Przybylo: OU's senior day is going to be strange without Jordan Woodard

OU senior day is Saturday, but it's going to be a strange feeling with Jordan Woodard unable to play his final game at Lloyd Noble Center.

It feels wrong to say Oklahoma point guard Jordan Woodard deserved better, deserved a fitting end to his senior season and his career with the Sooners.

It feels wrong, but is it? Woodard’s career with OU came to a sudden end three weeks ago when he tore his ACL in a loss at Iowa State.

The Sooners have played as well as could be expected since, going 2-3 in the last five games with two of those losses by less than six points and all those defeats on the road.

That sets the stage for senior day Saturday afternoon against TCU. The atmosphere was already going to be different this time around because of the lack of a senior-laden squad.

It was only going to be Woodard and seldom-used but major crowd favorites Daniel Harper and C.J. Cole. However, Woodard not being able to participate just doesn’t feel right.

That’s not the way it ends for someone who started every game his first three years as a Sooner. A seven-game losing streak isn’t how you send off someone who helped OU to three straight tournament appearances, including the magical run to the Final Four last year.

It’s not supposed to end like that for the guy who opened Oklahoma high schools once again to the Sooners and Lon Kruger. A winner at every level, who earned two state championships and hit the championship-winning shot at the buzzer as a senior in high school is supposed to suit up for his final game.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8gFKSpKu5ug

But that’s his reality, and Woodard, somehow, has come to grips with that.

“I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” said Woodard two weeks ago. “Competing for the Final Four is one of the greatest moments of my life.

“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. I just want to thank the Sooner fans again for supporting me during my four years here.”

Kruger echoed those words. What you deserve and what you actually get can sometimes be two completely different things.

“He's had such a great career and to have a senior year where he's battled some things and then not to be able to finish it is very unfair,” Kruger said. “But that's life sometimes and it's basketball, certainly, sometimes, but I can't appreciate enough what Jordan has meant to the program and all of his contributions.

“He'll go down as one of the top players in the history of the program and deservedly so.”

That sounds like hyperbole until you do more research into it. Woodard was a borderline four-star recruit for the 2013 class so he was absolutely expected to have some type of impact.

Few could have believed it would turn into this, though.

When it’s all said and done, Woodard averaged 11.5 points, 3.8 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game in his career.

He’s top 10 in assists (4th, 471), steals (7th, 186), free throw percentage (8th, 81 percent) and minutes played (8th, 3,735). He stands as the No. 14 overall scorer for OU and is the first player in OU’s history to make more than 400 free throws and shoot better than 80 percent from the line.

Just that I played 110 percent. I gave it all. I gave it all I could on the court and didn’t take any games off,” Woodard said. “I didn’t take any plays off. I contributed in any way I could. I had a couple of bad games. I had a couple of good games, too. I just want them to know in practice I was giving it 100 percent, too.”

A legacy goes beyond wins and losses. It goes beyond the numbers, and it’s something Woodard knows all too well based on his senior season.

He went from one extreme to the other as everybody knew this squad would take a dip with so many seniors departing.

The close losses have been heartbreaking at times, frustrating at others and a clear definition of when it’s said you have to learn to win.

The Sooners are not fighting for their tournament lives this weekend. Instead, OU is hoping to finish the regular season 11-19 overall and 5-13 in conference play. Outside of a miracle run next week in the Big 12 tournament, there is no dancing this time around. But a whole heck of a lot of pride.

Woodard won’t be around to see how that year of learning is going to pan out going forward. But he set the tone. He helped plant those seeds. He knows better days will be back at Lloyd Noble Center sooner much more than later.

“The future of this team is bright,” Woodard said. “It can only go up from here. The guys are young. Everybody’s gonna be coming back next year, and I expect a lot. I expect a lot of good things coming from them.”

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