Freedom High's Woodard stays focused amid craziness
TAMPA - Faith Woodard's mailbox was bursting every day with more than 30 letters from colleges all over the country asking her, practically begging her, to be the bedrock of their basketball programs. Then things got really crazy. Woodard, a recent transfer to Freedom High from Riverview, is a multisport athlete and every coach's dream. She won the state championship in the high jump and competed in four other events at the state track meet. She has been the Tribune's Hillsborough County Female Athlete of the Year for the past two years. Depending on who is asked, the senior ranges anywhere from 6-foot-1 to 6-4. Woodard said it's closer to 6-2, but she won't argue with any of the projections. Either way, the height doesn't matter as much as the 21.6-point scoring average and the 16-2 record.The college letters are still pouring in, even though she has committed to Georgetown University, and the farther the Patriots roll through the season, the more calls and letters she is likely to receive. "It just started to get crazy when I transferred to Freedom,'' Woodard said. "I wanted academics and let everyone know that, but I also wanted to stay close to home. I love my family, and South Florida seemed like a great choice, but I just decided on Georgetown. It was tough, but I am happy with my decision and I don't plan to change.'' Woodard is looking forward to Georgetown, but first she wants to take Freedom to Lakeland, site of the state Final Four. After transferring from Riverview, where she averaged 21 points and 11 rebounds a season ago, she had the advantage of knowing her new coach, Laurie Pacholke, through AAU basketball for several years. Pacholke said she had no doubt that Woodard would fit in. "I've known her for a while, and I knew what she could bring to the team,'' Pacholke said. "She is hungry to get even better. You haven't even seen how good I know she can be. She likes being pushed to the limits and she never complains.'' Woodard can play any position on the floor. "She is 6-2 with guard skills and the ball-handling skills,'' Pacholke said. "She is so versatile that she can play the perimeter, but I can move her down low. She can guard anybody.'' Woodard can put up the numbers that make it into the scorebook, but she's a vicious defensive player, often assigned to the toughest scorers on the opposing team. She likes the way Pacholke stresses a lockdown defense, and it has made it easier to fit in with new teammates, putting defense over scoring. "When I got here, I didn't know what I was getting into,'' Woodard said. "Since we stress defense, it makes for a team effort. We all bought into it together. Everyone accepted me and we are all on the same page. They made me feel at home as soon as we started.'' It helped that Woodard played with some of her current teammates in AAU, but she was still nervous. New school, new team, new coach, flooded mailbox every day. It could have been stressful, but Woodard kept it all in perspective. She's a team leader who doesn't get too vocal on the court. Instead, she is just trying to fit in. "I can't wait to go (to Georgetown), even though it will be hard to be away from home,'' Woodard said. "But before I go to Washington D.C., I want to go to Lakeland.''