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Boys basketball: ‘The best we’ve had’

Tribune photo by Tom Larson BBE senior guard Brian Goodwin, left, drives the lane during the Jaguars' win over New London-Spicer on Monday. Goodwin has been the top player on BBE teams that are 104-4 during his four years as a starter.

In 2012, after Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa guard Brian Goodwin helped wrap up a 33-0 season with a state championship, a couple media members agreed that Goodwin was the best player in the tournament.

To be sure, Goodwin was the “class” of Class A, averaging 20 points in three tournament games and scoring 29 in the Jaguars’ 54-45 win over Southwest Minnesota Christian in the title game. But their opinion wasn’t confined to one class. In their eyes, the 6-foot-4 sophomore was the best player in the entire tournament.

Nothing has really changed in the almost two years since.

In his four years as a starter, Goodwin has been the main player on BBE teams that are 104-4 heading into tonight’s game against Central Minnesota Conference rival Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted. The Jaguars won the 2012 Class A championship, were 32-1 and state runners-up in 2011, and they are 14-1 this year and ranked No. 1 in Class A.

Goodwin is averaging 25 points, 4.5 assists, 3.8 steals and 3.5 rebounds per game. He’s shooting 51 percent from the field, 37 percent from 3-point range and 80 percent from the free throw line. He’s the program’s top all-time scorer and he’s approaching 1,700 career points.

“His skill level and knowledge of the game, we haven’t seen anything like it here,” said BBE head coach Dave Montbriand, who has 367 wins and a .690 winning percentage in 21 seasons. “We’ve had some really good players over the years but he’s definitely the best we’ve had.”

“I’ve been lucky to play with some great guys around me,” Goodwin said. “Every year we’ve gotten a lot better as a team.”

As a neighbor two doors down from the Goodwins, Montbriand saw Brian Goodwin’s development from an early age. Goodwin’s older brother, Connor, Montbriand’s son Kirby —also starters on BBE’s 2011 and 2012 teams — and other kids were into basketball, baseball and football in a big way. Although two years younger, Brian was always in the mix.

“Even in second grade, you could see he had special ability and a love for the game,” Dave Montbriand said. “He was a lot smaller than those guys but he’d be right in there. Everybody wanted him on their teams. You could tell he would be a special player.”

Genes factored in, too. Goodwin’s dad, Brad, played high school ball in Bemidji and college ball at Bemidji State. His uncle, Tony Heise, brother of Goodwin’s mom, Amy, was a top player in the early 1990s at Lake City.

“He’s seen a lot of good basketball and he comes from a basketball family,” Montbriand said. “He gets it from both sides.”

This year’s team features a core group, like Goodwin, James Kuefler and Billy Borgerding, who have played together since fourth grade, Brian said.

“We’re basically the same team now that we were back then,” Goodwin said. “We know each other’s game and what the other guy is going to do.”

But Goodwin’s success doesn’t stem from friends and family alone. Every year, he’s worked to develop more of his game. With his height, long arms, quickness and know-how, he’s a terror at the point on defense. On offense, he’s a born penetrator and he’s worked long hours on his shot. This year, he’s become almost automatic on mid-range pull-up jumpers off the drive.

“He’s got such a head for the game,” Montbriand said. “I think he’s out there outthinking people, too. He has fantastic body control. He knows when to penetrate and in the last two years he’s upped his game. It’s almost a layup for him now, that pull-up jumper inside 15 feet.”

In the offseason, when he isn’t quarterbacking the Jaguars’ football team or playing baseball, Goodwin plays hoops for the Minnesota Comets AAU team, out of St. Cloud. The team plays around Minnesota and the region, but has also traveled to tournaments in Kansas and Las Vegas.

“I feel like I’m improving every year,” Goodwin said. “I play with the AAU team and in the gym, by myself, shooting around. When you play basketball more, that never hurts. You play against good competition and you learn a lot from other players.”

With mostly CMC games remaining, there’s a good chance the Goodwin and the Jaguars have another playoff push ahead of them. The Jags haven’t lost a conference game since December 2009 and even 11-4 HLWW had little luck against BBE earlier this season, losing to the Jags by 18. Only 13-2 Upsala (No. 5), a Section 5A-South rival, and the Jags (No. 1) are 5A teams ranked among the state’s top 20 Class A teams, according to’s QRF rankings.

But Goodwin and the Jaguars have vivid memories of last year’s 66-59 upset loss to Wheaton/Herman-Norcross in the second round of the section playoffs.

“We all know what happened last season and we’re using that as motivation this year,” Goodwin said. “Give (W/HN) credit, they played a good game, but we know we didn’t play our best.”

That has changed as Goodwin rolls down the back end of his illustrious prep career. He’s looking at several colleges and more are likely to crop up on his list as the season draws to a close. But one of just a handful of failures he’s experienced in his career still motivates him and the Jaguars.

“We taking it one game at a time and not looking ahead,” Goodwin said. “That might have been our problem last year. We would come out lazy sometimes and not be ready to play. Now, we’re ready to go right from the start.”

That’s kind of the story of Goodwin’s athletic career.

Tom Larson

Tom Larson is the sports editor of the West Central Tribune.

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