Junior forward Brittany Woodard was recruited by Cal Poly as a senior at Christian Brothers High School in Sacramento in 2008, but instead, she chose to play basketball at Nevada.
Two years later, a frustrated Woodard contacted Cal Poly about a possible transfer. After one official visit, she signed with the Mustangs and began her NCAA-mandated redshirt transfer season.
“I didn’t think I could sit out a whole year, but it’s definitely been worth the wait,” she said. “The bigger picture is education and doing what I love.”
Finally active and healthy, Woodard said she is glad to play on a Cal Poly team that is in contention for its second straight Big West regular season Conference Championship.
Sophomore forward Nikol Allison has known Woodard since high school, when they played together on a Sacramento club team. When Allison heard Woodard was seeking a new school, she volunteered to host her official visit to Cal Poly.
“We made her feel very comfortable here,” Allison said. “She was older and didn’t really know anyone, so I invited her to live with my roommate and I.”
Allison spent most of last season resting a lower back injury, so she and Woodard bonded in their time together on the bench, as well as in practice.
During her two years with the Wolf Pack from 2008-10, Nevada made significant coaching changes and Woodard saw limited minutes. She tore her ACL at the beginning of her sophomore season, and decided it was time for a change.
Assistant head coach Kerri Nakamoto recruited Woodard as a high schooler in 2008, and said she was thrilled to hear from her again two years later.
“She’s a great kid, I’m glad she made the smart move and transferred back to us,” Nakamoto said. “We’re not the kind of program that turns people away because they’ve had an injury here or there.”
Woodard’s mandatory redshirt year was a restless one, but Nakamoto said she kept a positive attitude and embraced her role on the “Scout Team” — a practice squad designed to simulate the strategy of upcoming opponents.
“She kept fighting and stayed really engaged, which I think has helped her return to the court,” Nakamoto said. “Her transition back has been pretty seamless.”
Woodard made her first appearance as a Mustang starting at forward in the 2011-12 season opener at Oregon. She also started the next five games, but suffered a stress fracture in her left foot against Pepperdine.
The stress fracture, which stemmed from a previous knee injury, sidelined Woodard for another six weeks, including a dismal stretch in which the Mustangs lost seven straight games.
Throughout her career of struggle and triumph, one thing has remained consistent for Woodard — her mother Kimberly, who she said has only missed a handful of Cal Poly games so far this season.
Woodard said she appreciates her mother’s effort to support her — whether at home or away games, injured or active — in whatever she does.
“She’s always there,” Woodard said of her mother, known as “Mama Kim” by most of her teammates. “I guess you could say she’s a part of the Mustang Family; she knows all of the girls and coaches.”
A journalism senior, Woodard said she aspires to become a professional sportscaster after college, preferably covering women’s collegiate basketball.
“I just love learning different sports and being able to connect it all,” she said.
In Cal Poly’s ESPN-broadcast game at rival UC Santa Barbara earlier this month, Woodard scored six points and grabbed seven rebounds in just 14 minutes of play.
Because stress fractures present a high risk of reinjury, head coach Faith Mimnaugh said she will gradually increase Woodard’s minutes moving forward.
“As she gets more opportunities, I feel like she’s going to get back into the mix,” Mimnaugh said. “She’s certainly somebody who could start for us in the near future.”
She said she was impressed with Woodard’s effort in the limited minutes she has played since returning Jan. 19 at Cal State Northridge.