She shot and passed and dribbled to prominence in the shadow of Nancy Lieberman and before Cheryl Miller, which is like winning tennis tournaments between Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova. So how come nobody knows Lynette Woodard the way everyone knows Chris Evert Lloyd? Well, that's how it is in women's basketball. You remember women's basketball. Going to be enormous in the '80s. Parity with the Russkies. A pro league. Lieberman. Carol Blazejowski, "the Blaze." Molly Bolin, "Machine Gun" Molly all in leathers. Shoot me, shoot me. Then along came Jimmy Carter and his Olympic boycott and there went the women. Well—glory be, Gerry Ferraro—now women are back. And while Miller and Janice Lawrence, both 6'3" and recent college stars, may command attention because of size and numbers, if you watch enough of the women in Los Angeles, you'll notice Lynette Woodard.
First of all, she's the one with the body—5'11", 155 pounds, the prototype women's basketball structure, muscles and curves perfectly coordinated. She's the one who floats, gazellelike, at wing guard or small forward; who hungers for penetration and offensive rebounds; who leads by a quiet presence and workaholic's sense of duty. Throughout high school in Wichita and the University of Kansas, Woodard was a gunner with an attitude that kept her on the periphery of the 1980 Olympic team. If we had gone to Moscow, Woodard wouldn't have played much. But she burned to be in an Olympics.
After closing out her career at Lawrence in 1981 as the leading female scorer in college history (3,649 points), Woodard played for Skio, Italy, "a town so small it didn't even have a school," she says. But she was lonely, homesick and "so lost I didn't know what to do." Weathering the storm, Woodard looked inside herself. "I found I could make decisions, create things in my life and develop commitments," she says.
One of those was to basketball, to a team game. Returning to the States, Woodard worked for two years at Kansas as a voluntary assistant coach and academics adviser and, playing organized ball only in summer, became a mainstay of the U.S. international teams. She co-captained the all-winning side in the 1983 Pan American Games, and is the captain of the team that is the overwhelming favorite for the gold in L.A.
"I never thought Lynette could fit in and get the job done," says Olympic coach Pat Head Summit. "But when people think back to the '84 Olympics and women's basketball, they'll remember Lynette Woodard."
Former Jayhawk Woodard is a ballhawk.