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Can’t leash this Bulldog

Scrappy Goodson takes over as Gonzaga’s point guard

Mike Goodson Jr., Jeremy Pargo, Wayne Chism, Western Kentucky’s basketball team … There were many more before and surely many more to come.

That’s an incomplete, but burgeoning list of individuals/teams that have experienced Demetri “Meech” Goodson’s toughness firsthand. Gonzaga’s sophomore point guard carved out a reputation for never backing down as a youngster in Spring, Texas, just outside of Houston. He was molded by numerous scraps with older brother Mike, a rookie with Carolina in the NFL, and difficult family circumstances.

“It’s a product of where I came from, how my dad raised us growing up never to back down,” Goodson said. “My dad told me and my brother if we got into a fight at school, the only way we’d get in trouble is if we started the fight or if we got beat up in the fight.

“My brother and I used to fight all the time growing up. When we were little we were almost the same size – until he hit that growth spurt. I used to give him a challenge back then.”

Challenges seem to be bring out the best in the 5-foot-11, 164-pound Goodson, who figures to take over as Gonzaga’s starting point guard after the graduation of three-year starter Pargo. Gonzaga begins pursuit of its 10th straight WCC title and 12th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance when Mississippi Valley State visits the McCarthey Athletic Center in the regular-season opener Saturday.

Goodson’s assignment as a true freshman was essentially a one-year internship as Pargo’s backup, but his impact was considerable, and not just because he made one of the most memorable shots in school history – a last-second running, 8-foot banker that lifted Gonzaga to an 83-81 NCAA tourney win over Western Kentucky last March.

“He never gave Jeremy an inch,” head coach Mark Few said. “There were long stretches in practice where Jeremy struggled against him, and to his credit, Meech kept bringing it every day in practice. That’s what made our practices so good, that type of competitiveness.”

Tennessee’s Chism, a 6-9, 242-pound senior center, found that out at the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, Fla. Prior to the championship game, Goodson said three Volunteers purposely bumped into him as they ran out on the floor. Words were exchanged, and there was another heated exchange between Goodson and Chism as the teams left the floor at halftime. Teammates separated the two.

“That’s the football mentality in me,” Goodson said.

Goodson played that sport through his sophomore year at Klein Collins High. He started at cornerback and was on the kickoff return team, lining up next to his brother. Despite not playing his junior year, Goodson still received a scholarship offer from Arizona State. Florida’s offensive coordinator inquired about Goodson possibly playing receiver and returning punts.

Goodson loved playing with his brother, but with Mike moving on to Texas A&M, his focus turned to basketball. About that time, Goodson’s home life was rocked when his father, Mike Sr., was convicted of mortgage fraud and sent to a federal prison in Mississippi.

Mike Sr. was a point guard at Pitt, where he met his future wife, Yolanda, a hurdler on the Panthers track team. They divorced when Goodson was young. Demetri and Mike Jr. learned football and basketball from their father. Goodson recalls lengthy ball-handling drills and learning to jump off the correct foot on right- and left-handed layups.

“When he went to jail it was weird not having him around to keep pushing me, but I have a work ethic,” Goodson said. “It’s been kind of difficult, but I’ve learned from it and gotten smarter. I’m 20, but I feel like I’m 30 in my mind. It makes you grow up a little faster.”

They stay in touch through phone calls and e-mail. When Goodson made his winning shot against Western Kentucky, his father watched it unfold on television.

“The next morning we were talking and he was just proud, I could hear it in his voice,” Goodson said. “He tells me all the time he’s proud of me.”

Mike Sr. told the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer this summer he’s tried to distance his children as much as possible from his problems, adding, “I’m very proud of the way all of them have handled it.”

In addition to Mike Jr., Goodson’s younger sister, Amber, a senior at Klein Collins, will run track at Rice, and freshman Marcus is excelling at football. The two younger siblings live with Yolanda in a home that Mike Jr. helped refurbish after he signed his first NFL contract. Demetri, Amber, Marcus and Yolanda attended Mike Jr.’s first preseason game with Carolina.

“My brother and I are very close,” Goodson said. “We always dreamed of making the NFL or NBA. To see him get there is like a dream.”

Goodson dreams of playing in the NBA someday, but his more immediate task is running the show for the Bulldogs, who face a rugged non-conference schedule with a largely inexperienced squad.

“We want him to look at the basket more, be a little more aggressive offensively,” Few said. “He’s been so quick throughout his career he can get by guys, but his 3 is a really good-looking shot. That’s probably the next step in his game.”

Few said Goodson is perhaps the fastest player end line to end line he’s coached. Based on conditioning tests and his hard-nosed approach, associate head coach Leon Rice said Goodson “would be a heck of a cornerback.”

Senior guard Matt Bouldin sees all of those things in Goodson, and more.

“Everybody knows he’s fast,” Bouldin said. “Now he plays with better pace, not just one speed. He changes it and uses it to his advantage. The thing I love about him is his fearlessness. I mean he’s scrapping at halfcourt with Chism over who knows what, but I think that’s his best attribute – the fact that he won’t back down from anybody.”

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