NORTH DARTMOUTH, Mass. -- March Madness’s Dunk City resides on the campus of Florida Gulf Coast University. Mass Madness’s version can be found at the John C. O’Brien gymnasium at Spartan Village.
There, you will find 6-foot-4 sophomore guard Brycen Goodine working on his craft. Goodine has exploded on the scene for the Division 3 Eastern Mass. champion Bishop Stang Spartans, apt to break the internet with his thunderous throw downs.
It all started back on February 20 in a home contest against Greater New Bedford Voke when Goodine grabbed a loose ball and broke for the basket. With an opponent on his right hip, Goodine raises towards the rim for the breakaway slam.
Later in that game he capped off a give-and-go with a one-handed jam, an emphatic ‘oop’ to his teammate’s ‘alley’. Then in the Spartans first round match-up against visiting Dedham, Goodine was once again on the receiving end of gym-shaking alley-oop with less than a minute to go in the first half.
If the Oxford Pirates -- Stang’s opponent in tomorrow's D3 State Final -- didn't already know to never lose track of the Spartans’ leading scorer, someone please alert them.
“I tell [my teammates] every time the ball is on the opposite side of me, the defense is turning their backs to me to look for the ball," Goodine said. "So that leaves me a lane to the hoop. I tell them if that happens and we make eye contact, throw it up."
The viral videos may get hoop heads amped up, but for his teammates it’s become something to expect. Freshman guard Damian Perry said he’s seen Goodine’s dunks so much it’s become routine.
“The first time he did it in a game we all went crazy over it. But as the season went on and he dunked more and more, it doesn’t surprise us anymore,” said Perry, who’s second on the team in scoring behind Goodine.
The effect of Goodine’s above-the-rim acrobatics is, in his eyes at least, worth more than the two points the game awards him. The look of his opponent’s faces after a dunk says it all to him. It tells him and his teammates that their opponents are rattled.
Throw in the reaction of the raucous Spartan cheering section -- which plans on sending up to five buses to the MassMutual Center, according to school athletic director Ryan Sylvia -- and the ripple effect of his in-game dunks can be felt through the rest of the game.
“[Everyone] gets more pumped up about them than I do,” Goodine said.
But all this didn’t seem possible a year ago. As a freshman averaging 19 points per game, Goodine had his left leg rolled over by a defender midway through the season. The result was a torn MCL, but doctors also noticed a tear in his ACL that likely occurred over the summer. He would miss the remaining eight games of the regular season and the Spartans were ousted in the first round of the D3 South sectional playoffs.
“I didn’t think I was going to be the same player. It was devastating,” Goodine said. “[But] I think I’m better than I was before. I’m obviously jumping higher than ever.”
Hindsight is 20/20, but second-year Spartans head coach Colbey Santos called the injury a blessing in disguise. The time off allowed Goodine to acclimate to a new school, and give Santos time to find out about other his other players.
That time was short-lived. In the offseason Goodine worked rigorously with trainers Sharik Mendes and Brian Rudolph, who played for New Bedford from 2002-2006, at Mendes’ H.E.A.R.T. gym in New Bedford.
“His body started to develop more. His jump shot has improved over the last year," Santos said. "He came back stronger than I ever expected. I thought the process would’ve been slower, but he’s just fine now."
Sylvia added that “there was a question mark there” regarding the severity of Goodine’s injury, but “after his first couple games you could tell it wasn’t going to be a problem”.
Roughly 10 months after tearing up his left knee, Goodine returned to score a game-high 21 points in a 74-55 home victory over Wareham. It was then when Santos knew his team had a state title shot.
“After hearing that Brycen would be a go for the start of the season, I told my players we were going to win the state championship. I figured with Brycen as our leader we’d have a legitimate shot at that,” Santos said.
The additions of Perry and Justin Lopes, as well as 6-foot-3 senior transfer Greg Fernando, have given Santos interchangeable ball-handlers to run the fast break or break through a full-court press. With incorporating three newcomers and a phenom returning from a gruesome injury, Santos' biggest challenge of the season would be to get everyone to buy in to his system.
Running a high-octane, run-and-gun offense with a four-guard starting lineup, Santos also gives his guards the freedom to press in full-court man-to-man situations.
“As a coach, if you have four guards on the floor but some of them can defend a forward -- that’s dangerous," Santos said. "You can do some many different things. Justin, Damian, Avery [DeBrito] and Brycen could be a starting point guard on any other team -- and they all start for me. All these guys could be scoring 20 points a game at their hometown varsity teams. But they bought in and are an unselfish group."
And Goodine is the lynch pin of Santos’ versatile approach. At his size, Goodine prides himself on being able to defend all five positions.
“It makes it easier for coach to keep me on the other team’s best player, whether it’s a guard or center," Goodine said. "[Offensively] I can post, I can run the point, I can shoot threes. But I’m not looking for points. I’m just making plays."
The players have bought in because Santos is a product of the same ideology. At 6-foot-5, Santos was a standout guard in high school, first for Wareham High then Tabor Academy, before playing the same position at Division 1 schools James Madison and New Hampshire.
“I was one of those guys. I didn’t want to be put in a box and defined by my size,” said Santos, an Onset native.
At 30, Santos isn’t that far removed from his high school playing days and that helped him in getting through to his players. Early in the season, Santos laced up his sneakers and played with four of the team’s bench players in a scrimmage against his starters. The starters got beat up pretty good, according to Santos.
“There was an instant respect factor where they said, ‘Alright, maybe coach knows what he’s talking about,’” he said.
Just two years into the Santos/Goodine era, the Spartans are instantly earning respect across the Bay State. One thunderous dunk at a time.