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Fearless, focused and vocal, Goodwin ready to lead

With players on campus and the new season just around the corner, CoachCal.com will be profiling UK’s five newcomers, Julius Mays, Alex Poythress, Archie Goodwin, Willie Cauley-Stein and Nerlens Noel, in an exclusive CoachCal.com “Meet the Wildcats” series. Next up is Goodwin.

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couple of weeks ago, the newly acquainted Kentucky Wildcats found themselves in a brutal conditioning drill with strength and conditioning coach Mike Malone and assistant coach Kenny Payne.

The premise of the drill was simple. The players had to complete a set amount of sprints in a short period of time. If anyone failed to finish the sprints, the entire team would have to start all over again.

Suffice it to say, not everyone made it on the first try or the second. By the third attempt, Archie Goodwin had seen enough as one of his teammates struggled to keep up.

“Let’s go!” Goodwin yelled. “Pick it up! I’m not trying to do this (stuff) again.”

Goodwin, a freshman, was yelling directly at an upperclassman.

The Goodwin File

  • 6-foot-4, 198-pound guard
  • From Little Rock, Ark.
  • Ranked No. 14 overall in final Rivals.com rankings
  • Two-time Arkansas Gatorade Player of the Year
  • Two-time Mr. Basketball in Arkansas
  • McDonald’s and Parade All-American
  • 2012 Arkansas state champion
  • Averaged 28 points and eight rebounds last year

A week later, the Cats were back in the gym working on offensive sets with John Calipari. That same veteran who was having trouble finishing the sprints a week earlier wasn’t on Goodwin’s team, but Goodwin was cheering him on nonetheless after he sprinted past a defender for a drill-tying layup.

The losing team – eventually Goodwin’s – would have to do sprints, but it didn’t matter to Goodwin. He understood that to be a good leader, sometimes you’ve got to speak up, sometimes you’ve got to encourage and sometimes you’ve got to lead by example.

Even if he’s only a freshman, Goodwin says he’s willing to do all of the above to help his new team become special.

“I’m comfortable with it because I know that guys will listen to a person who works hard, and there’s not one person out here that can say I don’t work hard every practice,” Goodwin said. “The guys will follow you if you work hard. If they see he’s working hard, then maybe I should get behind him and we’ll get something going. They feel a lot more comfortable with it coming from someone who is actually doing something than from someone who just talks.”

Goodwin isn’t one of those guys that yaps after scoring or talks trash to a player when he checks him at half court. If he is, he hasn’t showed it in practice with his teammates.

Instead, he’s spoken up when the situation has called for a voice, often providing a verbal kick in the rear to get his teammates motivated or a booming clap of encouragement when they succeed.

On a team that is now without leaders like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones and Darius Miller, Goodwin’s embracement of a leadership role is a comforting feeling for a squad made up of talented but inexperienced pieces.

“It was something that just happened the first day,” Goodwin said. “Maybe at other colleges some guys would be like, ‘He’s just a freshman,’ but coming in with the notoriety that this school has, we’re all trying to come together to win a national championship. It doesn’t matter if I speak or if Alex (Poythress) speaks or if Ryan (Harrow) speaks. Whoever speaks, we are all trying to collectively speak together and work together.”

Goodwin said he learned to become a leader from his parents, stepfather and uncle.

“My parents always told me from day one never to be a follower because you should always lead and follow your own ways,” Goodwin said. “That’s why I ultimately decided to do something different from what people thought I was going to do. … It’s just something that’s always been instilled in me.”

Goodwin, of course, was referring to his decision to attend Kentucky. He faced significant pressure from his home-state fans to stay in Arkansas and play for the Razorbacks, and it seemed like a logical fit given his love for a fast-paced game (which Arkansas adopted when Mike Anderson took over last year) and the fact that he’d lived in Arkansas his entire life.

The way Razorback fans saw it, Goodwin was an Arkansas kid through and through, and what better way for the Razorbacks to spring back to the top of the Southeastern Conference than with a homegrown, five-star kid out of Sylvan Hills High School in Little Rock, Ark.

Goodwin, however, had other plans. He had developed a vision for himself long before he became one of the best players in high school basketball, and that was to play for John Calipari.

Having just watched Calipari and Derrick Rose make it to the national championship game, Goodwin entered his freshman year of his high school with a mild interest in Coach Cal. As he watched more games and studied the offense, he saw Tyreke Evans make a similar transformation under Calipari.

By the end of his freshman year he was sold. Coach Cal was the coach Goodwin wanted to play for so long as Calipari wanted him.

As Goodwin explains it, he realized early on that Calipari wasn’t the type of coach he could seek out, rather one he would have to work hard enough on the basketball court for Calipari to hear about.

Amusingly, when the call he wanted so badly finally came, Goodwin didn’t even know it was actually Coach Cal.

“I didn’t know who it was at first because there were two Coach Os I was in contact with at the time – Coach Orlando (Antigua) and Coach O (Tom Ostrom) from Arkansas, so I thought it was the Coach O from Arkansas,” Goodwin said. “He was on the phone and I was listening and he said he was going to put Coach on the phone. I didn’t know he was talking about Coach Cal. I thought it was Coach (John) Pelphrey, who was the coach at Arkansas at the time.

“And so when Coach Cal was talking, I was listening and he was going on and on and then I heard him say, ‘We just had five players taken in the draft.’ That’s when I was like ‘Oh snap, this is Cal and that was Coach Orlando that called me.’ That was the first time that I had talked to him, and from there he came to watch me play a few times and we just got it going from there.”

Calipari’s ability to develop players and take their game to the next level was a big selling point with Goodwin, but more than anything he liked the up-tempo pace all of Calipari’s teams seemed to play at.

“He plays fast and they play under control,” Goodwin said. “He preaches to us every day about being able to play the game fast and playing under control. It turned me on to it because I’m an attack-first guard and just the way that the Dribble Drive system works out for people. He can change it up to fit your game perfectly.”

There won’t be much adjusting for Calipari to do to get Goodwin to fit into the system. Of all the talented guards he’s had over the years, Goodwin seems to be tailor-made for the Dribble Drive.

A self-described attack-first guard with a prolific scoring ability, Goodwin combines his elite speed and athleticism with a remarkable fearlessness to take the ball into the lane against anyone. Whether the defender is 6-foot-2 or 6-11, the two-time Arkansas Gatorade Player of the Year has no problem going by him or over the top of him to put the ball in the basket.

Although Harrow may be the team’s most skilled dunker and Poythress the most ferocious, don’t be surprised if you see Goodwin on SportsCenter more than any other Wildcat for his posterizing dunks. When he decides to take off in the lane to dunk the ball, it’s as if he’s jumping off a pogo stick. He routinely gets the ball more than a foot above the rim.

Goodwin credits his fearlessness to his upbringing, particularly on the concrete courts of Sylvan Hills Middle School where he used to play against older, stronger players.

“Even if I didn’t put myself in a lot of bad positions, I have still seen a lot of things that the average kid doesn’t see,” Goodwin said. “I was one of those people that manned up early, who grew up earlier than a lot of other people. I’m more mature for my age. Just playing in parks with older guys in Little Rock, they talk a lot of stuff and sometimes there was some fighting and other stuff. You can’t go into a game like that being scared because if you do, they’re going to punk you and you’re going to lose.”

The scary thing for other teams is Goodwin could get even better at finishing. Calipari believes the 6-4, 181-pounder can put on a lot more weight. His core strength isn’t what it needs to be at the moment, not to mention he runs standing up too often, often causing him to get bumped off the ball.

Goodwin figures to get the majority of his playing time at the shooting guard position, but he’s also capable of playing the point. While he’s not a prolific shooter at this stage in his career, he will be counted on to fill the shooting voids left by Doron Lamb and Darius Miller.

“I wouldn’t say I’m as good as Doron and D-Mill because we have different style games,” Goodwin said. “They were more of shooters and I’m more of an attacker, but I feel that my jumper is respectable enough to where you can’t just let me shoot it.”

“My parents always told me from day one never to be a follower because you should always lead and follow your own ways. That’s why I ultimately decided to do something different from what people thought I was going to do. … It’s just something that’s always been instilled in me.” — Archie Goodwin
Whatever role Goodwin ultimately fills, he’s already brought a confidence and a leadership factor with him. Remember, it was just a few months ago and only a week after Kentucky won the national championship that Goodwin sat in studio at ESPN during Nerlens Noel’s college decision and vowed to bring UK fans a ninth national championship.

It’s become all too common for kids to make such bold declarations these days, but Goodwin seemed to have a genuine belief that it will happen this season. His belief has been strengthened of late by what he’s seen in practice.

“Being in practice with these guys and seeing how hard we go and the talent level that we have, we feel like we can do it,” Goodwin said. “We have guys coming back for one, and then we have a good group of freshmen that came in and a very good senior that came in that transferred. We have all the little pieces that they had last year to win another national championship.”

As for the pressure that comes along with speaking up and making such a brave prediction, Goodwin welcomes it.

“I don’t mind it because I grew up with pressure on me all the time,” said Goodwin, who led Sylvan Hills High School to the 2012 Arkansas state championship. “There was always pressure on me to perform or to do certain things. Once you grow up doing that and always having the target on your back, you get used to it and it’s something that you want. I want the pressure on us. I want people to expect us to win a national championship, or multiple championships, depending on who stays or goes. ”

“With that pressure on me, it means you have to perform and there are no other explanations for it. There are no excuses.”