Quentin Goodin didn't get the ending he signed up for. Heck, he didn't even really get the beginning, either.
Rewind to the situation at Xavier the summer before he first donned a uniform. The Muskies were led by arguably the program's most successful coach. They were coming off of an extremely successful season punctuated bitterly by a stunning loss in the second round of the tournament. Coming back from that team were a dynamic young point guard in Ed Sumner and three absolute snipers in Myles Davis, Trevon Bluiett, and JP Macura. None of those guys - who had combined to shoot 179-468 (38.2%) from deep - was touted as the best shooter on the team; according to Coach Mack, that honor fell to rising sophomore forward Kaiser Gates.
A successful rising star of a coach. A quartet of sharpshooters just waiting for the ball to be delivered. An established lead guard to ease the transition into college ball. It seemed like a dream scenario, I'm sure, for Goodin. The path he ended up being asked to take shaped up a lot differently.
When Q signed with Xavier, the scouting report was spot on compared to what he turned out to be. He was big, strong, and willing to get into the middle of the floor. He was a pass-first guy with the ability to use either hand. He specialized in working off of a picks and - presciently - there were questions about the consistency of his jumper. Despite those, he was universally regarded as a four-star player and landed in the ESPN100.
As a freshman, Q was supposed to provide depth and work into big-time D1 ball as a backup to Ed Sumner. Things were going to plan early on: he dropped 11 on Buffalo, lit up UNI to the tune of 13 points on 6-8 shooting, albeit over the course of two games, and got 18 minutes in a trouncing of Providence in the conference opener.
That all changed on January 29th. Edmond Sumner went down with an injury that forced Q into the game, and the next day the MRI confirmed that Ed's season was over. With Myles Davis having gone from veteran leader to former Muskie the week prior, Q went from third-choice to only option in the blink of an eye.
He responded in a way that few freshman could have. From that game on, he averaged 7.7/2.9/5.1 in 34.9 minutes per game and looked for everything like a legend being born in real time. Xavier struggled to find its way with Sumner down and Tre hobbled - at one point stringing together a six-game losing streak before they were cool - but Q was a horse the whole way. He dropped 15 in a vital two-point win over Creighton. He went for 21/4/6 in back-to-back wins over DePaul. He turned the ball over just twice in 34 minutes as Xavier punched its ticket to the dance with a Big East Tournament win over Butler. He dished out 20 assists to 10 turnovers in Xavier's three NCAA tournament wins before he and the rest of the team just ran out of gas against Gonzaga.
Still, Q's freshman year proved something that seems to have been forgotten: on the right team - the team he signed up for - his skill set could be put to fantastic use.
As a sophomore, Goodin took a huge leap forward. Trusted with the reins of offense, he helped turn it into the eighth-most efficient in the nation. The three remaining shooters from the team when he signed - Bluiett, Macura, and Gates - combined to shoot 208-525 (39.6%) from beyond the arc as Q dished out 4.9 assists per game. His shots percentage - a measure of what percentage of the team's shots he took while on the floor - was just 15.8%. He was in full pass-first mode, and he was feasting on it. His ORtg jumped from 86.2 to 105.8. Left to pick and choose when to shoot, he shot 44.5% from the floor and posted a 17-43 (39.5%) mark from behind the arc in conference play.
There were big moments aplenty for Goodin as a sophomore. He dished out 9 assist to 0 turnovers in a November home win over Baylor, then followed it with 8 more dimes in a Shootout victory. He snake dribbled the entire Marquette roster into the shadow realm - including having one hapless defender do a full 180 in the wrong direction - before punching all over them in a home win. In the final two games of February, he went for 37/6/7 on 12-16/4-6/9-10 shooting as X trounced Georgetown and Providence. March was a disappointment on the personal and team levels, as Q score just 29 points and had just 18 assists in 5 games as X washed out in the second round against Florida State.
You would have been hard pressed to find a Xavier fan not hopeful for Q's final two seasons when the bitterness of that loss wore off, but two things that happened that summer altered the trajectory of Goodin's career.
The most obvious is the exodus of talent at every level. Gone to Louisville were Chris Mack and much of the coaching staff, leaving Travis Steele piecing the bench together on the fly. Gone too were Goodin's snipers, as Tre and JP graduated and Kaiser Gates decided to continue doing the same thing he had been, just with more getting paid and less having to go to class. With Mack's departure long rumored, recruiting had hit a lull, and the cupboard was fairly bare around a still talented core led by Goodin.
The second, often overlooked factor is the shoulder injury that kept Q out of the first game of the year. It was rarely mentioned again and never used as an excuse, but it was a factor in Goodin's play. Healthy and in his pomp as a sophomore, he took more than half his shots at the rim and finished at a 58.5% clip. Those numbers dropped to 31.1% and 51.1% for his junior year and 35.2% and 49.2% as a senior.
After that summer, Q's junior year was always going to be tough for him. As a sophomore, he was 8th on the team in shots percentage and first in assist rate. As a junior, he again led the team in assist rate but was also third in total field goals attempted. The pass-first point guard days were, through little fault of his own, behind Quentin Goodin.
Still, he battled to fit his skill set to the new reality. He dropped 20 on 7-11 shooting in a November loss to San Diego State. He scrapped his way through an inconsistent non-conference season - a 3/3/3 line on 1-10 shooting against Oakland here, a 22/9/9 on just 12 shots against Detroit there - but Big East play was more down than up.
On a roster bereft of shooting threats, Q pulled more than he was likely comfortable with while still trying to distribute. In what would become a theme, he opened conference play with 8 assists but just 2-10 shooting against DePaul, then backed it up with 6 more dimes but a 3-10 mark of his own against Seton Hall. By the time mid-February rolled around, Q was riding a personal eight-game losing streak thanks to injuries that kept him out of Xavier's only two wins to that point in 2019. He stayed stuck in, though, and as Xavier struggled to make something of the campaign, Q averaged 37.3 minutes per game from the beginning of February on. Despite what I'm graciously going to call modest shooting numbers, he managed to average 9.5/3.8/4.8 down the stretch. The season again ended in tears though, as Brian O'Connell pulled the rug from under Xavier's tournament hopes in a loss to Villanova. In that Big East Tournament game, Q played 42 minutes and posted 8 assists to 2 turnovers, but he was just 2-11 from the floor. In X's NIT loss to Texas, Q posted one of his finer games, going for 14/3/5 on 5-7 shooting.
I'll spare you the blow-by-blow of Goodin's senior season and just hit the highlights. He certainly had his moments as a senior. He dished out 8 assists - and a colossal hammer of a dunk - in a Shootout win over UC and dropped 25 on 9-11 shooting against Western Carolina. He almost had his Tre Campbell moment in a huge game against Marquette, dropping 19 and drilling 5 threes in a home game that X ended up dropping by 2 in double OT.
As the season wore on, though, there was a painful accumulation of evidence that Xavier's best lineup didn't include its senior point guard. After a couple of January DNPs through injury, Q came back and embraced a reserve role, helping spur the Muskies to winning 6 of 8 and getting back onto the right side of the bubble. He slotted back into a starting role when Paul Scruggs missed the last three games of the season due to injury, but he struggled to find any traction and X dropped all three, relegating them briefly to a position of sweating out the bubble before the coronavirus ended the season.
A look at the advanced numbers shows Q's career to be a weird palindrome in a lot of ways. He began and ended as the second-choice guard behind a hugely athletic dynamo. His ORtg, minutes percentage, TO rate, EFG%, and usage rate all mirror each other in his freshman and senior seasons to the point of being statistically interchangeable. He ended almost exactly where he began, but what a ride in between.
I don't know what to make of Quentin Goodin's career at Xavier now that it is over. It seems clear to me that something pivoted between his sophomore and junior seasons in a way that he wasn't able to overcome. Maybe it was the injury. Maybe it was the talent disparity that saw him go from having three teammates hit 208 threes his sophomore year to having his whole team - his tally of 27 included - hit 207 his senior year.
Whatever it was, Q was a square peg in an increasingly round hole as his career progressed. He was phenomenal when forced into emergency first-line duty as a freshman. He was at his best when fitting into a roster that allowed him to play to his strengths as a sophomore. Then, through two frustrating seasons, he never quite got the chance to achieve his potential.
I'll leave you with a tweet from the man himself:
I’ve accomplished a lot through basketball but none of my on court accomplishments make me more proud than graduating college.— Quentin Goodin (@quentingoodin) May 14, 2020
Ultimately, basketball paved the way for Q to get his degree. The term "student-athlete" exists largely for the NCAA's benefit, but it should also remind us that each of these dudes is just an 18-22 year old kid doing his best. For four years, Q rode the ups and downs of life in front of a live TV audience. The work he put in and the unsolicited feedback he received from people not involved in the process - once, to my regret, even this very page's Twitter account - will have showed him something that will prepare him for success in a more tangible way than even his degree.
If life made sense or worked out how we wanted it to, Goodin's story would be different. If he had control of the circumstances around him, it would be different. Instead, he stood in the gap between the primes of Chris Mack and Travis Steele, stepping in when the team desperately needed him and ultimately stepping aside when that was no longer the case.