In 2009, when I worked as a sportswriter in Minneapolis, I received a tip about a nationally ranked prospect who’d just moved from Milwaukee to the Twin Cities. A local AAU coach identified him as Calvin Godfrey, a 6-foot-8 power forward with high-level athleticism and power.
It didn’t take long for the Godfrey buzz to grow. He hadn’t even found a high school and fans wondered if Minnesota’s Tubby Smith would sign him.
But Godfrey has had various academic and disciplinary issues in recent years.
He eventually signed with Iowa State after a strong senior year. But an arrest for drug possession led to his dismissal. Violations of multiple team rules resulted in a midseason suspension the same year. Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg said the arrest was Godfrey’s “final straw.”
And now, he’s been sidelined again.
The career of the once-promising college prospect was interrupted Monday when LSU officials announced that Godfrey would not be allowed to enroll this semester due to academic problems. New LSU coach Johnny Jones signed Godfrey, who’d averaged 12.6 points and 7.0 rebounds per game for Howard College (Big Spring, Texas), as part of his first recruiting class.
He could have helped the Tigers.
Godfrey finished his high school career at Cooper High School in Robbinsdale, Minn. He led that squad to a 25-4 mark in the 2009-10 season.
He was a shot-blocking and rebounding terror. He was raw but certainly the kind of player who could develop into a defensive stopper for a Division I program. One night, I watched him block 10 shots (at least). You couldn’t maneuver around him. His long arms and leaping ability helped him put a lid on the rim. And he was so much stronger than the other kids on the floor.
ESPN.com recruiting analyst Reggie Rankin once wrote: “Godfrey can block shots on or away from the ball with great timing and he has the awareness to keep the ball inbounds to possibly start a fast break opportunity. This mobile forward must continue to add strength but is a tough competitor around the rim."
But I had questions about Godfrey’s demeanor. He had a short fuse. He yelled at teammates. After Godfrey’s team had suffered a loss to local powerhouse Hopkins High School, fans from the winning team taunted him. Godfrey charged toward them with clenched fists. I thought he was going to throw a punch. Lucky for them, he didn’t.
Young players can mature. Sometimes, a troubled kid grows up. But those early red flags can also point to trouble.
Over the weekend, New York Times reporter Pete Thamel wrote a gripping tale about former prep standout and West Virginia recruit Jonathan Hargett, who’s serving the final months of a five-year prison sentence for drug possession. He had it all, but he made a few bad choices and he lost it all.
Godfrey, unfortunately, could fall through the cracks, too.
I know coaches and mentors who have tried to help him use his talent to forge a productive collegiate career. But he’s just lost his second opportunity to compete for a Division I program.
Perhaps a coach will give him a third chance. But he certainly doesn’t have any guarantees.
Too many players in Calvin Godfrey’s situation fail to find solid ground. And they eventually become members of the “What if?” club. Godfrey could join them if he doesn’t make some changes.