By Jason king
It’s hard to imagine Sylvan Hills junior guard and top college prospect Archie Goodwin getting beat by a girl in a game of pickup basketball.
But that scenario was the catalyst for Goodwin, then a grade-school student, to improve on the game he now dominates almost nightly as a returning two-year starter on a Bears team already loaded with talent.
Goodwin can still recall the embarrassing, if not pivotal moment, even as elite NCAA Division I basketball coaches parade almost daily through the Sylvan Hills gym to catch a glimpse of the program’s first five-star recruit.
“It’s kind of a funny story,” Goodwin said. “I started playing when I was three, but I wasn’t really serious. So I never had my dad or anybody helping me out. One day, I played against this girl in basketball, and she beat me.
“I went home, and I was crying about it. My step dad, he asked me if I wanted to learn how to play basketball and I told him yes. He just explained to me how hard it was going to be, and from that day forward, I got in the gym every day and just continued to get better and better and better.”
Indeed, he got better.
Goodwin improved his skills to the point where he skipped over seventh grade and played up a year. His classmates caught up to him the following season and together they began to form the nucleus of a team many believe could terrorize Class 5A basketball over the next two years.
All the requirements to reach the upper echelons of college basketball are there – ball handling, outside shooting, driving to the rim, rebounding and defense, not to mention a sturdy, 6-5 frame that Goodwin’s family doctor said could extend to 6-8 by the time he stops developing.
His academics have not suffered either. Goodwin has maintained at least a 3.0 GPA since his sophomore year, and pushed it to 3.5 at the end of the last semester.
Goodwin’s easygoing demeanor and matter-of-fact self-analysis are a refreshing break from other high-profile athletes his age who tend to believe their hype and develop egos to match. He gives himself due credit on his aggressiveness and ability to score, but Goodwin doesn’t hesitate to say he needs to improve his defense and strength.
Central Arkansas high-school basketball aficionados learned of Goodwin in his freshman year, when he was
part of a 20-3, junior Bears team that swept the River City Junior High Conference tournament in late February of 2009. Those on the AAU circuit had also seen the wunderkind play on the Arkansas Wings 15-Under team.
But it was a trip to St. Louis in June for the annual Nike Hoop Jamboree that propelled Goodwin into the national spotlight.
Just as Chicago-area post player Quincy Miller had done in the Jamboree the year before, Goodwin went from obscurity to become the darling of the nation’s recruiters with a dazzling performance in a field that included fellow junior Brandon Ashley, a top recruit from Oakland.
Goodwin turned heads with his versatility, even straying from his two-guard position to run the point during the elite showcase. ESPN’s recruiting blog listed Goodwin as the breakout player of the event.
“It’s been exciting; it’s been fun,” Bears coach Kevin Davis said of the numerous visitors from the college ranks. “We’re all in the education business together. Being a part of it has been special. The colleges that have been on our campus are too many to try and mention all of them.”
If Goodwin has a bright future it is the result not just of talent but hard work, which stems from a grounded family life. He is the son of Archie Goodwin, Jr. and Melesha Humphrey and his stepfather is Detron Humphrey. Goodwin is near the middle, age-wise, of a pack of 10 sibling and stepsiblings.
Once the college offers began to pour in, Goodwin’s family went to work with positive reinforcement, stressing he make careful choices because he has too much to lose. It may be a familiar lecture, but it resonates with Goodwin.
“I hear that speech all the time,” he said. “I get it from my mom, my dad, my step dad, my uncles – I get it from everybody. I understand what they’re saying. Sometimes, people don’t have that person who drives them, and that’s why some people don’t make it as far as they could have.”
Offers are already on the table from schools like Baylor, Arkansas, Memphis and Kansas. Arkansas coach John Pelphrey told Goodwin he is the primary focus of the Razorbacks’ 2012 recruiting class.
Goodwin has also taken unofficial visits to Kentucky and North Carolina, and has received interest from Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas.
For Goodwin, the benefits of the attention are twofold. Not only does he have a chance to reach the top levels of college basketball, so do some of his teammates.
“It’s been great,” Goodwin said. “Actually, it’s given a lot of the players on my team a chance to get looked at by coaches. Most of them may have come to see me, but they may find something else they like.
“It gives them all a good chance, and I’m just glad that I have the opportunity to be looked at. I’m just blessed for it.”
The recruiting blogs, notorious for speculation and gross over-analysis, have already put Goodwin in Razorbacks red or the light blue of North Carolina. One site curiously projected him to sign with Georgia, but the word straight from the source is that the pool of almost 40 interested schools will be narrowed down before a decision is made in 2011.
“I’m just going to wait it out,” Goodwin said. “I’ll make my decision sometime next year. I don’t know when exactly, but I can say I will probably narrow my list down to 10 by the end of the season.”
The list of Goodwin’s teammates on the AAU Wings is a Who’s Who of the state’s leading college prospects. The impressive list includes three who have already committed to the Arkansas: Aaron Ross (Little Rock Parkview), Hunter Milkelson (Jonesboro Westside) and Ky Madden (East Poinsett County) as well as 6-6 Little Rock Hall senior and future Nebraska Cornhusker David Rivers.
But it is classmates Devin Pearson and Larry Ziegler that Goodwin is most identified with on the local front. Davis began calling them “The Triplets” — after the famed Razorback trio of Marvin Delph, Sidney Moncrief and Ron Brewer — while they were freshman, although another junior, point guard Trey Smith, has come into his own as a valuable component of the Bears.
“I think we have a pretty good team,” Goodwin said. “It’s just exciting to see the talent we have, and how we play together. I’m just happy to be a part of this thing. We all have the same goal to win the state championship, which hopefully, we can do.”
Each player brings something different.
Pearson, a big-bodied 6-5 post player, is perhaps the strongest defender while handling the post’s rebounding and inside scoring duties. Ziegler is a 6-3 forward whose versatility is similar to Goodwin’s, while Smith, 6-0, is the Bears’ most consistent outside shooting threat.
The excitement around Sylvan Hills basketball was evident at the Bears’ home and season opener against Pulaski Oak Grove last week. Goodwin and company did not disappoint the standing room only crowd as they turned in a 93-73 victory fueled by Smith’s game high 20 points, 12 of which came from three-pointers.
Ziegler had 19 points and Goodwin had 18 while Pearson turned in a 17-point, 12-rebound performance on the low block.
“He’s got a great cast around him,” Davis said. “You can box-and-one, double team him or whatever, and he has no worries about who he gives the basketball to. That’s what makes it exciting around here.
“The faculty was extremely excited the next day. That’s a great experience. You come in to work, these kids come to school, and the faculty has been there to watch them, and they’re so exited about what you’re doing.”
Davis has had his share of talent in his 13 years at Sylvan Hills, with outcomes good and bad. He reached the 5A state semifinals in 2006 with a team of scrappy underdogs that included point guard U.S. Robinson, utility guard Mike Gross and beefy post player Robert McKinney.
The group graduated that spring, leaving Davis’ roster depleted. By 2008, he had turned his eyes on the talent emerging from the junior-high ranks as the Bears returned to the Class 5A after two struggling seasons in 6A.
Goodwin and his teammates wrapped up their dominant freshman run in February of 2009, just in time for Goodwin to be pulled up to the varsity team for the end of the season. He made his debut at the Sylvan Hills gym in the 5A-Southeast Conference finale against Beebe, but played limited minutes.
Goodwin made his mark in Alma during the first round of the 5A state tournament against Greene County Tech, which eventually won the state title that year. Goodwin played most of the second half and went on to lead the team in scoring with 16 points.
He averaged 22 points a game and five rebounds in 10th grade, and Goodwin became the first Sylvan Hills sophomore named all state since Jeremy Brown in 2002.
“I basically have everything on the offensive part down,” Goodwin said. “On defense, I try to get into my defender, and I like to play the passing lanes too. I play aggressive, and sometimes, that can get you in trouble.”
As Goodwin’s game and body continue to develop, Davis’ keeps a watchful eye, as he has done for the past four years.
“Archie’s special,” Davis said. “I’ve been saying that since he was in the eighth grade. He’s got a gear that I haven’t seen, and this is my 20th year in the business around here. He’s just got a little something — got a nice flair about him. I call it an extra gear he can shift into.
“When you come and pay admission to see that kid, there’s no telling what you’ll see that night.”