Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Norcross' Brandon Goodwin lead the Blue Devils to the state championship this season and has been named the Daily Post's boys basketball Player of the Year.
NORCROSS -- Brandon Goodwin may have battled many a formidable foe throughout his high school basketball career.
But perhaps the biggest foe the 6-foot senior had to face during his senior season with Norcross was the unknown.
From new teammates being constantly added, to one that never was, to learning a new role, Goodwin constantly had to adjust and adapt on the fly throughout the 2012-13 campaign.
Judging from the results, the Daily Post's Boys Player of the Year and his teammates did a pretty good job.
"The growth of our team mirrored his growth," Blue Devils coach Jesse McMillan said of Goodwin. "As the team was trying to find his identity, he was finding his own identity. We started hitting our stride once he found that balance between his scoring and point guard responsibilities."
Moving from his usual shooting guard position -- where he was a second-team All-County selection after averaging 15.2 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game as a junior last season -- to point guard, and assuming all the leadership responsibilities the role comes with was a big adjustment.
But it was a challenge Goodwin readily accepted.
"I learned my role," Goodwin said. "Last year, I came in and played the shooting guard (position). This year, I had to play point guard. Once everybody learned their role on the team, it all fit how Coach wanted it to play. We all started playing together. Pass the ball, pass the ball. Defense, defense. We couldn't be stopped. Everything started to mold and fit in.
"We didn't get comfortable. We strove to do better. We knew where we (were) at, but we knew had to get better to get where we wanted to go, which was to (the) state (championship)."
That's exactly where Goodwin and the Blue Devils (27-6) wound up, winning their last 17 straight games to claim the Class AAAAAA state championship, the program's fifth state title in the last eight seasons.
And Goodwin was a major factor, averaging 15.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.8 steals per game.
But even that success didn't come without a lot of hard work, which was seemingly made harder by having to get to know new teammates as they were constantly being added from just before the holidays until mid-January.
With the Blue Devils already having several new faces at the beginning of the season, the success of Norcross' football team, which also won a state title, meant contributors like Lorenzo Carter and Chris Herndon did not even join the team until late December.
And with senior transfer Terrance O'Donohue not joining the team for another month as he rehabbed a knee injury only added to the adjustment period.
But Goodwin said establishing himself as a leader as the newcomers were added to the mix wasn't as difficult as one might think, and he credits his teammates and coaches for that.
"You would think it was tough, but it really wasn't," Goodwin said. "We all were on the same page from the beginning. From there, all it took was work on the court. Our chemistry got better every practice -- not every game, but every practice. Team dinners and team bonding and Coach (McMillan) brought us together."
Goodwin was able to help the Blue Devils bond as a team both on and off the court even without a particular teammate who could've made the task easier.
Even with veteran guard Myles Autry missing the season due to a knee injury suffered in Norcross' football state title run, he depended on other teammates as much as they depended on him.
That assistance from the likes of Khalen Pinkett and Jalen Davis, combined with Goodwin's own competitive nature, helped him focus on the task at hand.
"My motivation for basketball, period, kept me sane," Goodwin said. "I wanted to win a championship, and I knew if I had my mind on other things, I wouldn't be able to focus on basketball. I put all that stuff aside, and I just focused."
That competitive nature not only helped Goodwin lead his team to a championship, it also put him on the college recruiting radar.
Though he initially gave a verbal commitment to play at Southern Mississippi, he never signed his national letter of intent, and reopened his recruitment.
He will now choose between Auburn, Central Florida, Houston, Western Kentucky and Ole Miss sometime in the next month.
"He played with a little chip on his shoulder this year," McMillan said. "Even on his AAU team, (Columbia senior and Auburn signee) Tahj Shamsid-Deen was one of his teammates, and he was kind of in his shadow. I think he used that as motivation, and it paid off for him.
"He's a very competitive kid, and one of the biggest things we're going to miss is the way he elevated our competitive nature as a team."