Tuesday, September 27, 2011

SPORTS >> Goodwin solid in decision

Leader sportswriter

The countdown ended for Archie Goodwin last week, and when the final cut was made, the University of Kentucky was the only school still standing for Sylvan Hills’ 6-5 senior shooting guard.

It marked the end of a long decision-making process for Goodwin, a top-five national basketball recruit since the end of his sophomore season. It came as a surprise to few who have followed his career, although it caused considerable heartbreak among Razorback fans.

Goodwin fielded so many offers from Division I schools that he pledged to release a top-ten list of preferred schools over the summer.

Kentucky remained at the top of that list through the cut from top 10 to top five, and when the list narrowed to three, it was Kentucky, Memphis and Arkansas.

“I just feel like that with the players, and the great fan base at Kentucky, it was just what I was looking for,” Goodwin said in an interview with The Leader.

Kentucky coach John Calipari expressed deep interest in Goodwin early on, and spared no travel expense to woo the youngster.

Calipari was on hand at the Sylvan Hills gym in January when the Bears pulverized a stunned Watson Chapel team, and also caught a road game against Crossett. That’s not to mention the practices he attended, along with trips to catch Goodwin playing AAU basketball for the Arkansas Wings, and home visits once the no-contact clause was removed following Goodwin’s junior year.

“They had their eye on him since early last year,” Bears coach Kevin Davis said. “They were the first ones to really pursue Archie. It wasn’t something I knew was going to happen, but once it got down to the top five, I was not surprised with how it turned out.”

Goodwin’s stats improved as the hype increased, going from just over 22 points per game his sophomore season to 29 points last year as a junior, including a career high 52 points against North Pulaski last February. He averaged close to 40 points a game through the Bears’ three state tournament games at Alma.

Once Goodwin made his decision public last Tuesday night, message boards across Arkansas lit up with disappointed responses. But Goodwin was frank when it came to addressing those disappointments.

“It doesn’t affect me,” Goodwin said. “I feel like this was the best decision for me. If someone doesn’t like it, it’s their problem – not mine.”

Now that the recruiting process is over, Goodwin said he and his Bears teammates can now focus on the unfinished business of claiming the 5A state championship. Sylvan Hills went unbeaten through their 5A-Southeast Conference schedule last year and had a stellar run through the state tournament in Alma, but the host of that tournament ended the Bears’ dream season in the finals at Hot Springs in early March.

And for Davis, he hopes the attention from Goodwin’s signing can serve as a catalyst for other players, including post player Devin Pearson, point guard Dion Patton and utility player Larry Ziegler.

“I was really kind of indifferent towards the whole deal,” Davis said of the multiple coaches’ visits last year. “As a coach, you know there are certain things you have to prepare your guys for – the need to stay sharp and focused.

“We feel like we have several others that will be getting attention. I think you’ll start to see those guys get some looks from people. There have been some colleges that have been in contact with them, and I think that will pick up as the year goes along.”