Belleville Althoff wing Jordan Goodwin is the ultimate competitor.
No one in the state plays harder or tougher. No one wants to win as bad as he does.
Goodwin has his eyes set on winning the 3A state title this year. He wakes up every morning and remembers what it felt like to come up short in the championship game last March. That motivates him every day, every practice and especially when an opponent walks out on the floor on game night.
"I think it's just natural habit. I want to win so bad," Goodwin said. "Losing state in basketball and football hurt so bad. It haunts me."
On Tuesday, Althoff hosted Belleville East in the crosstown rivalry game. Goodwin didn't waste any time to set the tone, as he threw down a trio of slams in the first quarter. One of those included a high-post spin and a ferocious flush that sent the backboard into a convulsion.
"I was just trying to send a statement," Goodwin said. "Just trying to let them know this is a rivalry game. East vs. Althoff is a big rivalry game. I was just trying to bring down the house and let them know that you're playing Althoff and this is our gym."
The message was clearly received. Goodwin finished with 20 points and eight rebounds, as Althoff cruised to a 79-60 win and a 19-2 record. The Crusaders are currently ranked No. 2 in the 3A rankings.
"I think we played pretty well. We could have played better," Goodwin said. "I think the tempo was good and our legs were fresh this game."
Individually, Goodwin made plays in a variety of ways. He drove to the basket, rocked the rim, finished through contact, chased down rebounds, turned up the heat on defense and he even splashed a couple outside jumpers. All in all, Goodwin becomes more and more impressive with each glance.
"He has such a versatility," Althoff head coach Greg Leib said. "He had some nice dunks to get the guys going and get them electrified a little bit. Then, he hit a couple nice shots in the second half. But his defense with his ability to create, get tips, force the pressure away from the basket and change driving lanes - those are the little things that you want your kids to do."
"A lot of times, your so-called superstars don't do that. We're fortunate. He's just so competitive."
That kind of competitive fire is what breeds excellence. When that "dog" comes out of him, watch out.
"We have a fine line in practice on competing because he gets really competitive," Leib said. "The great thing is that the rest of the guys are really competitive too."
"My main goal is to just outwork everybody," Goodwin said. "If my jumper is off or I'm missing shots, nobody is going to outwork me. I'm going to get loose balls, dive for them, play defense, rebound and do everything to help my team win."
Althoff was expected to win the game regardless, but they got a break on Tuesday night with Belleville East's best player and 2017 Illini commit Javon Pickett sitting out with a right knee injury. Pickett sustained that in a game against East St. Louis last Friday - on his way to scoring 30 points. He will have an MRI this Friday.
Goodwin and Pickett are close friends and they were looking forward to going at each other on the hardwood.
"I talked to him and I told him to keep his head up," Goodwin said. "He wanted to play against us bad. I wanted to play against him bad. Only thing we can do is pray for him and hope it's not that bad."
While Pickett couldn't meet up with Goodwin on the court on Tuesday, he is pushing hard for Goodwin to team up with him at Illinois in the 2017 class. Goodwin said Pickett texts him every day.
"For him to commit to Illinois, I think that was a good move for him," Goodwin said. "I think he might start something. Me and Javon are good friends. It could be a possibility that's where I'm going, but I don't know yet."
For now, Goodwin is taking his recruitment in stride. Things are heating up for him on that front - and for good reason. But Goodwin's main focus is on getting the job done on the court.
This past summer, Goodwin said he could see himself making his college decision after his junior season. But those plans have changed. He is now planning to play out the AAU season before pulling the trigger.
Goodwin will be a focal point of a talented St. Louis Eagles team on the EYBL circuit, and he'll have plenty of eyes on him during the evaluation periods. Even now, his list of potential suitors is growing by the week.
Leib listed Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas State, Missouri, Purdue, St. Louis, Virginia Tech and Wisconsin as the main teams in the mix right now. Goodwin currently has offers from Creighton, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas State, Missouri, Northwestern, Purdue, St. Louis and Virginia Tech.
Goodwin has been on the Illini campus multiple times since picking up an offer last spring. He hasn't been back since the fall, but he is planning to make a return visit soon. Illinois is one of three Big Ten schools that he plans to check out in the near future.
"Me and Coach Leib will be going to Purdue, Illinois and Indiana soon," Goodwin said.
Leib talked about the advice he has given his star player when it comes to recruiting.
"Just evaluate the entire situation and see what feels right," he said. "Don't look for the glitz and the glitter. Look at how they treat one another. That's the big thing. How they treat one another is a true test of what a team is like."
Goodwin hasn't been to the State Farm Center for a game this season, but he has paid close attention to the Illini. He was in attendance at the Scottrade Center for the Bud Light Braggin' Rights game against Missouri in December.
The Illini have sustained a number of costly injuries this year, as they currently hover below .500. But Goodwin said he likes the response he has seen from head coach John Groce.
"I've been watching Coach Groce. With their injuries, he's still coaching through it," Goodwin said. "That shows the character in him. They're still winning some games and finding ways to compete."
Locking up Goodwin would be instrumental for the Illini program and their future success. Pickett was the first domino, and he helps to add to Illinois' sell. But Goodwin could take that up another notch.
Goodwin is the type of player that commands respect throughout the state. He is close with five-star big man and East St. Louis native Jeremiah Tilmon. He also has a good relationship with another big-time Illini target in Peoria Manual guard Da'Monte Williams.
Just from an individual perspective, Goodwin brings so much to the table. He is a proven winner, and he brings a grit and swagger that the Illini could desperately use. Goodwin is also a coach's dream with his impact at both ends of the floor.
He has improved immensely since Illinois extended an offer less than 10 months ago.
"He's a better basketball player," Leib said. "His body has really changed. He probably weighs about the same, but what was young muscle is now hardcore man muscle. He's been working at it in the weight room, and his shot has gotten a lot better."
Goodwin's improving jumper is a testament to his work ethic. He is constantly putting extra time in the gym with teammate and UIC commit Tarkus Ferguson.
"Me and Tarkus are in the gym on Sundays. We're in here before the games and after the games," Goodwin said. "We're getting up shots, and the shots we're getting up in the gym are carrying over to the game. When I'm shooting, I just think I'm in the gym shooting by myself."
Goodwin refuses to be outworked, and you can bet the Illini will refuse to be outworked in this recruitment. While he isn't considered a top-50 prospect nationally, Goodwin is as big as it gets on the recruiting front for the Illinois basketball program.