There’s a budding young screenwriter from Los Angeles whose own story has reached a final chapter here at the NCAA Tournament.
It’s a basketball story about a kid who grew up in South Carolina, played a few smaller colleges around the state, chased Hollywood dreams he didn’t even know he was had, found the success he didn’t know he could achieve and came home to finish his college career in front of loved ones who believed in him.
Chez Goodwin wanted the story to continue.
The 6-foot-9 senior forward wanted his Southern Cal team, ranked seventh out of 16 in the Midwest Region, to win two games this weekend at Bon Secours Wellness Arena, make the Sweet 16 and keep going until let the confetti fly.
Instead, the Trojans (26-8) were eliminated by 10th-seeded Miami, 68-66, on Friday in the first round of the tournament.
“I’m a little upset that I had to go out like this. I prefer it to be done differently,” Goodwin said. “But it’s a blessing, honestly. I know guys want to be where I am in general, so I can’t be that mad. It’s just a great blessing to be where I am.
Maybe it was better that way. Dozens of his family members and close friends were there to console him and also congratulate him.
Goodwin is originally from Colombia and went to Hammond, a private school with less than 1,000 students from kindergarten through high school. He spent one year at the College of Charleston and two at Wofford, which has fewer than 2,000 enrolments. It’s quite a culture shock from there for a city of 4 million inhabitants.
“I thought it was a leap of faith on his part, on his family’s part,” Southern Cal coach Andy Enfield said, “because he was going away from home.”
There were two possible landing spots after Goodwin decided to leave Wofford. The other was St. John’s University in New York. The idea of living on the West Coast and playing in the Pac-12 took him across the country.
“I was a little nervous at first,” said Goodwin. “I thought, ‘Wow. Los Angeles? That’s a big step. But if they want me there, it’s gotta be somewhere I can be.’
The Southern Cal campus has 10,000 more people than the city of Spartanburg.
“No more having to know everyone at school,” Goodwin said. “You have your own little group.”
It not only adapted, it thrived. And he even wrote a few movie scripts. Why not? It’s Hollywood.
“I’m an LA guy,” Goodwin said. “I haven’t been everywhere because LA is so big so I’m always exploring. But I’m definitely an LA guy now. I love LA. It’s been great for me. It’s a place where I see living after basketball.
If he doesn’t pursue his career overseas, life after basketball begins now.
Goodwin scored 10 points Friday and led Southern Cal with six rebounds. When one of his foul shots crawled over the edge and in, he blew a kiss on her. In a hectic late streak, he blocked a shot and then made a quick layup to give the Trojans a lead. He helped the Trojans to the finish, when a half-pitch shot off the buzzer by teammate Drew Peterson. just missed.
It would have been a Hollywood ending.
With three seconds left and a draw, Goodwin landed a perfectly timed jump to block a shot from Miami’s Charlie Moore as he headed for the basket. However, Moore was hit by USC’s Ethan Anderson on the way and made two free throws.
“That foul they called in the stretch on Ethan. It was tough,” Goodwin said. “I was like, ‘Why did they make that call?’ ”
Goodwin, who came off the bench last season in Southern Cal’s run to the Elite Eight, averaged 11.0 points this season and ranked second on the team with 6.5 rebounds. He had nine offensive rebounds in a game against Oregon State, the most by any Pac-12 player since 2006.
“Chevez is one of the hardest working players I’ve ever coached at any level,” Enfield said. “He’s one of the most improved players in the Pac-12. He’s relentless energy. He comes to you every day in practice, never takes a day off in practice. …I can’t can’t say enough about his toughness, his physical toughness, his mental toughness, what he brings to our team, his maturity, and he’s great fun to coach because you can teach him something and he soaks it in. He tries his best to improve.
His teammates elected Goodwin to be their captain.
“He’s one of the most passionate players I’ve played with,” Peterson said. “He was a huge key for us last year and he really stepped up his game, really upped his game over the summer.
“A super-energetic guy,” said Isaiah Mobley. “Excellent on offense and defense. Throughout the season he has played very well. His experience, just being in college basketball for as long as he has, is important to us. He is like one of the roots of our team.
Goodwin also helped Wofford go undefeated in the Southern Conference three seasons ago and make it to the NCAA Tournament, where the Terriers beat Seton Hall and nearly upset Kentucky.
“I know guys who have never played in the tournament. I know guys who played once and never came back,” Goodwin said. “To say that I’ve played in three NCAA tournaments is crazy. And it really is a blessing.