Kruger: Injured Oklahoma guard Woodard among school's greats
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) Oklahoma guard Jordan Woodard knew something was wrong after he went down in the second half against Iowa State on Saturday, yet his mind was on returning to the court.
For the most part, he's always come back, no matter the bump or bruise. The senior had been an ironman for Oklahoma, having started every game his first three years and most of the games this season.
He finally got caught. Woodard's season, and his college career, ended with a torn ACL in his right knee.
''I knew something was wrong because I never felt that movement before,'' he said. ''It was just during the game, during the moment, my adrenaline - I wanted to get out there and play, really. The doctors told me just to wait until we got back to get an MRI. When I got the MRI back, I knew the news.''
Woodard leaves as one of the most successful Sooners of all time. He ranks 14th in school history with 1,440 points, fourth in assists, fifth in made free throws, seventh in steals, eighth in free throw percentage and eighth in minutes played. He helped the Sooners reach the Sweet 16 his sophomore year, and the Final Four his junior year.
''I can't appreciate enough what Jordan has meant to the program and all of his contributions,'' Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. ''He'll go down as one of the top players in the history of the program and deservedly so.''
Kruger said Woodard put in the work to start so many games - a work ethic that has helped his teammates, too.
''He's a tough guy,'' Kruger said. ''He's a strong-framed, well-conditioned, good worker, so he did everything he needed to give himself a chance to have that durability.''
Woodard's most obvious area of growth was his improved 3-point shooting. His first two years, he took most of his shots in the paint and was a shaky perimeter shooter. His junior year, he emerged as one of the nation's best 3-point shooters, making 46 percent of his tries, and boosting his scoring average to 13 points per game. This season, he made 36 percent of his 3s and averaged a team-best 14.6 points per game.
Woodard said Buddy Hield, who now plays for the New Orleans Pelicans, was largely responsible for his improved outside shooting.
''Buddy was such a great shooter that I was really tired of him beating me in all the shooting games when we played 1-on-1,'' he said. ''He was really the main factor in me helping my 3-point shooting.''
Woodard was the veteran presence for a squad that is talented, but struggling to put it all together. Kruger said Woodard handled his extra responsibility well.
''He was our only senior starter, so a lot fell on his shoulders and he handled all that great,'' Kruger said. ''It was a case where we have so many young guys and that responsibility becomes even greater.''
Woodard said he wouldn't trade his experience at Oklahoma for anything.
''Competing for the Final Four is one of the greatest moments of my life,'' he said. ''Even this season was a great season as far as just learning, dealing with the battles, being in the trenches with the guys. It's just unfortunate how it's ending. It's definitely something that's going to make me stronger in the end.''