Shaq Goodwin has had his share of success on the court. The Memphis forward from Atlanta was a McDonald’s All-American coming out of Southwest DeKalb High School. As a sophomore at Memphis, the American Athletic Conference selected him as a second-team All-American, and he’s a finalist for the Karl Malone Power Forward of the Year Award.
But ask the 6-9 senior what is most important to him as a player, and his response has more to do with being a leader than racking up individual awards.
“I want the players who are coming after me to have more success, and I think I can help them by just trying to show them every way possible to be successful on and off the court,” said Goodwin, whose full name is William Shaquille Goodwin.
Seven freshmen make up the Tigers’ roster, so he has plenty of teachable moments. Those lessons even extend beyond his own team. During last week’s 97-86 win over the UCF Knights in Orlando, Goodwin could be seen giving advice to several UCF players during the game (without revealing any inside secrets, of course). He backed up that advice by pouring in a career-high 35 points and 9 boards.
His leadership qualities are getting attention around the country. Earlier this season, he was named one of 30 finalists for the Senior CLASS Award, which stands for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School. As a junior, he received the AAC’s Sportsmanship Award, for fair play, ethical behavior and integrity.
Even Tigers coach Josh Pastner can’t say enough about Goodwin’s character.
“He’s a glass-half-full person,” Pastner said. “He’s the kind of guy who would help a little girl find her dog, and give you help when you need it.”
Don’t let the good guy image fool you, though. Pastner describes his star forward as a beast on the court, constantly working to become a more consistent player. He raised his scoring average from 9.6 points per game as a junior to 13.8 through 19 games this season. His rebounds per game average rose from 7.1 to 8.2. Even his free throw shooting improved (64.2% to 73.1%). He leads the AAC both in total blocks (41), and blocks per game (2.3).
In a November 27 win against Ohio State, Goodwin became the 50th player in school history to score 1,000 points, on an alley-oop dunk with eight minutes remaining in the first half. The importance of the milestone is not lost on him.
“Being able to do it and be in great company, is an indescribable feeling,” said Goodwin, who currently ranks 24th all-time in school history.
This season, the Tigers are 13-8, 4-4 in AAC play. The lowest point came in an 84-83 home loss to East Carolina, who hadn’t won a road game or conference contest all season. Goodwin was one of the few bright spots, earning the 11th double-double of his career with 15 points and 12 rebounds.
But even leaders have weak moments. The AAC suspended Goodwin for one game after tripping an opponent in a loss to then No. 22 South Carolina earlier this month. In a December 29 victory over Tulane, Pastner pulled him from the starting lineup following what the school called an “internal matter”.
The experience taught Goodwin the importance of staying 100 percent focused through the ups and downs of a grueling basketball season. “One of my goals is to be 100 percent myself and “being) real at the same time,” he said. “Ever since I started that, it makes everything easier.”
Once he graduates, Goodwin, a human services major, hopes he’ll be remembered as part of a generation of players who advocate unity and togetherness, to represent the city or school they play for in an unselfish way. The respect he has earned from teammates, coaches and opponents clearly indicates he’s very close to accomplishing that.
Above: Shaq Goodwin is Clark Kent for the Tigers – good guy off the court, beast on. (Courtesy University of Memphis Sports Information Department)