Greece Athena grad Kourtney Goff is living his dream as a member of the Southern Illinois mens basketball team.
Kourtney Goff has had his eye on this since he graduated from Greece Athena High School in 2008. At the time, the basketball star had several Division 2 schools that were interested in his services, but none really got the former Trojan that excited.
“I could have gone Division 2 and put in four years and probably had a pretty good career,” Goff said. “But I wanted more. I wanted to play Division 1 so I took a different route.”
The path he chose, although a difficult one, paid off, as Goff is now a member of the Division 1 Southern Illinois mens basketball team.
“It’s the dream I have had since I started playing basketball,” he said.
Goff decided to pass on the Division 2 schools out of high school and the local community colleges, instead opting for Olive Harvey, a prominent junior college in Chicago.
“I wanted to go somewhere where I could get recognized,” he said. “If I stayed close to home I don’t think I would have gotten exposure. At our games at Olive you’d see coaches from all of the big Division 1 programs and you really don’t see that in Rochester unless your 7 feet tall or score 40 points per game.”
Goff was a starter at point guard midway through his freshman year and finished the season as a prominent member of the OH team. He was hoping that a big sophomore year would propel him to where he wanted to be, but his body made him wait a while.
A torn meniscus in his knee took his second season from him as he spent months rehabilitating himself to get back in playing shape.
“I had never been hurt before and all of a sudden I had to have surgery and miss a whole year,” he said. “It was tough physically, but even tougher mentally. I had to just accept it and work on doing everything I could to get back on the court.”
Goff redshirted the season and came back to Olive last year as a sophomore. He suffered no ill effects from the injury and ended averaging close to 10 points, five assists and two steals per game. He was in the top 25 in the nation for assists and top 50 for steals.
“You really have to be the one who puts in extra work and spends extra time in the gym, because everyone is a good player at the college level,” he said. “Those who put in the extra work will probably be rewarded.”
His stellar play and hard work opened the eyes of bigger college programs including Southern Illinois and coach Chris Lowery.
“They were in contact with my coach for a bit and then I got a voicemail from coach that said he wanted me to to come play for them,” Goff said. “I couldn’t have been more excited after hearing that.”
Page 2 of 2 - Goff accepted and joined the Salukis at the start of this season. The junior got over 20 minutes in both of the team’s exhibition games and put up numbers in almost every stat category. He scored two points and had two steals in nine minutes of action in the season opener against Ohio Dominican on Saturday.
“Coach has asked me to be a leader, play good defense, pass the ball and knock down open shots,” “So far I think I have done that pretty well.”
Goff has said the experience of playing Division 1 has already been an incredible one.
“You walk around and people recognize you and wish you well,” he said. “They are crazy about their basketball up here in Carbondale. It is like high school magnified by 100.”
Goff is looking forward to Saturday’s game at Northeastern in Boston because a lot of his family members will be there to watch him play.
“I think I have to get 20 tickets,” he said.
The experience will be special for him because he is not sure the next time he will be able to get home. The team plays a home game the day after Thanksgiving and will be in Hawaii over Christmas for the ESPN Diamond Head Classic which should be televised nationally.
“I have always considered myself a hard worker, but this motivates me even more to know that a lot of people are watching and care about the program,” he said.
Goff is studying business management at the school and says he takes just as much pride in his academics as he does his athletics.
“This has all been a blessing,” he said. “I am in such a good atmosphere. This has always been my goal and I have always been focused on obtaining it. I think things are only going to get better too.”