlem Globetrotter and Kansas Basketball Icon

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The best women’s college basketball player of all time was a Jayhawk.

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Lynette Woodard came along a few years too late. The Wichita native will never be found in any NCAA record books for her scoring prowess. You see, Woodard attended the University of Kansas in the years before women’s basketball was officially an NCAA sanctioned sport (it was under the umbrella of the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women). And in case you were wondering, the year the NCAA started considering women’s hoops a sport was 1981. That in its own right is ridiculous. 1981. But what is more ridiculous are the numbers that Woodard put up at Kansas between 1977 and 1981.

In her four years at KU, Lynette scored 3,649 points. In 139 games, she scored at a clip of 26.3 points per game, 12.4 rebounds per game, 3.8 steals per game, and 3.1 assists per game. Pretty good. Her best individual season came in 1979 when she averaged an astounding 31 points and 14.3 boards per game. Impressive.

Also of note is the fact that the first NCAA tournament for women’s basketball happened in 1982, a year after Lynette graduated from KU. She would surely have more many more points if she had been allowed to have a post season to play in. In fact, Woodard would likely be the NCAA’s all-time leading scorer if she had played just one more game. As it stands, she finished 18 points shy of Pete Maravich’s record setting total of 3,667.

Because they look silly in paragraph form, here are some of Lynette’s most prestigious collegiate achievements:

1978 All-American

1978 Freshman of the Year

1979 All-American

1980 All-American

1981 All-American

1981 Academic All-American

1981 Wade Trophy Winner (National Player of the Year)

Big 8 Player of the Decade for the 1980’s

And remember, there were no conference awards for women’s basketball in those days (As a side note, KU won three conference titles in the four years Woodard was wearing crimson and blue). If there were, you’d be sure to see Lynette’s name all over the record books and post season awards. Regardless, she was the first Lady Jayhawk hoopster to have her jersey retired and hung in the rafters at Allen Fieldhouse.

After she left KU, Lynette Woodard continued to dominate. She was named as a member of the 1984 USA Olympic basketball team that won gold in Los Angeles. In fact, the 25 year-old Woodard captained that team to glory and averaged 10.5 points and 4 rebounds per game in the process.

She then went on to make history by becoming the first woman ever to join and play for the Harlem Globetrotters in 1985, and after that she pursued a professional career in Italy and Japan, winning championships in both countries.

Perhaps the fact that Lynette Woodard was still as viable commodity as she was when the WNBA was formed in 1997 is most impressive. She made her WNBA debut for the Cleveland Rockers at the age of 37. She played in the league with Cleveland and the Detroit Shock for a total of two seasons.

After such a fine career, the next step was enshrinement. Woodard was officially inducted into the Naismith National Basketball Hall of Fame in 2004. Here is a link to her acceptance speech on the Hall’s website. She was also elected into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2005.

What a player.