BARRINGTON, R.I. — A thick fog rolled off the Providence River, making it difficult to see the intersection of Federal and County Road.
A quarter-mile past the intersection, inside Sage Gymnasium, home of the St. Andrew’s Saints, junior combo-guard Brycen Goodine doesn’t find himself at a crossroads on his path to success.
The road to achieving his dreams is much clearer.
The New Bedford native, in his second season with the New England Prep School Athletic Conference basketball power, has transformed from a role player to a focal point in the Saints’ scheme, and the collegiate ranks have taken notice.
Prior to the start of the 2017-18 season, on Sept. 13, Goodine officially accepted a Division I scholarship offer from Syracuse University — a program that has produced 46 NBA players under head coach Jim Boeheim.
Why would the top-ranked player from Massachusetts’ Class of 2019, according to 247sports.com — and the 24th-ranked shooting guard in the country — commit with two years left on the prep scene?
The answer lies in the difference between being wanted and needed.
“The way the Syracuse coaches treated me was just different,” Goodine said recently. “It felt like they really needed me. With other schools it felt like they were just looking at me because I was good. But with Syracuse, it felt like they wanted Brycen Goodine.”
Saints head coach Mike Hart — who has sent players to Syracuse, Notre Dame (New Bedford’s Bonzie Colson II), Villanova, Providence, URI, UConn and Utah — recalled that just days before Goodine committed to Syracuse, UCLA assistant coach Tyus Edney came to campus to recruit the junior guard.
“It was the first time UCLA had come here to recruit someone,” Hart said. “It was nice. I think (Brycen) was excited, but not too excited about UCLA.”
Syracuse assistant Gerry McNamara had just left campus a few days prior and returned three days after Edney’s visit, this time with head coach Jim Boeheim. The two Orange coaches thought they were leaving the Ocean State without an official commitment. But, just before the two boarded their plane to fly back to upstate New York, they received a call from Goodine.
“It was within a matter of four days,” Hart said. “Gerry was here on a Wednesday and he came back the following Monday with Coach Boeheim and it got done.”
Goodine’s teammate, senior Cole Swider, who committed to play at Villanova next fall, said Syracuse first took notice of the former Bishop Stang star while trying to recruit him. The Orange were among Duke, Gonzaga and Villanova as finalists for Swider’s services. Having gone through the recruitment process, Swider served as a confidant to Goodine.
“I just gave him tips on what and how to act around college coaches,” Swider said. “In the end the decision is his to make. Coach Hart isn’t going to college. His parents aren’t going to college. You, obviously, take their advice into account, but in the end it’s a decision he has to make. That’s what I told him.”
Back to basketball
Free of the stress of college recruitment, Goodine, a reclassified junior, has been able to focus on what he needs to do to excel at the next level.
Last year, he was just trying to fit into a team that featured four seniors and a star junior in Swider — already the school’s all-time leading scorer. He wanted to figure out where he belonged, while improving his jump shot.
“The stuff he used to get away with at the high school level, he was not getting away with here,” Hart said. “For example, his crossover dribble going by someone. He had to figure out a new way of doing that because it wasn’t getting the job done against the level of athleticism in our league.”
A year later, with the four seniors gone and a crop of new players, Goodine has been the complimentary guard to Swider’s presence at the forward position; the two of them have carried the brunt of the offensive load this season. The New Bedford native’s athleticism is still evident — he’s not afraid to excite the crowd with some thunderous dunks during pregame warmups — but his jumper has become a primary scoring option. He regularly wakes up at 6 a.m. to shoot hundreds of jumpers, methodically perfecting his form.
“Last year I was streaky,” he said. “This year I’m trying to get at least three to four jumpers a game.”
Despite his current successes, Goodine still sees himself as the kid who grew up not being good at basketball. He recalled always trying to be the first kid shooting in the gym at practice and the last to leave — a love for the game fueling his work ethic.
His newly-tuned shooting prowess was on display in a 79-51 home win against Springfield Common on Jan. 28. Goodine finished the game 6-of-10 from the field — including four makes from beyond the arc — for 16 points, six assists, four steals and one turnover.
“His shot, which I think has always been good, became more of a go-to weapon than driving to the basket and trying to get a dunk on three people,” Hart said. “He can still do that, but his jumper is his weapon now.”
Dedicated to defense
Aside from adopting more of a presence as a point guard, Goodine continues to work on the defensive end. Playing in a 2-3 zone at St. Andrew’s, while not exactly the same scheme, should help prepare him for what to expect when taking the court at the Carrier Dome in Boeheim’s famed 2-3 zone.
Hart met former Syracuse guard and assistant coach Mike Hopkins — now the head coach at Washington — in the mid-90’s and has spent a lot of time dissecting the Orange’s 2-3 zone. He noted that the scheme favors the Orange due to their ability to recruit length across the court — a luxury that isn’t always afforded to high school coaches.
“If you don’t have a lot of length then you have to teach it a different way,” Hart said. “The forward has to come and hold a lot longer, which means someone can sneak in behind him in the high post. A high school coach can have an easier time breaking a 2-3 zone than a college coach playing Syracuse.”
At 6-foot-4 and with an impressive wingspan, Goodine fits the Syracuse mold as a lengthy guard who can defend in the zone, which is ironic considering Goodine was the starting forward/center as a true sophomore on Bishop Stang’s 2016 Div. 3 State Championship team.
“Brycen has that length,” Hart said. “Now we just have to teach him when to hit the high post, when to close out on the shooter, when to double down in the low post. We have to teach all those type of things.”
“I just try to get long, like how I’m probably going to be when I’m (at Syracuse),” Goodine said. “I try to get quicker when I’m rotating through my spots on the court, so when I get to school I don’t get yelled at and put on the bench.”
Strength and structure
Goodine won’t be caught looking too far down the road — no matter how clear it might be. There’s still plenty he has to work on.
“I want to win a championship,” he said, listing goals. “I want to score my 2,000th point here and I want to get Gatorade Player of the State.”
He’s on pace to close-in on 1,500 career points by the end of this season. Now living on campus in Barrington, Goodine said the onus is on him now that his mother isn’t over his shoulder reminding him to do his work.
“Living here makes things a little bit easier, but I have to manage my own time. If I want to get better, I have to be the one to go to the gym and workout,” he said.
As he grows on the court, Goodine is growing his interests off the court. He’s a part of the school’s drawing club and is an alumni ambassador, where he helps organize events and networks with alumni to draw donations. Although he’s undecided on a major, he said he’ll likely choose a science-related field.
And then there’s his weight. A naturally skinny kid, Goodine said he currently weighs 175 pounds. Hart wants him to leave St. Andrew’s at 195, while bench pressing 200.
“A lot of high school kids can’t bench press 200 pounds when they graduate,” Hart said. “I want him to have an idea of how hard he has to work in the weight room to keep weight on his body.”
As a college freshman, a 19-year-old Kevin Durant couldn’t bench press 185 pounds once during the NBA Draft Combine. Former Celtics center Al Jefferson could only lift that much three times during his combine in 2004.
“College coaches want you to have a wiry frame — muscular, but not big muscle,” Goodine said. “As long you have the endurance and a high basketball IQ, I think that can offset big strength. But they definitely want me to get stronger. That’s mine and Coach Hart’s main goal.”
Hart envisions Brycen maxing out his body size around 23 or 24 years old — bringing up names like Kerry Kittles, Trevor Cooney and O.J. Mayo when describing his body type in combination with his skill level.
“I told (Brycen) that I don’t like to talk NBA with kids,” Hart said. “But since we’ve been lucky enough to have a couple who’ve gone on to the NBA and with all the summer camps I’ve done with the likes of LeBron James, and the ABCD camp, I think Brycen is similar to a lot of guys at that age who ended up playing in the NBA.”
Goodine chimed in, saying that reaching the NBA is his goal, but wants to have something to fall back on in case basketball doesn’t work out.
“That’s something I learned when I tore my ACL,” he said. “Basketball won’t be around forever.”
Learning to lead
A soft-spoken teen gifted with vociferous talents on the hardwood, Goodine is continuing to find his voice as leader. Hart was quick to point out that his guard still has to learn how to run a team.
“The next goal is transitioning to playing point guard,” Hart said. “I know at Syracuse he’s going to have to play some point. We have another year to work on him confidently bringing the ball up against pressure, getting the team in the right offense and getting the team line up on defense. I think he’ll reach that goal. He should.”
With the maturity that comes with three year’s growth — which, at his age, could be counted in dog years — Goodine’s history has groomed him to lead a team.
“He’s still learning the non-basketball stuff: leadership, vocalness, running a team,” Hart said. “Once that picks up, then I’ll let you know he’s good enough to go to the NBA. Talent-wise, I think he’s consistent with guys I used to coach in the summer camps.”
He paused for a moment and looked up at one of the many professional and collegiate jerseys that hang in his office.
“And it’s right in front of him.”