Lynette Woodard talks Caitlin Clark's scoring record, why she's so excited for what's next

Lynette Woodard has never followed the pack. She’s a trailblazer whose accomplishments are cemented within basketball lore. The record-setting, four-time All-American guard for the University of Kansas went on to capture an Olympic gold medal, became the first female member of the Harlem Globetrotters, and helped launch the WNBA as a starter for the Cleveland Rockers during the league's inaugural 1997 campaign.

Now, the Hall of Famer is embracing the moment and hype as Iowa superstar Caitlin Clark nears college basketball's all-time scoring record, held by "Pistol" Pete Maravich with his 3,667 career points. In February, Clark surpassed Woodard and Kelsey Plum to become the all-time leading scorer in NCAA Division I women's college basketball. She needs 18 points to set the mark.

“Just the excitement surrounding (the record), it’s so beautiful for me,” Woodard told USA TODAY Sports on Friday. “I think records are made to be broken. One day, it’s going to happen again, (and) I’m glad to be a part of it.”

Woodard becomes downright giddy when speaking about Clark and the impact she is having on the basketball landscape.

“(She is) drawing in so many different people from different walks of life,” Woodard said. “Not just the sporting world, not just the fans, but I guarantee you every household out here knows Caitlin Clark’s name."

Woodard, who scored 3,649 in four seasons at Kansas, said she sees just how integral Clark and her ascension has been to the growth of the sport.

“I stepped outside my door (and) I had to smile,” Woodard said. “There was a young girl across the street – little biddy thing, dribbling with two hands, just bent over the ball. To see her with the basketball in her hand – those are the seeds that are being planted right now, and it’s a beautiful thing.”

No matter the Clark vs. Maravich debate, comparing their different eras and parsing how many games each took to reach their records, there is one huge fan in Kansas who is excited to witness Clark's historic moment, which is poised to come Sunday when Iowa hosts Ohio State (1 p.m. ET, Fox).

“I think it’s a big deal, I’m Team Caitlin,” Woodard said. “Hey, keep pushing, young lady, keep pushing.”

During March Madness, all eyes will be focused on the 22-year-old Clark, who already owns a mantle full of awards. Then, all that attention will shift to her professional career. She announced on Thursday that she will enter the 2024 WNBA draft, scheduled for April 15. The Indiana Fever hold the No. 1 pick.

“It’s not just the basketball world, it’s the world," Woodard said. "The (whole) world will be watching.”

Whether Clark can change the WNBA like she did college basketball remains to be seen. But Woodard called Clark "the zenith" and was succinct and effusive in her praise of Clark’s marksmanship: “Range! Range! Range!”

“She is going to be shooting from way out there,” Woodard said. “(But) she is a great passer as well. She can dish that dime.”

There is still more to be written about Clark’s collegiate career. We may be approaching the best part of her story. But no matter how this epic concludes, there is no one who has more appreciation for what Clark has meant to the sport than the 64-year-old basketball icon with an unparalleled résumé. Woodard is so appreciative of the vital role Clark has played in growing the sport.

“Just bringing everyone to the game, and (to) see such an exciting game, and to embrace women’s basketball like it’s never ever been embraced, (with) this one player carrying it, God, it’s beautiful," she said.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Lynette Woodard on Caitlin Clark scoring record: 'A beautiful thing'