With a flurry of Division I basketball scholarship offers headed toward Althoff Crusaders players this summer, senior guard Brendon Gooch was the first one to announce his decision.
The 6-foot-6 Gooch used his Twitter account to make it official as he gave a verbal commitment to Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
The Class 3A honorable mention all-state selection averaged 13.6 points and 7.7 rebounds last season while helping Althoff (29-4) to a second-place finish at the 3A state tournament. Gooch had 10 points and nine rebounds in the Crusaders’ 67-63 loss to Westchester St. Joseph in the state title game and fired in 20 points with eight rebounds in a semifinal win over Morgan Park.
“They were always at my summer games for my AAU team (the Southwestern Illinois Jets 17-under squad),” Gooch said. “They were the best offer I had and they can make me the best player I can be.”
Althoff coach Greg Leib said the Salukis are getting a lot more than a talented basketball player in Gooch, who led Althoff with 56 blocked shots and also hit 41 3-pointers.
“They get a very gifted basketball player, a competitive kid, a good teammate and a guy that makes the rest of his teammates better,” Leib said. “Outside of that, they get a quality guy on campus, a great student and a service-oriented type kid that is very dedicated to making any situation better than how he found it.”
Gooch said he also had offers from Western Illinois and San Jose State.
Althoff junior forward Jordan Goodwin has watched his recruiting stock soar since a strong playoff run with the Crusaders last season helped lead to an offer from Illinois. Since then, Goodwin said he has also picked up offers from Missouri, Purdue, Kansas State, Virginia Tech.
Goodwin began the summer playing with the St. Louis Eagles’ 16-under squad, but finished up on the powerful 17-under squad that included Duke recruit and Chaminade All-American Jayson Tatum that finished second at the prestigious Peach Jam tournament.
Althoff senior guard Tarkus Ferguson, who played with the St. Louis Eagles and Southwest Illinois Jets this summer, has also drawn a lot of interest this summer. He has offers from SIUC, Evansville, Western Kentucky, SIU Edwardsville, Illinois-Chicago, Missouri-Kansas City and Tennessee State.
Gooch recently helped lead the 17-under Jets team to a second-place finish at the Sunflower Showcase in Lawrence, Kansas. Gooch said he improved his strength and his ballhandling this summer, a scary thought for opponents who have been watching him for the past three seasons on the varsity.
“He’s just fearless,” Leib said. “From his freshman year on he took big shots like one I remember against Centralia. He was like that and it just carried over, His willingness to take that big shot and believe in himself to make it is a good characteristic to have.”
Leib said many times Gooch passed up chances to fill up his own stat sheet for the good of the team.
“That’s just our team, we’ve got a number of guys that can score,” Leib said. “That just happens and it’s not necessary for him to come out and shoot it 20 times a game to consider it a successful game.”
Gooch said he has been a fan of Salukis coach Barry Hinson for a while now.
“He’s been on me since my freshman year and recruiting me hard for almost four years now,” Gooch said. “I feel like he’s really serious about me becoming a better player and helping me become a better person overall.”
SIUC was 12-21 last season and loses three seniors following the 2015-16 season, including Anthony Beane, Ibby Djimde and Deng Leek. The Salukis were 4-14 in the Missouri Valley Conference.
Former Edwardsville star Armon Fletcher was redshirted at SIUC last season and has four years of eligibility remaining.
Former Alton Marquette standout Deion Lavender transferred from SIUC to Alabama-Birmingham after last season. Saluki freshman Jordan Caroline also transferred along with Jalen Pendleton and Chaz Glotta.