If Edmond Memorial coach Shane Cowherd had made the decision, Jordan Woodard wouldn't have been in uniform for the Class 6A state championship game.
Wouldn't have been on the court for the game-changing steal, or the game-winning tip-in at the buzzer that made the Bulldogs state champions.
Cowherd had watched his star point guard battle through the season with hamstring and knee injuries — the latter of which required arthroscopic surgery a few days ago. Cowherd knew the future Woodard had in front of him with the Oklahoma Sooners, and he saw how much pain his player was in.
“After the Owasso game in the semifinals, I told him I thought it was time to shut it down,” Cowherd said. “He looked at me. He teared up, choked up, and told me, ‘I've got one more high school game in me.'”
Woodard was a shell of himself athletically by the end, but he found ways to keep the Bulldogs going, while earning a spot on The Oklahoman's Super 5 first team.
“When you love the game, and you love winning, there's not too much that can get in the way of that,” Woodard said. “It was hard battling the injuries, but it helped me a lot, understanding how to persevere.”
The severe hamstring injury he played with was public knowledge, and it kept him out of several games. But the team kept his knee pain — which dated back to an injury suffered in his junior season — concealed to protect him. Compensating for the knee pain likely contributed to the hamstring injury.
“Jordan was held together by duct tape by the time it was all done,” Cowherd said. “He has never been about excuses. He changed the way he tried to perform, because he was trying to stay on the floor and trying to limit the pain. He was in a ton of pain. His explosiveness was gone, but he was still finding ways to manage and dictate the game, as a great point guard does.
“He never takes days off. He doesn't understand that concept. His mental toughness — the kid has never lost a game in his head in his life.”
Woodard averaged 15.4 points, 7.1 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game, and the Bulldogs never lost with him on the court. Their two losses when he was out — to Midwest City and Edmond North — were both avenged later in the year.
“Dealing with adversity always makes winning even sweeter,” Woodard said. “I did what I had to do to get the rest of the guys where they wanted to be.”
In his push for success, Woodard rarely came up short. Over three years as the team's starting point guard, Memorial went to three state championship games and won two titles.
“We've had a lot of talented, tough, special players at Edmond Memorial,” Cowherd said. “With everything he accomplished in his career, he may be the greatest Bulldog ever, which is a pretty heady phrase.”