Althoff High’s Jordan Goodwin would trade all of his personal accomplishments for another shot at the Class 3A state championship.
But since that isn’t possible, the 6-foot-3 sophomore will have to be content with the acknowledgment that coaches have selected him the Class 3A-4A News-Democrat Player of the Year for 2014-15.
Goodwin, who averaged 20.4 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.4 steals, rolled past his competitors for the award and became the first Althoff player to win Player of the Year since Kevin Lisch in 2004.
“It feels good to be singled out of all the good players, but I’ve still got to get better and work hard for next year,” said Goodwin, whose motor hasn’t stopped since the Crusaders (29-4) lost to Westchester St. Joseph 67-63 in the title game March 21 in Peoria. “I still need to get in the weight room, get bigger and finish with the ball better. And I’m working on my outside jump shot a lot.”
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Considering that the strapping 205-pound Goodwin, with a work ethic few players are able to match, will improve on the court is a frightful thought for opponents. He already has scored more than 1,100 points in his career and was a first-team all-state selection this season as well as the South Seven Conference Player of the Year.
Perhaps more than anything, however, Goodwin gains satisfaction from knowing he was the best teammate he could be. It was his goal to “be a leader with my team.”
“In the locker room, in practice, talking more to them, helping them out,” Goodwin said. “I think me being our leading scorer and stuff, I need to lead us, help us get to state again next year.”
Second to none
Crusaders coach Greg Leib lauded Goodwin’s leadership traits this season as Goodwin adopted a responsibility usually assigned to seniors. But more than anything, Leib marveled at Goodwin’s tireless work ethic, whether it be in practice or games.
“He played hard every night,” said Leib, who was recognized as the Class 3A-4A Coach of the Year. “He played sore, he played hurt, he played with wisdom teeth coming in. He would go out there and compete.
“We’re all happy for him. I know he doesn’t want this (award) to define him as a person or a player, but it’s a nice accolade to be heaped upon anybody. He worked hard to get it and he competed extremely hard this season.”
Leib said Goodwin does things on the court that can’t be taught. He’s a bull in the lane, overpowering other players in his attempt to score or grab a rebound.
“You’ve got that dog in you or you don’t,” Leib said. “He just goes out and gets after it.”
Goodwin said his dad, Tim, a former star at Cahokia High and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, is one of the driving forces behind his desire to improve.
“My dad does a lot. He’s always on me to get better,” Goodwin said.
Once his outside jumper develops a bit more, Goodwin will add another weapon. As defenders close to obstruct his shot, Goodwin will leave them behind with a dribble-drive.
“If he gets that 3-point shot down and adds that to his arsenal, he’ll be a really difficult matchup because if teams have to come out and face that, he’ll get a step on you and get to the rim,” Leib said, adding that if there’s a way to improve, Goodwin will identify it.
“Most Sundays during the season, he’s finding a place to go shoot,” Leib said. “He’s always finding a place to go work on his game and get some shots in. That’s a testament to the drive and the will that he has to be the best player he can be. ... Basketball is one of those games you can never really master. You can get very good at it and become great at it, but you’re always seeking to master it. Your body will give out before you get to that point.”
Leib said Goodwin and Lisch, who went on to play at St. Louis University and professionally in Europe, are comparable in their approaches to the game.
“(Lisch) was a real treat to coach and he had a great work ethic, too,” Leib said. “Kevin had so much fun playing. He never viewed it as work. He enjoyed the game that much. If you have joy doing it, it doesn’t seem like work. Hopefully, Jordan will follow in the footsteps of what helped Kevin to be successful with his basketball career.”
The new ‘mule’
Leib compares Goodwin’s skill set as being close to that of Marty Simmons, the former Lawrenceville High all-stater who coached at SIUE before taking over at Evansville, where he has spent the last eight seasons.
Simmons was nicknamed “The Mule” for his ability to carry a team. Goodwin, although he had plenty of support with the deep and talented Crusaders, had the same ability.
“There are some similarities,” said Leib, a Flora native is very familier with Simmons. “Marty was an ornery player. He would come at you. He would get by you and give you one for the road to the chops if you stuck your chin out there. He was a tough player; that’s how you played the game back then. Jordan plays very physical, too, and if you try to take the ball from him, there’s a price to pay if you dig in there after it.”
Goodwin is not familiar with Simmons, but said: “I love to attack the basket. I was a lot more physical this year than last year. Last year, I didn’t want it more like I did this year. This year, I really wanted to get to state so bad.”
Physically, Goodwin and Simmons were very similar.
“Look at Marty’s hands. He’s got big mitts,” Leib said. “Jordan’s got mitts just like that. Marty, as a player, was a tough-minded individual who played hard every possession. So there are some similarities. I think Jordan jumps a little better than Marty, but Marty didn’t have to jump so much because he got things done with everything else.”
As much as Goodwin enjoys the power side of basketball, he said his favorite aspect of the game is grabbing a rebound and starting a runout.
“I think it’s us being in transition,” Goodwin said. “When we get on a little run and start getting fast-breaks and a dunk, that’s probably my favorite part.”
With Goodwin returning next season along with teammates like Brendon Gooch, Tarkus Ferguson, Keenen Young, C.J. Coldon, Marvin Bateman and Edwyn Brown, the Crusaders will be poised to make another run at the state championship.
“I’ll take our chances,” Goodwin said. “I know we’ve got the same team coming back except for Rick (Edwards). We need somebody to step in for Rick, but besides that, we’re going to be pretty good this year.”
Goodwin described the weeks after losing to Westchester St. Joseph as being “rough.” The Crusaders hurt themselves by going 4-for-13 from the free-throw line.
“I’ve still been thinking about the game, what we could have done better to win it,” Goodwin said. “I would trade being all-state for the championship.”
Goodwin is preparing for next season by playing AAU basketball with the St. Louis Eagles.
“I’m ready to keep going. Basketball never stops,” Goodwin said. “I’m good to go.”