In 1984, Lynette Woodard captained the women's Olympic team to a gold medal and then took a job with the University of Kansas’s women’s basketball program. Soon, though, the Harlem Globetrotters wanted to add a female player to its roster, and Woodard was selected to join the team and played with them for two years. In 1997 she signed on to play in the newly formed WNBA, playing two seasons.
Early Athletic Ability
American basketball player. Born August 12, 1959, in Wichita, Kansas, Lynette Woodard was a standout college and professional basketball player who made history in 1985 when she became first female member of the Harlem Globetrotters.
As the story goes, Woodard developed her basketball scoring abilities from her older brother, who taught her to shoot using a stuffed sock. By the time she was in her final year at Marshall Junior High School in Wichita, the high school basketball coach asked her if she'd want to join the varsity team. Woodard declined. A year later she made up for lost time, when the five-feet 11-inch star sophomore led the club to a state championship in 1975. Two years later, Woodard was recognized as an all-American.
Choosing to stay close to home, Woodard enrolled at the University of Kansas, where she graduated in 1981 with a B.A. in speech communications and human relations. At Kansas, Woodard, who was as comfortable playing in the post as she was bringing the ball up the court, set new school and national marks. She scored the most points in NCCAA women's basketball history (3,649) and did the same with field goals made (1,572) and field goals attempted (2,994). She also set school records in such areas as rebounds (1,714), free throws made (505), steals (522), and games played (139).
After graduation, Woodard headed to Europe, where she played two years in the Italian women's league and led all players in scoring. In 1984, she captained the women's Olympic team to a gold medal. With the conclusion of the Olympics, so came the apparent end to Lynette Woodard's career. Seeing no chance to play professionally in the U.S., she headed back to Kansas and landed a job with the women's basketball program at her old school, the University of Kansas.
But retirement didn't last long. The Harlem Globetrotters, in an effort to expand its fan base and popularity, wanted to add a female player to its roster. Woodard was no stranger to Globetrotter basketball. Her cousin, Hubert "Geese" Ausbie, had played for the team from 1961-1985, and as a young girl Woodard had idolized her relative. It was an opportunity she couldn't pass up. After an intense series of try-outs, Woodard was selected to join the team. For the next two years, Woodard traveled with the club, playing just as many minutes as any of her male teammates.
After several more years of playing professionally overseas, Woodard returned to the U.S. In 1992, she was named the athletic director for the Kansas City, Missouri, school district. She then relocated to New York City to become a stockbroker.
But her retirement was once again short-lived, and in 1997 she signed on to play in the newly formed Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA), playing two seasons in the league for the Cleveland Rockers and, later, the Detroit Shock.
Woodard's WNBA experience proved to be a fitting end for a player who'd done so much to popularize women's basketball and bring it into the mainstream. Overall, Lynette Woodard has been inducted into 10 different halls of fame, including the Naismith Hall of Fame (2002), Women's Basketball Hall of Fame (2005), and the African-American Sports Hall of Fame (2006).
Following her permanent retirement in 1999, Woodard returned to the University of Kansas as an assistant coach for the women's basketball team. In 2004, she filled in as the team's interim head coach, after her predecessor was forced to step down for health reasons. Since 2005, Lynette Woodard has worked as an investment advisor for Cornerstone Securities.
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