Belleville Althoff junior forward Jordan Goodwin has his sights set high for this season, following a trip to the state title game this past March.
The IHSA tournament stage is where Goodwin made his case as one of the best young hoopers in state - while Althoff claimed second place. He was a 6-foot-3 wrecking ball with an ability to score inside-out, attack the backboard and play hard-nosed defense.
None of that has changed.
But this time around, Goodwin wants the first-place trophy in hand at the Peoria Civic Center. For now, he has Althoff riding high at 11-1 after a 30-point win against Decatur MacArthur in the championship game at the Collinsville Holiday Classic.
Goodwin posted 18 points and 14 rebounds in the tourney final on his way to claiming MVP honors. He averaged 21 points, eight rebounds and 4.5 assists in four wins during the tournament.
"I think my game has improved a lot," Goodwin said. "I'm getting most of my buckets from my teammates passing to me and rebounding."
Goodwin made strides over the offseason and he showed flashes at the national level on the EYBL circuit. Now, he enters each high school game as the best player on the floor. But Goodwin's unselfish, team-oriented focus remains the same.
"My focus right now is to win the state championship," he said. "I think we're coming together as a team. Everybody is playing unselfish basketball, and the scores are proving it. We've all got one goal and that's to win every game."
Don't blame Illini fans being selfish in thinking the downstate product should one day put on the orange and blue. Illinois head coach John Groce watched Goodwin closely at the state tournament, and he extended an offer his way one month later.
Since then, Goodwin has been a top target on the Illini radar. He fits the mold of past Illinois standouts Sergio McClain and Rayvonte Rice as a physical competitor who isn't accurately described by a traditional position.
Illini fans hope that Goodwin can be a trendsetting addition from downstate like McClain, who helped to lure Frank Williams to Champaign. Ironically enough, Da'Monte Williams is another must-get target for the Orange and Blue in the 2017 class.
Goodwin called Illinois his leader after visiting campus back in June, and he reaffirmed that after a return trip in August.
"Illinois is at the top of my list," Goodwin said in the summer. "It's my state school. I love them."
Goodwin's relationship with the Illini staff remains strong - as he said on Tuesday.
"I talk to Jamall Walker a lot," he said. "All the coaches are pretty cool. I like the coaching staff with Coach Groce."
The four-star forward made the trip to St. Louis on Dec. 23 for the Bud Light Braggin' Rights game, where he saw the Illini defeat Mizzou 68-63. Goodwin is a big-time target for both programs, and he liked what he saw from the matchup.
"I liked that both teams played an uptempo game," he said. "The coaches let them play. It was a good game. I liked it."
Illinois and Missouri aren't the only schools in hot pursuit of Goodwin. He also holds offers from Creighton, Iowa, Kansas State, Northwestern, St. Louis, Purdue and Virginia Tech. That list will surely grow at this rate, especially if he enters the AAU season as an uncommitted prospect.
On Tuesday, Goodwin said the Big Ten is coming at him hard - specifically mentioning Illinois and Purdue. The Boilermakers offered him back in June, and he certainly fits their persona. It probably helps that they're one of the top-15 teams in the country right now as well.
But the Illini have a strong sell too. They've been in the mix longer than anybody and they offer an opportunity to represent his state school. Furthermore, Goodwin has a close relationship with Malcolm Hill, who is showing what a Belleville product can do in an Illinois uniform.
Most importantly, the Illini have a chance to strike gold in the 2017 class with all of the in-state talent - including Goodwin, Williams, Jeremiah Tilmon and Javon Pickett to name a few.
"If we get everybody, it'll be like the Fab Five all over again," Goodwin said back in August.
As he takes a close look at his recruitment, Goodwin said it's all about opportunity.
"I'm looking for a place where I can go freshman year and play," he said. "I want to put up numbers and then ultimately go to the league."
Goodwin said this past summer that he could see himself making his college decision by the end of his junior season. Now, he isn't so sure. It's hard to fault him with how he is elevating his game.
Groce and his staff would be happy with closing the deal at any point in time, although the sooner the better. Goodwin said he plans to come back to Champaign sometime during Big Ten play to check out a game in the renovated State Farm Center.