By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky freshman Archie Goodwin was often UK’s best player, and often its most perplexing.
He led UK in scoring a team-high12 times, but also led the team in assists 12 times. He finished the season averaging a team-high 14.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. Goodwin also got to the foul line 212 times — 80 more than any other UK player.
But he also had a team-high 101 turnovers and shot 44 percent from the field and just 26 percent from 3-point range.
Kentucky coach John Calipari told him “I cannot coach you” during a 30-point loss at Tennessee, but praised him for his spirited play and often put the ball in his hands when UK had to create a shot.
“I just want to win so bad that sometimes I just feel that I can try to put a team on my back and maybe other guys will follow suit and it will pick up other guys but sometimes it didn’t work out like that. I think at times I tried to do too much,” said Goodwin after Tuesday’s NIT loss at Robert Morris. “I’ve tried to do all I can, but we just didn’t win enough.
“I am a competitor. For us to wear this Kentucky across our chest and play like we did this year, it is an embarrassment. To represent this university like we did is really unacceptable. Totally unacceptable.”
So why did UK lose four of its last five games, miss the NCAA Tournament and not come close to reaching preseason expectations?
“Just got guys who don’t compete. Sometimes a lot of excuses are made. If we take away that and the non-competers, things happen for us,” Goodwin, who said after Tuesday’s loss that he knew he wasn’t prepared for the NBA and UK’s other freshmen were not either, said. “We have some guys on our team that have all the talent but kind of play for themselves and that hurts them as opposed to others on our team who don’t have as much talent or athleticism but work hard and outshine the other ones because they work hard. If we could justs cancel that out, we would not be a bad team but it’s too late now.”
Goodwin had 18 points Tuesday, including eight straight UK points in one second-half stretch.
“I just didn’t want our season to end. We have had a bumpy road, but this was our chance to show we deserved a spot (in the NCAA Tournament). But we just couldn’t do it with the way we played.”
Even though he proclaimed he was not ready for the NBA despite some draft projections that have him as a mid-first round pick, he says he’s a better player now than he was when the season started.
“I definitely think I am better. I learned a lot from this coaching staff and from playing with these guys,” Goodwin said. “I came in and got stronger. I became a better player all-around. That is from me working hard and working with the coaches each and every day to try and improve on everything I could.”
He said he didn’t know if fans felt he improved or understand the passion he had for winning that sometimes may have led him to mistakes from trying to do too much.
“Fans, regardless of who it is, are going to have negative stuff to say and me personally I don’t pay attention to it. They are not feeding me, they are not the people that I talk to every day,” Goodwin said. “They are not my coach. So their opinion does not really offend me knowing how they feel about me.
“At the end of the day I am still going to live, I am still getting an education and I am still playing and living out my dream. There is nothing they can tell me that is going to hurt my feelings.”