Illini target Jordan Goodwin keeps on rising

Four-star 2017 guard Jordan Goodwin talks about his game, new offers and visit with Illinois last week.

Belleville Althoff star Jordan Goodwin continues to dominate on any court against the highest levels of competition.

Goodwin was a wrecking ball through the state tournament last month, as he led the Crusaders to their first ever state title. He just ordered his state championship ring last week.

But Goodwin's mission is far from complete. The bio on his Twitter page says it all: "underrated". As a warrior who thrives in the competitive arena, Goodwin is focused on winning another championship on the EYBL circuit.

On the way to doing that, he wants to leave no doubt that he is one of the best players in the country.

"I know I'm underrated," Goodwin said. "But I'm just trying to play my hardest every game, and open up the coaches' eyes and reporters' eyes and let them know that I'm a good player too."

He did that in a big way this past weekend in Indianapolis with the St. Louis Eagles. Goodwin averaged 20.3 points, 10.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. That included a performance of 25 points and 18 rebounds on Saturday night, as he outplayed Hamidou Diallo (19 points) - the No. 1 shooting guard in the 2017 class.

Diallo is ranked No. 9 overall in the class. Goodwin still sits at No. 74. That seems fit to change, and it should significantly. But Goodwin is showing that his ranking is irrelevant to what he brings to the floor.

St. Louis Eagles product and current NBA standout Bradley Beal is an assistant for the Eagles. He talked about Goodwin's ranking.

"It never matters. There's guys in the NBA and you ask them what school they went to, you'd be surprised by the answers sometimes," Beal said. "It doesn't matter how under the radar you might be, your talent speaks for itself. He's going to go to a high D-1 school and have a chance to make it to the league one day."

Goodwin's talent has been speaking for itself. In fact, it's been ringing like church bells. That's why the Illini coaches were three-deep for his first game on Friday night. That's why Goodwin ended the weekend with new offers from Iowa State, Texas and UCONN. That's why Michigan State jumped on board with one on Monday.

Goodwin is an eye-popping talent.

"He's just doing everything out there," five-star big man Jeremiah Tilmon said. "His game has grown since last year. He's gotten so much better."

During the games, Goodwin is absolutely relentless. He simply outworks, out-toughs and outplays his competition every time he steps on the court. But his continued success is a product of what he does when people aren't in the stands.

"I was in the gym all week," Goodwin said. "I felt like I let my team down when we lost the final game last week. So I was just in the gym grinding it out. I feel like I played pretty well this weekend, but it's a team effort. We're just trying to make it to Peach Jam."

One of Goodwin's most impressive traits this past weekend was his vision and passing ability. He dished off no-look passes with ease, as the defense focused in on him. That aspect of his game grew with a talented corp around him at Althoff, and he's improving on it even more this spring.

"It is a focus for me. I feel like if I get my team involved early then down the stretch when they're guarding me tight, I can kick it out and have faith in all my guys," Goodwin said. "It's my job to share the ball and get everybody involved."

It's obvious that Goodwin's game is continuing to grow and mature. Beal went through a different process, as he was consistently one of the top 10 players in the country. But he has been a great mentor and teacher for Goodwin.

"Brad is my guy. He's always talking to me," Goodwin said. "Most of the time, he's probably snapping on me and telling me to do stuff. But that helps me. Having an NBA superstar on the sideline is great because he knows everything. You got to listen to him because he's there already. He's playing with the best players in the country, so I'd be dumb not to listen to him."

Beal talked about what he sees out of Goodwin, and how he tries to help him.

"He's really talented and he's such a competitor. Sometimes he plays out of anger, and it's just aggression at all times," Beal said. "I just try to teach him how to relax, but he's so skilled in so many ways. As long as he can continue to be who he is - and I let him be who he is - but as long as he can get that mindset of knowing when to be super aggressive and when not to, and when to get your teammates involved. He's been willing to learn and be acceptive of it, and he's only getting better."

Goodwin also has Illini head man John Groce coaching him as well. Groce visited arguably his No. 1 target at Althoff last week.

"Coach Groce came to the school on Wednesday. We just talked about my game. He helped me with my free throws and my shooting - told me some stuff that I should do," Goodwin said. "So he's just helping me out on my game, and he's already coaching me basically. He's done that throughout the whole process. I thank God for him, and I appreciate him."

Goodwin talked about the strength of that relationship.

"The connection is strong. I can trust Coach Groce," Goodwin said. "He's an honest dude."

In terms of the rest of Goodwin's recruitment, things are picking up. But he is just taking it all in at this point.

"Everything else is going pretty good. I've picked up some new offers," Goodwin said. "Texas has been recruiting me pretty hard recently. I'm still open right now."

You can bet that more offers will roll in this week and beyond. It's also a guarantee that Goodwin will be back in Belleville getting ready to beat his next opponents to a pulp.

Even a well-traveled player like Beal hasn't seen many guys like Goodwin when it comes to his competitive fire and 'dog' inside of him. He had to go back to his St. Louis Eagles days to think of one.

"You know what, the last guy I've seen like that played on my team and his name is Roosevelt Jones, who goes to Butler," Beal said. "He has the same tenacity, the same energy, the same dog. J-Good may be able to handle the ball and shoot it a little bit better. But he just has that same dominance, that dog and competitive spirit."

It's no wonder why some are already calling Goodwin the most important recruit of Groce's tenure.

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