LEXINGTON – More than a few people questioned Archie Goodwin’s decision to enter his name in the NBA Draft after a typically uneven freshman season at the University of Kentucky, but Goodwin looks well on his way to proving the naysayers wrong.
The 6-foot-4 Goodwin snuck into the first round of the June draft, taken 29th by the Phoenix Suns, and recently completed a strong showing for the Suns in the NBA’s Las Vegas summer league.
Goodwin averaged 13.1 points over seven games in leading the Suns to a runner-up finish (behind Golden State) in the league. He shot 50 percent from the field and showed the skills to score inside and out. In particular, Goodwin was a load to handle in the paint, where he consistently drew fouls.
Goodwin is making a brief stop at UK this week, working one of John Calipari’s kids’ camps.
“I think I had a really strong showing, just going out there and getting an opportunity to play,” Goodwin said of his summer league efforts. “I just wanted to showcase that I’ve been working really hard, and working on a lot of things in my game.
“I want to show that I’m better than people thought.”
Goodwin tallied 12.8 points and 4.1 rebounds as a Wildcat last season.
Goodwin has also spent time recently moving to Phoenix and settling in a condo, while working out and staying in communication with new Suns coach Jeff Hornacek and other team officials.
“They told me I’m going to play right away,” Goodwin said of his communications with the Suns. “They said they’re as excited to get me as I’m excited to be there. They said from the get go they felt I can be a special player, one of the best players out of this draft, and I feel the same.
“I know with my work ethic and the way I compete that I’m going to make that happen.”
Goodwin’s up and down play for Kentucky made him something of a lightning rod for criticism as the Wildcats faltered down the stretch and ended up with a first-round NIT loss at Robert Morris.
But Goodwin said he didn’t take the criticism to heart ... if he heard it at all.
“I didn’t pay attention to it,” he said. “I know people are going to be negative just because of the way our season went. But at the end of the day, I know what I’m capable of.
“I control my own fate. I’ll continue to work hard and block out what everyone is saying. Everything is looking good for me now.”
Goodwin said he’s glad to team up with former UK star Eric Bledsoe, who was traded from the Clippers to the Suns in the offseason.
“I’ve talked to him a few times,” Goodwin said of Bledsoe. “It’s a great opportunity for me to be under a guy that played here, so we already have that bond going.
“I know he’s competitive just like I am, so I feel like together we can make some things happen. He has things he can teach me, and I’m all ears because I know he’s not going to tell me anything wrong.”
Goodwin said Calipari won’t lead this year’s highly acclaimed freshman class at Kentucky wrong, either, but Goodwin warns that these youngsters have to understand where the UK coach is coming from.
“My biggest advice to them would be to listen to what Coach Cal says, not how he says it,” Goodwin said. “I feel like last year we had a couple guys who listened to the way he said things, and that really put guys down because they weren’t used to that coming from high school where they’re used to doing anything they want.
“But if they listen to what he says instead of how he says it, they’ll be fine, because they have all the athletic ability and talent in the world.
“They just have to make sure their heads are on right.”
Three other former UK players — Nerlens Noel, Julius Mays and Twany Beckham, are also working Calipari’s camp this week, and also appeared at a brief press outing Monday.
Noel, who was drafted No. 6 overall, said he’s ahead of schedule in rehab for his torn ACL, though he declined to give a timetable for his debut with the Philadelphia 76ers.
“I’m a lot stronger, and I feel great,” Noel said. “But it’s something I really have to be careful with. I want to have a long career, so I’m not going to rush it now and put anything at risk.”
Mays said his agent is negotiating with several professional basketball teams in Europe. Mays recently had a tryout with the Brooklyn Nets and made a good showing, but he was not signed to a contract.
“I shocked a lot of people,” Mays said of his Nets tryout. “I got a lot of great feedback since I was used more as a shooter here, coming off screens. They didn’t know I could play point guard.
“A lot of teams told me that they’re going to give me a big look in next year’s (NBA) summer league, depending on how my season goes overseas.”
Beckham just finished a book about his life in basketball, focusing on his years at Kentucky.