Kearns' Dayon Goodman still has room to elevate
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Kearns • In practice, it's tough luck for the scout team defense. They have to figure out how to defend Dayon Goodman on an in-bounds play that is tailor-made for him.

The 6-foot-8 senior gets the feed just inside the perimeter, then hands it off to the passer. Often, he can then lose his defender by spinning to his right. Then he'll leap up, and if all goes according to plan, he'll wrap his hands around a basketball and slam it from out of the stratosphere.

How many high-school kids in the state can do that? Not many, and that's what makes Goodman's talent so enthralling, and his off-again, on-again motor so puzzling.

His coach never lets him off easy when he thinks his star isn't playing hard enough.

"If you ask him now, I'd bet he'd say he's the best forward in the state," Kearns coach Dan Cosby says. "But some people don't always see it, because it's not every play. And that's going to be his biggest adjustment at the next level: He's got to turn it on all the time."

Goodman is tall and skinny but has arms that reach out for long loose balls and rebounds. He's capable of some of the fiercest dunks at the Utah high-school level. He can swat away shots from those who dare challenge him in the paint. He can tower above most kids his age in more ways than one.

His improvements in scoring, in rebounding and in passing to his teammates have helped give Kearns a taste of success this year. With 11 wins in their first 19 games this season, the Cougars are performing better than the program has in several decades.

"This is the best-chemistry team I've ever been on, and we've got a lot of talent this year," Goodman says. "It's been really good, because when I'm double-teamed, I can just hand off to guys who can make those shots. It's hard to guard us this year."

But with winning comes a desire for more, and Cosby burns with it for his program and players. He doesn't want Kearns to be satisfied with a playoff berth — he wants the Cougars to do something with it.

Similarly, when Cosby sees a 12-point, nine-rebound night for Goodman in a Jan. 18 win over Viewmont, he sees the potential for more. The 38-point performance Goodman had against West on Feb. 8 is more in line with what he expects.

It's not fair, Cosby is the first to acknowledge. But expectations are hardly ever fair for players with Goodman's level of talent.

"It's just how it is: My philosophy is if you say you're a [Division 1] player, go out and be a D1 player," he said. "People should know it when they see it. You have to have that desire to work hard and win."

The relationship between the two is more familial than confrontational, however. Five days a week, Cosby drives Goodman from practice to his home in Sandy. For the commute, they talk about basketball: how the great college coaches schemed; what their advice was to their star players; what it takes to be a D1 college athlete.

At the moment, Goodman is straddling the line. Though he has great size for a high-school center, he'll likely be a wing or a stretch forward at the college level. That means working on his outside shot, his ball-handling, his face-up game. He has more junior colleges interested than D1 programs at this point.

No one knows what technical flaws need to be fixed more thoroughly than Goodman, who spent the summer going against Utah State-committed AAU teammate Jalen Moore in practice. It was humbling, he said, unlike practice at Kearns where he's the biggest and best.

"I have to be able to extend the floor, so I have to work on my shot," Goodman said. "I'm trying to finish up the season strong, show what I can do. I realize people see me as a leader, and what I do results in a win or a loss."

It's a tough burden, but one Goodman must bear if Kearns is to be productive this postseason. A year ago, he put on an aerial show on fast breaks, but the Cougars were blown out by Lone Peak in a first-round loss.

Cosby has only a few more car rides left with his talented forward. He hopes that in at least one of those chats, he'll say the right thing that will steer his teenage phenom closer to a promising future.

"He's been getting frustrated because teams beat him up physically, and they try to get in his head," Cosby says. "I've just been telling him, 'Raise up, Dayon. Raise up on everybody, and no one can touch you.' "

kgoon@sltrib.com

Twitter: @kylegoon