March 5, 2001
Towson University freshman point guard Tamir Goodman is close to becoming a regular student-athlete again.
After a three-year whirlwind media tour that included profiles by "60 Minutes," ESPN and Sports Illustrated, the young man who turned the college basketball world upside down because he is an Orthodox Jew with game will finally get to enjoy campus life like most students.Towson's basketball season came to a close when the Tigers fell to Delaware, 66-51, on Saturday night in the quarterfinals of the America East tournament. Goodman didn't play in Friday's opening-round win and didn't enter Saturday night's game until the second half, because the games fell on the Jewish Sabbath, sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.
"In my junior year, I knew I was going to leave [Talmudical Academy in Baltimore] for another school [Takoma Academy in Takoma Park] for my senior year because of basketball," said Goodman, reflecting on the past three years. "Then I knew I had to find another college [than Maryland]. When I used to go into classes in the morning, I didn't feel like a high school student."
After finally choosing Towson, life didn't change a lot this season. Goodman became the media focus on the road, the Jewish kid with the carrot-colored hair who wore the traditional yarmulke at all times.
But as the season wound down, so did some interview requests. Towson students and faculty members became more familiar with him and less interested in why he was drawing so much attention.
With the season over, Goodman is about to become a student again for the first time in years, a regular 19-year-old who will concentrate on Psychology 101, Communications, Public Speaking and Kinesiology without worrying about life's other hassles.
"When I go to class now, I'm just another freshman student-athlete," Goodman said. "They don't treat me like I'm somebody else, and I can't thank them enough, the students and the faculty. In that respect, I'm comfortable here at Towson.
"Everything I have gone through in the last few years has been a big, old learning experience," he said. "Now, I'm in an environment, in a system, where I'm growing every day trying to become a better student-athlete. I feel like a student again, a college student."
Towson was always a better choice for Goodman than the University of Maryland, both socially and basketball-wise. Terps coach Gary Williams offered Goodman a scholarship in January 1999 when he was at Talmudical averaging 35.4 points and 7.5 assists. The next season, both parties backed out of the agreement reportedly because the school could not work a schedule around the Sabbath. But, in all honesty, Williams acted too quickly in offering the scholarship and then scaled back interest after recurring questions about Goodman's being able to play in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The answer is no.
Goodman is a good, sound player with great passing skills who will develop into a standout at Towson. He might become the equivalent of a solid player in the ACC, but at Maryland he would not have gotten playing time to develop.
At Maryland, the media blitz would be more intense. At Maryland, Goodman might have gotten lost among the 33,000 students, nearly double the enrollment at Towson.
He is a perfect fit for Towson, and holds no grudges.
"The whole experience at Maryland was real hard at first," Goodman said. "How many times has something happened to you and you say, `Man, I can't believe this is happening?' Then two or three months down the road, pieces of the puzzle start coming together because you stuck to your guns and did what was right. Coming here was the best thing that ever happened to me. At the same time, I left the Maryland situation with no hard feelings."
It is difficult not to like Goodman. He is extremely positive, has a quick wit and is mature, handling unnerving pressure as well as he handles the ball. While some of his peers spend a lot of time at the PlayStation and at the mall, Goodman is either studying his schoolbooks, the Bible or fulfilling other religious obligations.
His commitment to basketball is just as strong.
A year ago, Goodman, 6 feet 3, weighed 135 pounds. He weighs 160 now. He started every game except three this season, averaging 26.8 minutes, 6.0 points and 4.1 assists. His forte is passing and getting his teammates involved in the offense.
But even that required an adjustment.
"The biggest transition is that for the first time in your life, your best isn't good enough," Goodman said. "You have to learn that there is a whole new person inside of you, and you have to let him out and utilize that person. If something happens in a game, you learn something from the negative as well as the positive. It's not like you come down and gun, like in high school.
"You've got to play defense or you're not going to play," he said. "Every day, I try to get better. There have been some nights where I went home and thought I played a big part in our win, and other nights where I was a major reason why we lost."
It's all a learning experience.
Towson's schedule has allowed Goodman to visit Massachusetts, Maine and Vermont, places he had never been. His rooms with Mohamed Fofana, a Muslim born in Africa. Goodman never really liked the media, but he realizes they provide a chance to "sanctify God."
"Maybe people would write about me because I look the way I look," said Goodman, laughing. "But I understand. A yarmulke and a dunk don't make sense. My game is unique, and who I am is unique. I realize that I'm a trailblazer. Not a lot of people can say they are an Orthodox Jew and played Division I basketball.
"I am blessed to be put in this situation. My parents allowed me to play rec ball early in life," Goodman said. "Nobody when I was in elementary school played rec ball. We just went to gym once a week. All my schoolmates are now in Israel studying. Not many have chosen the life I have chosen."
His life can get a little hectic, especially when you're nicknamed the "Jewish Jordan." Goodman knows what kind of pressure that can bring.
"I don't even know where that nickname came from," said Goodman, who has never been fond of it. "People expect me to be Jordan, and they get disappointed because I'm not. There is only one Jordan."
Then when asked what would he do if someone named his son the next "Jewish Jordan," Goodman replied: "I'd teach him to play golf."
He is looking forward to being regular, old Tamir Goodman again.
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