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What We Learned

Gooden is legit, and free throws are causing fits

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Posted: Saturday November 11, 2000 1:05 AM
Updated: Saturday November 11, 2000 1:23 AM

  Mike Jarvis and his team felt like they were living March Madness in November. AP

By Albert Lin,

NEW YORK -- We didn't think anything could top the Coaches vs. Cancer Ikon Classic's opening night, but Friday's doubleheader came close. As St. John's coach Mike Jarvis said, "I don't think I've ever felt like this on the 10th of November, as emotionally involved. I feel like we just played a season. I tell you, this was one hell of a tournament."

After watching the four clubs play another round of games, here are three more things we've learned:

1. Drew Gooden is the real deal.

We excluded him from our player rankings without much of a second thought, reasoning that with Nick Collison, Eric Chenowith and Jeff Carey around, none would get enough minutes to put up huge numbers.

Well, we were wrong. Gooden, a sophomore from El Cerrito High in Richmond, Calif., will probably be the best power forward in the country by the end of next season. That's assuming he doesn't get there sooner. The 6-foot-10, 230-pounder (who still looks skinny) is quick, agile, explosive and relentless on the glass, which we saw last year when he averaged 10.6 points and 7.5 rebounds in just 20.8 minutes per game (only eight starts).

Gooden didn't start Friday night because his defensive grade in the Kansas-UCLA game was worse than that of teammates Chenowith and Collison. When he got in, he made up for lost time.

"Last year he was not as mature, I don't think he would have handled this," coach Roy Williams said of being relegated to the bench. "But I told him that when he gets in we still need him to be a big-time player, and he was."

Every time you looked up, Gooden was near the ball, scoring, rebounding, blocking shots. All part of a first half in which he had 15 points, four rebounds and three assists. However, his face-up game is what has us excited. We saw flashes Thursday when he put the ball on the floor before rotating it around the perimeter, but he did two things Friday that augur greatness: He stepped outside and drained a three-pointer (he made five of 16 last season), and he picked up a loose ball, brought it upcourt and threw a perfect alley-oop pass to teammate Kenny Gregory. In time, he will be able to do just about anything on the court.

Gooden didn't get as many touches in the second half and struggled with his free throw shooting down the stretch, but he also hit a big bucket and grabbed a couple huge rebounds when St. John's was making a surge in the final 60 seconds. He finished with 22 points and nine rebounds in 30 minutes of action.

"I came in [Thursday] in the same position as those guys. I could have gone out and played defense as well as they did, but I didn't, so I have to be a man and step up to that," Gooden said. "Whenever coach tells me to go in and play, I'll play hard, even if I have to wait until the second half, two minutes left in the game."

At this, Willliams interrupted to say he wasn't sure he would ever go that far, and Gooden admitted that he might've exaggerated a tad. As long as the 19-year-old keeps playing like he did Friday night, neither will have to worry.

(By the way, if Gooden isn't the best young 4 in the game, then Collison just might be.)

2. Until it develops a consistent No. 2 option, Kentucky is hurting with Tayshaun Prince as its primary scorer.

Prince is a highly unorthodox lefthander with a lot of Jalen Rose to his game. Unfortunately, he also has the streaky shooting touch that plagued Rose during his career at Michigan.

The Compton native is at his best when he uses his 6-9 height to his advantage, posting up or driving to the hoop. But he too often settles for taking the ugliest jumper in Lexington since Wayne Turner graduated two years ago. He had 20 points (7 of 15 FGs) and nine rebounds last night on the heels of a five point (2-for-9 FG, 0-for-6 3-pt. FG) night.

The 'Cats need someone else to step up as a consistent scorer. Their three post players, as Tubby Smith pointed out, have one year of experience combined. Saul Smith is willing but not necessarily able. That leaves sophomore guard Keith Bogans, who showed signs of a breakthrough last night, tying his career high with 25 points (6-for-8 3-pt. FG) and adding eight rebounds and four assists.

Bogans, remember, was considered a better player at DeMatha Catholic High in Hyattsville, Md., than teammate Joseph Forte, now North Carolina's star. After a year of apprenticeship, perhaps he's now ready to flash the do-everything skills that had analysts rating him as one of the top five players entering his senior year. Kentucky certainly needs him to.

3. The college game's free throw woes have hit a new low.

Missed foul shots played a role in the outcomes of all four games.

Thursday, UCLA forward Matt Barnes hit just one of four attempts in the final 30 seconds as the Bruins lost to Kansas by one, and Kentucky center Marvin Stone blew a pair with 14.5 seconds remaining that would have iced the game against St. John's.

Friday, Stone again was a culprit, bricking both attempts with 41 seconds left in regulation and the Wildcats down one; they would eventually lose to UCLA in overtime. And in the championship game, St. John's forward Anthony Glover missed three and guard Willie Shaw a fourth in the final 1:48, enough to offset Gooden's 2-for-6 showing down the stretch as Kansas won.

Both teams that played in the final, however, were able to joke about the matter, regardless of which side of the outcome they landed on.

"Even though everyone in America is wondering who my free throw shooting coach is, I'm not going to tell you," Jarvis said after the game. "Because he's got tenure. I can't fire him."

Before his opening postgame remarks, Williams made a crack about checking to see if the building was still standing, in light of all the bricks Gooden (7-for-13) threw up. Later, after career 44 percent shooter Gregory talked about how he was feeling more comfortable at the line these last two nights, including a 3-for-4 performance Friday, Gooden interjected: "I'm his roommate, so I think this [problem] kind of rubbed off on me this year."

Now if the teams would only put in some extra practice time, rather than working on one-liners.

Related information
Notebook: Watson no secret anymore
UCLA explodes past Kentucky in overtime
Kansas takes tourney title with victory over St. John's
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