Tuesday, November 27, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Goodwin making name known

Leader sports editor

At the rate he’s going, former Sylvan Hills Bear and current Kentucky freshman Archie Goodwin isn’t long for college basketball.

Goodwin leads Kentucky in scoring, averaging 18.3 points per game. His high this season was 28. His best overall game was his last one when he almost tallied a triple-double. He finished Kentucky’s blowout win over Longwood with 22 points, nine rebounds and nine assists. And he’s done all this while spending most of his time away from his natural position.

NBA teams have already taken notice and have already begun their research on Goodwin as a possible draft choice. Two NBA teams have contacted Sylvan Hills coach Kevin Davis for information about his former charge. Davis didn’t feel at liberty to say which teams have contacted him, but he, if few others, isn’t surprised that Goodwin has been as good as he’s been.

“The Kentucky press asked me when he first signed how I thought he compared to the rest of the class, seeing as how he wasn’t has highly rated as some of the others,” Davis said. “I told them I thought he was the top kid in the class. He’s the kind of player, he will eject you out of your seat. You’ll be sitting there just watching a basketball game and then you’ll be up asking yourself, oh my goodness, did he just do that.”

Kentucky coach John Calipari has made an unprecedented habit of signing NBA-ready players out of high school. A recent NBA rule dictates that players are not eligible for the NBA draft until they’ve been out of high-school at least one year.

That’s helped certain college programs dominate a year at a time, but Calipari seems to get the vast majority of those NBA-ready guys every single year. The irony here is that Goodwin was not considered one of those guys. He, by Kentucky’s recent standards, was kind of a low-rated recruit.

The Wildcat fans are used to, and expect, only to sign guys that they know will only be there one year, but they don’t worry about it. They know their coach with the shady past and tattered trail of NCAA infractions will just sign some more the next season.

But Goodwin, with all his highly-publicized question marks concerning everything from his shooting prowess to maturity to which position he’ll even play, has been the Wildcats’ best player.

Kentucky’s point guard, Ryan Harrow, has missed every game since the season opener for various reasons, and Goodwin moved over from the two to run the point.

In just his second game at the point, the freshmen-laden Wildcats were beaten pretty thoroughly by a less talented but much more experienced and senior-laden Duke squad.

Make no mistake, though, compared to Kentucky, less talented can still mean extremely talented, and Duke is just that.

Goodwin had a decent game, scoring 16 points, but turned it over a few times early on and struggled defensively trying to contain Duke guards Quinn Cook and Seth Curry.

Basketball commentator and former college and NBA coach Dick Vitale was pretty hard on Goodwin throughout that ESPN-televised game, maligning the central Arkansas native as uncomfortable, wild, a poor shooter and immature.

Since then, Goodwin has been superb, even at the point. That’s why Davis believes the NBA has taken notice.

“I think his stock is steadily rising,” Davis said. “They see him showing some versatility and expanding his game. It took him a game or two to get comfortable, but he’s been outstanding since then.”

On one play against Duke, when walk-on guard Jarron Polson took the point for Kentucky, Goodwin, from his natural position, got around Cook, slashed to the bucket and laid it in over Duke’s best player, Mason Plumlee.

That brought praise from Vitale, but even his praise was tinged with criticism.

That’s Archie’s game right there,” Vitale said. “He’s just a natural born scorer.”

Davis agrees with that, but believes there’s more to Goodwin’s game than than filling the rim.

“He is definitely a natural born scorer,” Davis said. “But if that’s all he was I don’t think NBA teams would be calling around about him so early in his career. There’s more to him than that and I think the nation is seeing that unfold.”

Davis speaks with Goodwin weekly, and says the budding star is enjoying himself and handling the criticism well.

“He just lets that stuff roll off him,” Davis said. “He handles that stuff like he handles pressure in a big game. Nothing gets to him.

“Vitale and some guys say he’s a little too wide. Well I’ve always said Picasso can’t paint if you don’t give him a brush. You’ve got to give a guy like that some freedom to do some things. There might be a turnover now and then, but you have to let a guy like that experiment and see what he can create. You’re going to be pleased with the result most of the time, I promise you.”