Monday, April 08, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Coach backs Goodwin on NBA

Leader sports editor

After just one tumultuous season at the University of Kentucky, former Sylvan Hills star Archie Goodwin announced Sunday that he will make himself eligible for the NBA draft that takes place on June 27. His coach agrees with him.

Statistically, Goodwin had a good freshman season as a Wildcat. He led the team in scoring, averaging 14 points per game, and steals, was twice named Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week, once named SEC Player of the Week and was named to the SEC All-Freshmen team at the end of the season.

Goodwin’s high school coach Kevin Davis has been in touch with Goodwin all season, and says the 6-foot-5 two guard is very excited about his future.

“He’s really pumped,” Davis said. “I think this has been his goal the whole time. He said when he signed it was a business decision. In his mind, he’s been a one-and-done player all along. He felt like Kentucky is where you go to get the most exposure, and this was his plan.”

Even with all the individual accolades, Goodwin found himself the target of public criticism on at least two occasions by Kentucky coach John Calipari. By Kentucky standards, the team’s season was a failure.

The defending national champion Wildcats did not make the 68-team field of the NCAA tournament, finishing 21-12 overall and 12-6 in SEC play. They lost four of their last five games, with a road game at Fayetteville kick starting the downward spiral that ended Kentucky’s season.

During that losing streak, Calipari was overheard during a game telling Goodwin as he walked off the floor, “I can’t coach you.” In another incident, Calipari, in a midseason post-game press conference, said that he wasn’t pleased with some player’s unwillingness to stay within the coaching staff’s game plan. It was widely believed he was referring to Goodwin.

Even with the seemingly strained relationship between coach and player, Calipari said Monday that he wanted Goodwin to stay, but added, “I fully support him choosing to pursue his dreams.”

Davis takes Calipari at his word, saying the relationship wasn’t as bad as it appeared.
“What he said during the game was a heat of the moment thing,” Davis said. “He came back the next day and explained that. And the other comment he made at the press conference, I really believe he was talking about a couple of other guys. Archie is the kind of guy that’s going to worry you at times, but you’ve got to let a player like that have a few of those moments in order to get the great moments, which are far more frequent.”

With the way the season ended, Goodwin’s draft projection dropped from early teens and a potential lottery pick, to late first round. Davis admitted to beginning to wonder if it would be in Goodwin’s best interest to leave this year, and said even Goodwin did too.

“There was a little doubt, but you come out of all that and the bad ending, and you’re still up there in the first round projections, I think he saw that and he believes in his own ability, he just decided it was still what he wanted to do. And I agree with that.”

Davis, who coached Good-win from 2009-12, said the style that Kentucky played this year wasn’t the best fit for Goodwin’s game. Goodwin’s freshmen classmates consisted of dominant post players, and Calipari tried to build the team around that strength, while Goodwin’s game is strongest in the open floor.

“He put those two big seven footers out there, and other teams would counter that,” Davis said. “That basically meant a lane full of at least four great big bodies, and you’re not going to drive in there too often. Nobody is. So I don’t think people got much of a chance to see what he’s capable of. If he can get on with a team that’s committed to fastbreak basketball, he’s going to flourish. There are things he can do you just can’t teach.”

The two biggest concerns scouts have about Goodwin is his ability to play defense and his shooting percentage. Davis says hard work can fix those things.

“There are definitely some things he can work to improve,” Davis said. “But there are a lot of things he does naturally that are very difficult to coach. The things he’s not doing right now are easy to coach. You can improve your shooting percentage by getting in the gym and working on your shot. They don’t let you play help defense so you have to be able to hold your own there, but those things you can teach a great athlete like Archie. His up side so huge and he works so hard, I believe he’s going to succeed and become an NBA player.”
Pre-draft workouts begin in earnest in May and last up until days before the draft. Those workouts will also play a big role in Goodwin’s future projections.

“If he can get himself back up in the top 15, you’re talking a million a year for four years of guaranteed money. You look at the guards that Kentucky has coming in, and you’re looking at sharing playing time. It’s in his best interest to go ahead and go after that. I think he made a good decision.”