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By LARRY VAUGHT
Archie Goodwin is already Kentucky’s leading scorer, which is not a huge surprise to Kevin Davis, high Arkansas high school coach. But like UK fans and coach John Calipari, Davis still sees a huge upside for his former star.
“I really thought he was going to score. I knew from having him what a natural scorer he was and he could score so easily even at a young age. In AAU nationals, his numbers were always up,” said Davis. “Last year I told my assistant coach how good Archie was and that he was going to keep being really good at Kentucky. But he still has so much room to grow and I think Calipari agrees with me. He has such a high ceiling and so many areas to improve in, but yet he is already very, very good.”
Going into the start of Southeastern Conference play at Vanderbilt Thursday, Goodwin is averaging 15.8 points per game and shooting 46.9 percent from the field. He’s taken 143 shots — 37 more than anybody else on the team. However, he’s also gone to the foul line 89 times — 28 more than anyone else — and it hitting 69.7 percent at the line. He leads the team in assists with 50 as well as turnovers (41) and also adds 5.2 rebounds per game.
Davis marveled at what Goodwin did at the end of UK’s loss at Louisville, but also senses that Goodwin, like other players, is still trying to do too much at times.
“I think the thing that everybody is seeing is what I am seeing in terms of a young group of talent still finding its way together and learning how to trust each other,” Davis said. “I can tell that they are really trying. They are trying so hard to concentrate and get things together that their flow gets interrupted. That’s not a bad thing. They just have to grow together and get through it, and I think they are. They just lack some veteran leadership, but what a talented group.
“I see a high level of concentration from Archie, but his flow is not necessarily there. He is a guy that gets some incredible scores and looks but with that comes judgment mistakes and misses. I was such a big guy on that when we miss, we have to go get the rebound. I tried to set it up so when Archie missed, we were there to clean it up. He is the type guy that teammates can get caught watching. He will wow them. I had to constantly tell my guys to do their job and not just watch him. And I also told him he had to be there for his teammates.”
Davis can tell that Goodwin has lapses in concentration, but they are becoming more infrequent.
“I am starting to see him and other guys bust through the concentration things and just play,” Davis said. “I do think as coaches we have to be careful that we don’t get kids thinking and concentrating on not making a mistake so much that they don’t feel free and natural. That’s why I watch and see guys trying as hard as they can to figure this out, and they are.”
Davis remembers how Goodwin would win every practice drill he did in high school and would tell the coach no matter who was on his team for the drill, he would win. “And he was usually right,” Davis laughed and said.
Goodwin is already being projected as a lottery pick in the June NBA draft. Davis said such projections won’t impact Goodwin’s play.
“He doesn’t worry about the future. He is happy at Kentucky. He is driven to make his team now as good as they can be and make himself better for the future,” Davis said. “I don’t pick up any down comments about anything when I have talked to him. He is always upbeat and confident.
“He won’t make excuses if he does not play well. He will take it all on himself. He expects to make plays to win. He will practice hard and work hard. He has a short memory for bad plays. He wants to help continue the success and tradition at Kentucky.”
Davis believes that Goodwin’s fearlessness will also be a plus for UK in SEC play, especially on the road, and postseason play.
“When he gets freer, that is when you will really see all he can do,” Davis said. “Sometimes you just need a fearless guy that is not afraid to go make something happen for his team. That is the thing I saw from him at Louisville. He is not afraid. When he is your scorer and teammates have his back, you better look out. You can’t really guard him with one kid. If he goes to the hole, there will always be people trying to help and when they do that, guys have to clean up after him.
“When they all get just a bit more passion and can just play without having to think so much, they are really going to have something. They are going to be a tough matchup for anybody. I would not want to play them later in the season because it’s obvious they are just going to get better and better.”