Continuing with the Bullets Forever Summer Project of franchise curiosities -- we've had Robert Pack, Jim McIlvaine, LeDell Eackles, and Tim Legler so far -- I present Haywoode Workman, written by me.
I first chose Haywoode Workman for the Bullets Forever Summer Project because of his name....it's just fitting for a basketball player, or some sort of athlete, or just a dude workin' for a livin'. Then I realized, Workman was the introductory point guard into my Bullets fandom upon moving to Washington, DC (that's DC, DC), in the summer of 1990, at the ripe age of 10.
Workman hails from Charlotte, North Carolina and attended Winston Salem State for one year before transferring to Oral Roberts for the '86-87 season. Oral Roberts wasn't particularly good in those days, going 27-52 during Workman's tenure, but he made his impression on the program nonetheless. He posted career averages of 17.7 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 2.9 steals. Workman remains 8th on the school's all time points scored list, 5th in total free-throws made, and 10th in total assists. He also has the records for most steals in a game, in a season, and in a career at Oral Roberts.
Workman's most memorable college performance came in December of 1988 when he scored a career high 42 points (18 from 3-pointers and 15 from FTs) against the #6 ranked Oklahoma Sooners featuring Mo-Mo-Mookie Blaylock and Stacey King; Oklahoma won 152-122. In his junior year, Workman was named Honorable Mention All-American. He has since been inducted into the Oral Roberts Hall of Fame.
Moving on to the NBA, Workman was selected 22nd in the 2nd round (49th overall) in the 1989 NBA Draft. Unfortunately for Haywoode, the Hawks cut him six games into the season, opting for the services of Sedric Toney in backing up Doc Rivers and Spud Webb at the point. Workman would go on to play for the Topeka Sizzlers of the Continental Basketball Association (CBA), then back to the Hawks for a 10-day contract, and then to the Illinois Express of the World Basketball League (WBL).
In August of 1990, the Bullets invited Workman to rookie camp. However, he was pulled from the court after a day and a half. As the Express were preparing for the WBL playoffs, which extended into August, Workman went AWOL to tryout with the Bullets. WBL president, Steve Erhardt, insisted that Workman had to retire from the WBL to participate in camp and was threatening to sue. Eventually Workman paid a fine and never returned to the WBL.
Workman made the full Bullets training camp at Bowie State and fought with Tony Harris and Larry Robinson for a spot on the team, while Darrell Walker, Steve Colter and 2nd round draft pick A.J. English were already in the fold at the guard position -- Ledell Eackles was holding out for more money and getting fat.
With the absence of Eackles, Colter, the backup point in the previous season, was asked to play more shooting guard. Darrell Walker was also experiencing tendinitis in his Achilles. So yes, in typical Bullets fashion, the outlook for Wes Unseld's team wasn't good sans both starting guards at the commencement of the '90-91 season.
Ultimately, Harris was cut and Colter, who was at odds with Unseld, was shipped to the Sacramento Kings in exchange for Byron Irvin, who was more adept at playing two guard. Both Workman and Robinson would start the first two games of the season at the guard positions. When Walker, who actually played 58 total minutes between games 1 and 2, was inserted back into the starting lineup for game 3, Workman went to the bench and Robinson continued to start for the next seven games. However, Workman had impressed enough, so when Ledell Eackles finally signed and returned to the court in November, Robinson was released.
But Eackles, considered the poor man's homeless man's Michael Jordan at the time, was not going to start. Fresh off a five game losing streak in mid-November, Unseld went with the starting lineup of Darrell Walker and Haywoode Workman, and it paid off. Workman scored 14 points and hit a game winner with 3.1 seconds left to beat Reggie Miller and the Indiana Pacers at the Capital Centre, putting a temporary halt to mounting losses.
In the end, Haywoode Workman would appear in 73 games for the Bullets, starting 56 of them (he missed nine games in February because of a pulled groin). For the season, he averaged 8.0 points, 4.8 assists (2nd on the team), 3.3 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game (tied for 1st on the team). In his starts, he averaged 9.2 points and 5.4 assists.
Before the following '91-92 season, Workman made a move that would've contributed to the "NBA Sky is Falling, Player Off to Europe" headlines seen on blogs and MSM outlets today. He signed a two-year, $400K+ per contract with Italian League champion, Scavolini Pesaro, which of course came with the perks of a BMW and a house on the Adriatic Coast.
The writing was on the wall as the Bullets traded for Michael Adams and drafted LaBradford Smith that summer. The team gave Workman a qualifying offer of the $120K minimum, which could have been a non-guaranteed $250K if he made the team. Haywoode did what any of us would do and chose security. After two years in Italy, Workman came back and had three fairly productive seasons as a backup PG for the Indiana Pacers. He also briefly spent time with the Milwaukee Bucks and the Toronto Raptors, and played a couple years for Hapoel Jerusalem in Israel, before calling an end to his basketball playing career.
In 2001, Workman moved to Tampa, Florida, where he started refereeing local games and became involved with the Tampa Bay Pro-Am league. He moved up to refereeing CBA games and then NBDL games in 2004. Workman has current aspirations to become an NBA ref, most recently working some games at the 2008 Orlando NBA Summer League.
No, Haywoode Workman wasn't the first, second, third, or even fourth most important player on that '90-91 Bullets team. Neither was he the most memorable. He was simply a 25-year old who did what he needed to do to fill the gaps at a team's most important position, point guard. He displayed the ball handling skills to beat pressure and showed the ability to hit an occasional jumper, keeping the defense honest. Plain and simple, Haywoode worked, man.
- Oral Roberts Golden Eagles Men's Basketball Media Guide
- "Pacer Guard Has A Mission," Chicago Sun-Times (May 9, 1994)
- "6 Guards Get Last Audition; Bullets to Keep Only Four or Five," The Washington Post (Oct. 25, 1990). David Aldridge.
- "Bullets Trade Colter; Acquire Kings' Irvin; Harris, Jefferson Cut," The Washington Post (Oct. 31, 1990). David Aldridge.
- "New Bullets Try to Feel At Home; Workman, Robinson Keep On," The Washington Post (Nov. 7, 1990). David Aldridge.
- "Bullets Write an End To Five-Game Skid," The Washington Post (Nov. 25, 1990). David Aldridge.
- "Bullets Lose Workman To Italy's Scavolini; Starting Point Guard Signs Two-Year Deal," The Washington Post (Jul. 20, 1991) David Aldridge.
- "Where Are They Now? Haywoode Workman: Popular Former Point Guard Starting Over as an Official," NBA.com/Pacers by Conrad Brunner.
"Former Pacers Guard Has NBA In His Sights Again," Tampa Tribune (Jul. 17, 2007) Todd Johnson.