Good things come to those who wait.
In Steve Donahue's tenure as head coach for Penn men's basketball, much of his success has been powered by two players from the coach’s first recruiting class, guard Ryan Betley and forward AJ Brodeur. However, with the two in their senior year, it's clear that the Red and Blue’s dynamic duo is actually a big three.
Unlike Betley and Brodeur, who stepped up right away scoring double-digit points as freshmen, the path to stardom has come differently for senior guard Devon Goodman. After two seasons coming off the bench, Goodman won the starting point guard job coming into last season to fill the big shoes of the now-graduated Darnell Foreman. Just five minutes into the year, Goodman’s challenge got even bigger, as Betley went down with a ruptured patella tendon to end his season.
The abrupt departure of both Betley and Foreman meant that after averaging just 4.1 points per game in his first two seasons, Goodman now found himself as the team’s No. 2 scoring option. He was able to rise to the occasion, averaging a solid 13.9 points per game and earning a spot on the All-Ivy second team.
“My freshman and sophomore year I didn’t really play as much as [Betley and Brodeur], so I really had to work to get to the spot that I am today,” Goodman said. “It showed me that you just have to keep working and just never take anything for granted, so that’s what I’m still looking to do this season.”
“[Before last season], he was kind of like the Energizer Bunny who came off the bench and gave us spurts. We didn’t know how he was going to handle playing 40 minutes a night,” Donahue said.
“He was tremendously important," Betley said. "He came out of his shell on offense and became a reliable scoring threat, which is exactly what we needed.”
Goodman’s contributions on the offensive end were obvious to any observer, but his importance as a defender is what really surprised his coaches and teammates.
“He had an amazing year defensively. I had no idea he was going to be such a great defender,” Donahue said. “Our league is full of smaller guards that everyone has an issue with, but he doesn’t.”
“Whenever we play Harvard it's always a fun matchup with him versus Bryce Aiken," Betley said. "They are both so quick. I always look forward to that matchup."
Another area where Goodman showed dramatic improvement last season was shooting from three-point range. A 25% career shooter entering last season, Goodman became lethal from deep, shooting over 40% from three in conference play last year to lead the team.
Although Foreman’s presence was part of the reason Goodman was unable to make as large of an immediate impact as his teammates, the role his predecessor played in Goodman’s development has helped turn him into the player he is today.
“Darnell was a great role model. He taught me a lot, especially on the defensive end,” Goodman said. “He was a really vocal guy, and he played with a lot of passion. Coming in, I was kind of quiet, so I just tried to take that from him and implement it into my game as well.”
Finding his voice has been an important part of Goodman’s development as a player, as his former AAU teammate Betley can attest.
“He’s developed tremendously. He’s become a leader. He’s a point guard so that’s something we need from him,” Betley said. “He’s become way more vocal. In AAU when we were 16, he was super quiet, and now you can totally see he’s come out of his shell.”
After breaking out last season, it might seem to some that Goodman would have to take a step back this year with Betley returning. Goodman and the team are confident, however, that they need the two to coexist if the team is going to return to the NCAA Tournament.
“I don’t think my role will change at all," Goodman said. "Having Ryan out there will actually make my job a lot easier because he’s a great shooter, so he will be able to space out the floor and give me more lanes to drive. We have a lot of chemistry together.”
“I’m just super excited to get back out there and play with my boy again,” Betley said.
No matter what happens this season as Penn looks to reshape its offense, there is one thing the team can count on from Goodman: the energy he brings to the locker room.
“He’s a funny kid, he’s always in a good mood — you can always count on him to bring the positivity,” Betley said.
While it may have taken him longer to find his voice and his role in the offense, nobody can question how important Goodman will be to Penn men's basketball this season, even if he is sometimes overshadowed.
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