Chicago AAU coach has high hopes for Goins
Nick Irvin is starting to get excited.
In a few months, the Chicago-based AAU basketball coach plans on watching one of his all-time favorite players -- Steve Goins -- suit up for Maryland.
It’s been an improbable journey for Goins, who didn’t start playing basketball until his freshman year of high school. Irvin’s been by the 6-foot-9, 245-pounder’s side for most of the way. The latest hurdle has been navigating the NCAA’s eligibility standards. Goins has been admitted to Maryland and took three classes in College Park earlier this summer. But he still has to be approved by the NCAA Clearinghouse. Irvin is confident everything will work out.
“I told him, ‘just take it in stride and everything will work itself out. So don’t be worried about [the Clearinghouse]. You’re in college now, so just be happy,’” Irvin said. “I’m pretty sure he’ll be fine, because he did all he had to do.”
Irvin first discovered Goins as a 6-4 freshman out of Leo Catholic High School on Chicago’s South Side. Goins joined the Mac Irvin Fire AAU program, which was founded by Nick Irvin’s father, Mac.
“When I first saw Steve play, he was real smooth, finger-rolling and dunking, so he always had the skills,” Irvin said.
As a newcomer to the game, Goins didn’t play much as a freshman. Then an injury before his sophomore year derailed his progress on the court.
“Once he broke his leg, it was a setback for him,” Irvin said. “And I always knew he had the potential to be real good. When you’re a kid, you get down on yourself, so my brother and my father and his mother picked his spirits up.”
The broken leg made his sophomore season a wash. In between rehabbing the injury and a gradual growth spurt to his current 6-9 height, Goins slowly began to feel more comfortable on the court.
“It took him a while, almost this year to get it back where he could say, ‘OK, I’m going to run and jump and be OK,’” Irvin said. “But once he got rolling, he was real good. Big men sometimes develop late. You just keep staying focused. So we were running him and running him and he put his mind to it. Man, he could be good.”
After his junior year, Goins left Leo for Curie High School, where he finally put it all together, averaging 14 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks per game. All of a sudden, Goins emerged as a solid Division I recruit. But there was still a lot of work to be done.
“Well I told him, ‘man, you want to go to Division I, you want to play at the highest level, you have to put in the work, take all the classes you need and don’t get discouraged about it,’” Irvin said. “So I just helped him stay focused, had him keep working hard.”
After his senior season, Goins was weighing scholarship offers from South Florida and Illinois-Chicago. Irvin said he thinks Goins’ recruitment was low-profile due to several factors -- his lack of playing time at Leo, the broken leg impeding his progress and questionable academics. It wasn’t until earlier this summer that Goins was academically qualified.
When Gus Gilchrist bolted for South Florida, the Terps suddenly had a gaping hole in their frontcourt. Once Goins took care of his academics, a scholarship was offered and accepted.
Irvin thinks Goins has the ability to contribute for UM as a freshman.
“As a freshman, probably they just want him to come in, do a little bit,” Irvin said. “They probably aren’t expecting that much -- just have a good freshman year and keep getting better. ... I don’t think any college program would be expecting [a freshman] to come in and dominate right off the bat. There’s probably a process he will go through. If they need him to play right away, oh yeah, he can play right away. He’ll be ready.
“He can score the ball, and rebound the ball. That transition will be real easy for him. Steve does everything good. He can score on the blocks, shoot the 15-footer. If his confidence is there, he’ll be fine.”
Goins is back in Chicago now, but plans on returning to College Park later his week. He’s been working on his strength and conditioning, and awaiting word from the NCAA Clearinghouse.
When he finally does suit up for the Terps, Irvin will be watching intently from afar.
“I’m so proud of Steve because people were like, ‘he’s not this, he’s not that,’” Irvin said. “For me being the one watching him develop [and see him] keep working and keep working -- man, I’m so proud of him because he’s one of my favorite players. I probably got on him worse than anybody. But he’s one of my favorites. ... And I’m just so happy for him.”
Check back with Recruiting Report later this week for a Q&A with Goins.