Fourth team's the charm

He is a basketball vagabond, playing at three different high schools, at the NCAA Division I level two times, in the junior college ranks and currently at Division II Bowie State.

Finally, at the age of 24, Gil Goodrich has found his niche.


Order and commitment now rule the Linthicum native, who is a serious contender for the national scoring title and a fan favorite wherever he appears in the predominantly African-American Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association. The white point guard has immense skills, a flashy style and the ability to find open teammates whenever he is double- and triple-teamed, which is almost always.

This self-professed gym rat can flat-out play the game.


After a 25-game regular season - he sat out the finale against a weak Columbia Union team to rest for the league tournament that begins today in Charlotte, N.C. - the Bulldogs' point guard is averaging 26.0 points and 7.3 assists, is second in Division II in scoring and pacing the CIAA in feeds. He is shooting 40 percent from three-point range, 44 percent overall.

Last week, Goodrich was named Player of the Year in the CIAA, a rare honor for someone who spent just one season in the league.

"The fans like the way he plays. It's not about race," said Bowie coach Luke D'Alessio, whose sixth-seeded Bulldogs meet No. 11 Shaw at 7 p.m. "It's very interesting because he's so good and can make so many different shots, floaters, pull-ups, deep three-pointers, and the passes he's making thrill people. They compare him to Steve Nash."

"It's been a pleasure to play with him so far," added teammate Tyronne Beale, a senior from Silver Spring and the other half of Bowie's big 1-2 punch (21.6 points, 8.3 rebounds). "I'm having a better season just because he's here."

Success on the court has come much more easily than success in school for Goodrich, who played at Cardinal Gibbons, Towson Catholic and Newport Prep in Kensington on the high school level and Howard, Panola (Texas) Junior College and Lamar collegiately before sitting out two years, then enrolling at Bowie.

He averaged 12.9 points and 7.6 assists as Panola advanced to its regional final and was the starting point guard for coach Billy Tubbs at Lamar, averaging 12.9 points and 4.6 assists. But he had always been more interested in basketball and socializing than in academics.

"Billy Tubbs and me bumped heads a little bit," Goodrich said. "I was big into night life and not really focusing. I let everything come before my grades and wasn't getting the job done in the classroom. Now I'm focused with a lot of tunnel vision."

D'Alessio, who tried to recruit Goodrich when he left Howard after one season, said Goodrich "changed the direction of his life when his grandfather [Charlie Morehead] died. He understands and has the situation [schoolwork] in hand now."


"I was real close to him," Goodrich said of his grandfather. "He didn't approve of the partying and staying out. I never wanted him to be looking down and have me disappointing him."

His father, Gil Goodrich Jr., was an assistant coach at Gibbons and now is an assistant at Severn School. He said Gil III has been playing in Baltimore City since he was 10 years old.

"He was on an AAU team with Carmelo Anthony, Melvin Scott and Keith Jenifer, and nobody could beat them," said the elder Goodrich. "He's been around the game since he was 3 and in the gym constantly."

Goodrich Jr. remembered that the call to Texas to tell his son that his grandfather had died "wasn't a pleasant one. He came home and made a 180-degree turn. He was very immature before, and after that he had a totally different attitude."

A sociology major with a listed career goal of "NBA Coach," Goodrich has also been motivated by a slight from Division I schools. "He thought he was snubbed because of his height [now 5 feet 10], so he has a little chip on his shoulder," his father said. "I'll tell you, I'm very proud of him. I never thought he could sit out two years and do what he's doing now."

Division II opponents have taken notice quickly. In a preseason scrimmage at Shepherd, a fan came out of the stands and tapped D'Alessio on the back to tell him Goodrich was the best player he had ever seen on that court. "I told the guy, 'Hey, I'm trying to coach a game here,' " D'Alessio said.


Foes are now picking up Goodrich with two players at halfcourt. "He splits the defenses and comes out to make tremendous passes. And he can get a shot off whenever he wants," D'Alessio said. "They just say, 'How are we supposed to stop him?' "

Goodrich and Beale must play nearly 40 minutes nightly because the Bulldogs are lacking the quality big men they had in recent seasons - like Tim Washington and Lee Cook - and are relatively young. Bowie got a good lesson in how intense CIAA play is when it lost to Virginia Union, 86-42, in early December at Madison Square Garden in New York.

The next time Bowie played its archrival, it trounced the Panthers, 92-70, with Goodrich scoring 38 points and doling out eight assists. Two games after the loss to Virginia Union, he scored a school-record 52 (three shy of the state record set by Jack Sullivan of Mount St. Mary's) against Mansfield.

"He's got to do everything for us, get steals, some rebounds, and he doesn't miss foul shots," D'Alessio said. "He's got a lot of pressure on him, and I've never seen anybody go through the conference like he is. And when we lose, it really hits him hard."

Beale said Goodrich "didn't miss" against Mansfield, adding: "It was crazy. I couldn't believe how many points he had."

Said Goodrich: "There were about 50 people in the stands. Then more started coming in and that gets my blood going. They had us by about 12-14 points with four minutes to go, so it was time to do something. I'd split the doubles and everything I threw up was going in."


But it is off the court where his game has improved the most.

"I'm more humble now and stay to myself," he said. "I have to watch what I do because I don't want to have a bad image."