Wheeling’s Goodwin relishes shot

EVANSVILLE, Ind. – An NCAA Division II men’s basketball national championship would be special for anyone involved with the West Liberty program, but maybe even more so for sophomore guard Kelvin “Bubby” Goodwin.

He grew up just a stone’s throw from the hilltop campus and eventually became the only three-time West Virginia Class AAA first-teamer in Wheeling Park history.

“It’s really special,” Goodwin said Friday morning, one day before he and his Hilltoppers (31-3) take on Central Missouri (29-5) with a title hanging in the balance. “I am getting a lot of texts every day telling me the community is behind me and stuff like that.

“It’s a blessing to even be here and have this opportunity.”

Not that it hasn’t been earned, though.

The go-to player at every level during his career, Goodwin has had to learn to adjust to coming off the bench with West Liberty.

“At first it was kind of tough because I wasn’t used to it,” Goodwin said. “But you’ve got to mature and know what your role is.

“That is the only way we can win, is if everybody knows their role. That’s what works.”

Hilltoppers coach Jim Crutchfield said he’s been impressed with Goodwin’s ability to put the team before himself and that was one of the things that drew the 10th-year boss to him.

“It’s not as easy to do like when he was at Wheeling Park High School where he played all game every night,” Crutchfield said. “You never know when you’re going to be in (the game) or what the situation will be and that has put him in a different role.

“I think he’s responded to it very well.”

Has he ever.

Goodwin is one of seven double-figure scorers for West Liberty, checking in at 10.8 points per game – a number that will grow signficantly in the coming seasons. He has shown both the willingness and ability to take the big shot, regardless of the moment.

“It’s not like he’s playing because ‘gee, somebody has to play,’ ” Crutchfield said. “He’s playing because I think he is very capable of playing at a high level and contributing in a big way.

“It seems like the bigger the stage, the better he is.”

Goodwin has improved his game in nearly every facet, and with that, Crutchfield said, will come even more minutes down the road.

“His ability to score is his biggest asset right now,” the coach said. “He’s capable of getting to the basket and his shooting is getting better and better. He’s gone from a guy who can keep you honest to a very good shooter.

“His ability to go to the next level is about developing guard skills – the whole package. Can I become a great defender, a great off-ball defender? Can I become a better passer? Can I be a hard-nosed guy with the basketball and not give it up?

“He’s getting better at all those phases.”

In addition to his scoring, Goodwin shoots 43 percent and has made 56 from 3-point range. He scored a career-high 24 points in a Mountain East Conference Tournament victory against Notre Dame College.

Goodwin doesn’t need to be the star to be effective. In fact, he is enjoying just being a piece of the puzzle.

“Everybody on the team, we enjoy each other’s company,” Goodwin said. “We like to have fun and can make any situation fun no matter where we are or what we’re doing.”