Althoff junior Jordan Goodwin is beyond driven. He’s haunted.
The 17-year-old Althoff junior was first team all-state basketball player last season, as well as the South Seven Conference and Belleville News-Democrat Player of the Year.
He’s averaged more than 20 points per game during his high school career and has drawn college offers from the big-school likes of Illinois, Missouri, Kansas State and Purdue, among others.
Despite the pattern of success, there is plenty that still drives Goodwin, namely the fear of losing.
“I’ve got two words: second place. I’ve come in second too many times,” he said. “We finished second in EYBL (club league), which hurt, we just got back from football state where we finished second, and we finished second in state basketball last year. We lost the championship by four points and missed 11 free throws in the game — that kills me.”
The Crusaders finished second the the Collinsville Holiday Tournament in 2014, losing to the host Kahoks. The year before, they fell in Lincoln in the semifinals.
Goodwin remembers those losses, too.
So, in four tournament games last week, he averaged 21 points with eight rebounds to lead the 11-1 Crusaders to the championship and earn both tournament Most Valuable Player and Belleville News-Democrat Athlete of the Week honors.
“That’s a big piece of it for Jordan,” said Althoff head coach Greg Leib. “You know, it’s not complicated: God will give you some ability, but if you have enough passion, you can put enough sweat into it to become a player.
For his part, Goodwin has concentrated on improving his perimeter shooting to make it harder for opposing teams to account for him. On the season, he’s shooting 43.8 percent from three-point range.
Still, he shrugs off the individual honors, insisting that even his own statistics are the more the product of a team effort. Other Crusaders had big games in Collinsville as well. In the 85-55 championship win over Decatur MacArthur, for example, Brendon Gooch scored a game-high 21 points with 10 rebounds and Marvin Bateman pitched in 19.
Goodwin still did his part with 18 points, 14 boards and eight assists.
“The key for me being MVP was, again, playing as part of the team — making down shots, passing it out when I had to, guarding, tip-ins off the glass,” he said. “Gooch did a great job cutting the championship game. I figured instead of taking the tough shot over two people, I’d kick it out to Gooch because I knew he’d finish regardless.
“My game is because of them, you know? They feed me the ball, I feed it to them, we all run the floor, I rebound and they rebound. It’s a team effort.”
Althoff returns all but one player from the team that chased Westchester St. Joseph to within four points of a state basketball championship last March and have been ranked No. 1 in Class 3A since the beginning of this season.
The pursuit of the state title continues this week with games against Marion and at the sold-out Highland Shootout with a showdown with Missouri power Chaminade.
Goodwin and Leib acknowledge there is pressure to live up to the expectations typically heaped on states runner-up and all-state performers.
“Pressure is always there, but the love of the game should be the foundation of that,” said Leib. “As long as you continue to love the game, the only thing left is to go out there and compete and do the best you can. Sometimes that’s good enough and sometimes it’s not. If it’s not, you work that much harder to go out and do it over a game.”
“Jordan is in the gym and so are the other guys. They push and hold each other to task. It helps them do what they do.”
Besides, Goodwin says, winning and competing is no longer enough if it ends with second place.
“There’s a little pressure on us this year because our goal is to win state, but that can be motivation, too,” he said. “We know we come out with an ‘X’ on our back every game and that pushes us to keep playing hard and playing together.”