A good year for OSU's Goodman
Until Oregon State's shocking 68-67 loss to Washington last week in the Pac-12 quarterfinals, it had been a great past couple of weeks for Aleah Goodman.
The sophomore guard from La Salle Prep suffered through the poorest shooting game of her career, missing all 10 shots from the field — nine from 3-point range — as the 11th-ranked Beavers were upset by the Huskies.
In late February, Goodman was honored as ESPNW's National Player of the Week after averaging 18 points in three victories, including a team-high 22-point outburst in an upset of then-No. 2-ranked Oregon.
Goodman also was named recipient of the inaugural Pac-12 Sixth Player of the Year Award.
"It's a great honor for Aleah," OSU Scott Rueck says. "She has done a terrific job for us all year, fitting into whatever the team needed. She has played three different positions and has played such a huge role in so many big games, making big shots and savvy defensive plays for us in high-profile moments. She has been a rock for this team since the day we started."
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Many observers wouldn't have expected that from Goodman, who came to Oregon State as the 12th-ranked point guard in the nation after leading La Salle Prep to a pair of Class 5A championships.
Goodman averaged 6.3 points while shooting a team-best .462 from 3-point range as a freshman for the Beavers, who had redshirt point guard Destiny Slocum waiting in the wings.
Slocum — the Women's Basketball Coaches Association Freshman of the Year in 2016-17 at Maryland — has been the starter this season, and last week was named to the 15-player all-Pac-12 team.
But Goodman has been almost as important, serving as the Beavers' fourth-leading scorer at 10.7 points and earning 25 minutes per game, fourth on the squad.
Goodman, who has found herself at times paired with Slocum in the backcourt, played at least 20 minutes in every game through the Pac-12 season. She had 38-minute stints against Colorado (in which she scored 25 points on 9-for-12 shooting, including 6 for 6 from 3-point range) and Utah in early February.
A season-ending knee injury to junior guard Kat Tudor — the player who preceded her as first off the bench — on Dec. 29 opened the door for more playing time for Goodman. She has played so well, it's been hard for Rueck to take her out of the game.
"At times it is," he acknowledged. "That's the beauty of this team. Even with the loss of Kat, we were able to sustain because of our depth.
"Aleah has been the one who filled in that gap that Kat left. She elevated her game and has played huge minutes. There was a time in her career when it was hard for her to be out there for 30 minutes, because she had to go so hard on the defensive end. Those days quickly ended. All of a sudden, I'm looking at her, and she has played 38 minutes and did just fine. She has been really good."
Goodman admittedly was somewhat apprehensive when she heard Slocum was going to join the program.
"When I heard she was coming, I was a little bit, 'Hmm,'" Goodman said. "But I talked to the coaches. They had a vision. They explained it to me. They said there were times Destiny and I could play side-by-side.
"And we hit it off right away. Destiny and I became super good friends, on and off the court. We have a really good relationship. We're able to communicate and learn from each other. I've learned so much from Destiny with her playmaking ability. We see different things on the floor, which makes us even better. Now I'm so excited that she came here."
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Goodman comes from an athletic family. Her father, Kevin, played shortstop at George Fox for former OSU baseball coach Pat Casey. Her mother, Kari, played volleyball. Aleah has three older sisters, all of whom played sports, and one younger brother. Aleah and her youngest sister, Tori, played together on La Salle's state title team during Aleah's sophomore year.
"My parents were open to us playing any sports, but I fell in love with basketball at a young age," she says. "My dad was a huge influence. He was always willing to go to the gym with me. He never forced me, but was always willing. He spent countless hours rebounding for me and helping me out. He has been a huge part of my success."
Goodman is an outstanding shooter, the result of hours spent firing away in the gym and on the playground.
"It's just repetition, getting lots of shots up, and doing game reps in those workouts," she says. "Not just stand-and-shoot, but coming off the dribble, moving a lot — that's my main thing."
Goodman ended the regular season shooting .423 from 3-point range. Going into the NCAA Tournament, she is at an almost unbelievable .938 (45 for 48) from the free-throw line. The percentage would lead the league and rank second in the country if she had enough attempts to qualify.
"Last year, I was a poor free-throw shooter (9 for 17), but I really worked on it last summer," Goodman says. "I changed my routine, made it shorter so I didn't have time to think at the line. Just get up there and shoot. Now every workout, I spend time on free throws. I make 10 in a row before I leave the gym. I've made free throws a priority."
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Goodman narrowed her college choices to Oregon State, Washington and Arizona before choosing the Beavers.
"The biggest factor was the family atmosphere," she says. "Being from a big family, that was important to me. I'm super close to my parents, my sisters and my little brother. The family atmosphere here is like none other, and Beaver Nation is amazing. The coaches embrace me like I'm one of their daughters.
"I came here on my visit and saw how the other girls interacted with the coaches and vice versa. You don't find that kind of thing anywhere else. I didn't even feel like I was on a visit. I felt like, 'This is my team,' like I was a part of the team. Oregon State has been a great fit for me."
Goodman has enjoyed her relationship with Rueck.
"I've learned so much from Scott," she says. "We have a great relationship. I'm able to go to him when I see something on the floor and say, 'Hey, I think we should do this.' He communicates with me really well, whether after practice or in his office watching (video) or during a game. His ability to work with his players is special."
Having been the star of her team from the time she first picked up a basketball, coming off the bench as a freshman for the Beavers was a transition for Goodman.
"It wasn't a shock, but I wasn't used to it," she says. "It was a big adjustment. I just had to get over myself. That was the thing — looking at it from a team standpoint.
"It gave me the ability to watch the game and see what they need on both ends of the floor, and when I get in there, to make an impact, bring that burst of energy, make sure we don't lose anything when I get in there. That's been something that Scott and the other coaches have been talking to me about."
Goodman was always an offensive player, but in Rueck's system, defense comes first.
"After last year, I met with Scott a lot," she says "He said, 'You have to get better on the defensive end. We can't have you out there if you can't play defense. In the Pac-12, you'll get exposed.'
"Defense is a hard thing to work on, especially if you're only with yourself in the gym. And it's hard to like defense. But I've had a change in my attitude. I've learned to like defense, to love being on the defensive end. Getting a stop is almost better than making a basket. I'm taking better angles and being smarter.
"It's hard, because I'm playing against very athletic girls. I'm not the fastest; I'm not the quickest. I've had to learn other skills. That's been my biggest improvement."
Rueck says Goodman increased her level of awareness of the importance of defense.
"It's like learning a new language for everyone who gets to the college level," he says. "I'm proud of her for embracing it, for finding a way to survive while going against athletes who are sometimes quicker than she is. She is now not only a great position defender but is also able to make plays, whether in man or zone. She has made the opponent adapt to her and has controlled possessions."
Did Rueck have any misgivings about Goodman's lack of athleticism or quickness when recruiting her?
"I didn't," he says. "I've had so much experience with players like her, who might be a half-step slow to the eyes, but you look at their game quickness. I was confident that Aleah had the intellectual ability in the game, that she'd be able to adapt and learn how to play."
Goodman describes herself as "smiley. Goofy, I guess. I'm a friend to everyone. I love to hang out with my family — that's a big thing for me and with my teammates and friends. I like being active. I like playing other sports. I played soccer growing up, so I love that. I like to throw the football around, and I like playing baseball or softball."
Goodman, who lives with teammate Taya Corosdale in an apartment close to campus, is a 3.6 student in human development. After her playing career is over, she won't stray far from the game of basketball.
"I really want to be a college coach," she says. "I'm looking more at being an assistant. I don't know if I want to be a head coach, but I want to coach. If I go in the direction of my major, I want to be an elementary school teacher."
Rueck calls Goodman "a dream to coach."
"She's one of those people who loves the gym, loves the game and loves her teammates," he says. "When she talks, everybody listens. You know she's giving it everything she's got both mentally and physically.
"She is mentally invested. She identifies as a baller. Because of that, she commands respect. She's an incredible role model. The way she conducts herself is inspiring to everyone."
Goodman is having a good time.
"Oregon State is so fun," she says. "This team is a lot of fun. We have fun doing anything together. We can just sit down at a table and have a blast.
"The last Civil War win was so much fun at Gill (Coliseum) — just being out there playing before a huge crowd. We played some of our best basketball in that game. We put 40 minutes together on both ends of the floor."
Despite the early departure in the Pac-12 tournament, Goodman is hoping for a long NCAA Tournament run for the Beavers.
"The key is putting the full 40 minutes of toughness together, just playing how we know we can play," she says. "Sometimes we've played a great defensive game, but our offense isn't flowing. Or we've been really good on offense and our defense isn't there.
"This team can go as far as we put our minds to it. When we play together and play right, we're a really good team — one of the best teams in the nation."
Goodman is looking forward to her final two seasons in a Beaver uniform.
"I really want a Pac-12 title, both regular season and tournament," she says. "And I just want to have fun. I love my teammates. I love the coaching staff here. I'm really excited for the next couple of years."