Stoops’ staff received a ton of credit early in his tenure for branching out into Ohio to secure commitments. It stole headlines, but it was not the primary reason why they were successful. UK’s coaches have an eye for spotting talent at a young age. Justin Rogers, previously the highest-ranked commitment of the Stoops era, first received an offer from Steve Clinkscale when he was in eighth grade. Marquan McCall’s offer came as a high school freshmen. In Goodwin’s case, the offer came even earlier, during the summer after his seventh grade season.
How Kentucky Convinced Kiyaunta Goodwin to Become a Wildcat “They were the first school to offer him a scholarship,” said Goodwin’s mentor, Chris Vaughn. “At that point nobody knew what he would turn into. I had a hunch, but the lightbulb went off, he trusted the process and made Kiyaunta feel like a priority from the get-go at a young age. Now with Covid happening, Kiyaunta hasn’t had a chance to go in front of some of these other schools, so UK has been that place where he feels comfort and familiarity. Coach Marrow has done such a great job.”
“Just being able to have the face to face conversation with coaches, Goodwin said, “Anybody can say some stuff behind the phone, but when you look them in the eyes it’s totally different.” Stoops readjusted Marrow’s recruiting priorities ahead of the 2019 recruiting cycle, sending Vince to all corners of the state, particularly Louisville. The state’s largest city had plenty of talent, yet struggled to convince players to come to Lexington. In an interview with KSR Marrow did not get into specifics, but he alluded to how the previous regime at UofL used race as a negative recruiting tool against Kentucky.
Changing the Narrative in Louisville By making Goodwin a priority at an early age, he was already familiar with Kentucky’s campus and the coaches when Covid shut down recruiting visits. He was familiar with the facilities, the culture, and most importantly, the people. Most schools got to know Goodwin through Zoom, not Kentucky.
“Louisville, being a city school, they were getting a lot of inner-city kids,” he said. “I don’t know what they were telling them, but I tell them now, ‘Look, we had the first African-American players in this league. We have a very diverse culture.’” People paid attention. Aspirations Gym, operated by Vaughn, is the home base for some of the most talented players in the area. Goodwin will be the third Aspirations athlete to join UK’s program, following cornerback Carrington Valentine and wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson.
It sounds cliched to say that “recruiting is about relationships.” It’s not so different than when Stoops says, “we gotta go to work.” There is truth behind every cliche and maybe none more so evident than in the case of Kiyaunta Goodwin. It was not just talk. The program’s actions provided plenty of evidence. While the Cards struggled on the field, Marrow was able to remove the wedge between the city and state school, securing high profile commitments from J.J. Weaver, Jared Casey, Tae Tae Crumes, Izayah Cummings and more.
Almost every college coach in the country jumped on the Goodwin bandwagon when he grabbed headlines in middle school. Some of them jumped off when he gained more than 100 pounds through his first two years of high school. Marrow never gave up on Goodwin. It was not just talk. The program’s actions provided plenty of evidence. While the Cards struggled on the field, Marrow was able to remove the wedge between the city and state school, securing high profile commitments from J.J. Weaver, Jared Casey, Tae Tae Crumes, Izayah Cummings and more.
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