If you had polled 10 of the biggest Penn men’s basketball fans in the world after last season, asking each of them to predict next year’s leading scorer, you would probably get a few different answers.
A lot of people would probably go with junior Ryan Betley, last season’s top scorer. A good amount would choose fellow junior AJ Brodeur. Perhaps senior Antonio Woods would get some consideration from those thinking outside the box.
But none of those theoretical 10 fans would have been correct, because nobody could have predicted the season junior Devon Goodman has had so far scoring the basketball. The point guard, who averaged a mere 4.3 points per game as a freshman and 3.8 as a sophomore, has absolutely exploded, improbably establishing himself as Penn’s leading scorer.
Through the first eight games of the season, Goodman has operated as the team’s go-to option, a role that opened up when teammate Betley went down with an injury in the season opener. In his wake, Goodman has averaged 15.3 points per game and a team-high 32 minutes of game action.
“With Ryan going down, I knew that somebody would have to step up,” Goodman said. “I knew that I’d have to be confident to take on that role, and I have been. My teammates have been believing in me too. That’s been a huge part of my success.”
A key to this offensive renaissance for Goodman has been his improved shooting, both at the foul line and from three-point land.
After shooting only 25 percent on 40 attempts from three-point territory last year, Goodman has upped his percentage drastically this season. In just eight games, the junior guard has already taken 38 threes, and he’s been hitting his mark at a very respectable 37 percent.
“His ability to get by the defender has always been there, but now he’s almost a 40 percent three-point shooter, so the opponent has to pick his poison,” coach Steve Donahue said. “With his outside game that way it is, it has created so much more offense — not just for him, but also for his teammates.”
It has been a similar story from the charity stripe. As a sophomore, Goodman’s free-throw shooting hovered under 54 percent. This year, he’s established himself as one of the Quakers’ most reliable players in that area, knocking down his free-throws at a 77 percent clip.
Such improvement is no accident, as Goodman came into this season with the goal of establishing himself as a legitimate shooting threat.
“I wasn’t really a good three-point shooter last year,” Goodman said. “I wasn’t very consistent there, so that was one area where I really tried to improve this offseason. I did the same with free-throws. I know that a lot of games come down to free-throws, so that’s something that I worked on a lot as well.”
The dedicated work ethic that Goodman displayed this offseason was fueled in part by his eagerness to reclaim a prominent spot in Penn’s rotation.
As a freshman, he served as a spark plug off the Quakers’ bench, averaging 15.4 minutes per game. However, as a sophomore, both his minutes and his production dipped, as fellow guard Woods returned to the team and absorbed minutes that had previously gone to Goodman. Woods, along with then-senior Darnell Foreman, formed the starting backcourt that led the Red and Blue to last year’s Ivy League title, but with Foreman graduating, an opportunity arose for Goodman.
“As a basketball player and as a competitor, everyone wants to get more playing time,” Goodman said. “That’s one thing I wanted to do coming into the offseason. I wanted to work hard and contribute more to the team. I wanted that leadership role that comes with being a point guard. I knew that somebody would have to step into that role, so that’s something that I aimed for coming into the year.”
According to Woods, Goodman’s ascension to that leadership position has been a seamless one, thanks in large part to his work ethic.
“This summer, Devon and I were together almost everyday, so I can see that the work is definitely paying off for him,” Woods said. “He’s always in the gym, and you can see that he wants to get better every day. To see it come together is really amazing.”
“He leads by example,” Woods continued. “He’s not always just vocally leading, but he’s showing everybody, the young guys especially, the right thing to do. He’s leading by his actions, and he brings that to the table everyday.”
That non-vocal, subtle form of leadership has not gone unnoticed by the coaching staff either.
“His leadership has always been there in spurts, but he’s very quiet,” Donahue said. “But as his junior year progresses, I expect him to do even more in terms of leadership. He already does so many selfless things, including the way he plays. To me, that shows great leadership, because it’s not about you, but it’s about the team, and Devon’s always been like that.”
This year, Goodman’s team-first attitude is being rewarded in the box score. His team has needed him to step up and score the basketball, and he has done just that.
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