words Ryan Jones | portraits Benjamin Krane

The dislocated wrist that Archie Goodwin suffered last June came with a couple of silver linings. The first was a chance to rest in the middle of the hectic summer schedule—although, considering his rising reputation among the best players in the Class of 2012, it’s not like he was asking for a break. The second was what he heard from the medical professional who looked at his x-ray.

“The doctor said I still have like three inches left in my growth plate,” says Goodwin, who started his senior year at 6-5, 195. He just turned 17 in August, so it’s not far-fetched to think he might eventually reach 6-8. “That,” he adds, “sounded real good to me.”

As if Goodwin needed something else to look forward to. The senior swingman at Sylvan Hills (AR) High is among the best players in the nation this season—and probably the best from the state of Arkansas since Joe Johnson came out of Little Rock more than a decade ago. Unlike Johnson, who stayed home to play with the Razorbacks, Goodwin will cross a couple of state lines to suit up next winter at Kentucky.

Goodwin was the first player in the 2012 class to commit to Kentucky, a fact that stands as both a dream come true and a serious challenge. The former is easy to figure out: Like every other high school kid in recent years, Goodwin has come up watching John Calipari make deep NCAA Tourney runs before sending a slew of players into the NBA Draft. And the latter? Goodwin was suddenly feeling pressure to talk some of his classmates into coming along to give Cal his fourth straight top recruiting class.

As of this writing, Goodwin already knew he wasn’t going to be riding alone, as the Wildcats had wrapped up commitments from top-20 forward Alex Poythress and top-40 big man Willie Cauley. But, barring a late commit from remaining unsigned top prospects Anthony Bennett or our diarist, Shabazz Muhammad—Cal being Cal, we don’t rule out either—Goodwin appears to be the gem of the group.

It’s not hard to see why: Archie is widely considered the best off-the-dribble scorer in his class. His shared Arkansas roots have brought comparisons to Johnson, while others see similarities to another Calipari protégé, Tyreke Evans. “I get so many comparisons,” Goodwin says. “I’ve heard John Wall, because of how I get up and down the floor. Bruce Pearl told me I looked like Rondo with a jump shot, and Rick Barnes told me I remind him of Michael Jordan.”

No pressure, then. Goodwin says he’s prepared for the expectations, in part because he’s still motivated by being overlooked for the first couple years of his high school career. He showed out at the 2010 Nike Hoop Jamboree, which he says was the first time he felt people outside Arkansas really started paying attention. “I just continue to work,” he says, “because I know what it feels like to be the person on the other side who’s always being doubted and overlooked.”

Given his commitment to Kentucky and a game that’s perfectly suited to the Wildcats’ attacking style, Goodwin doesn’t figure to be overlooked much longer. If he lives up to the expectations, he’ll have an NBA paycheck to look forward to soon enough.