CHAMPAIGN — Shortly after Skyy Clark’s commitment, Clark and the rest of the Illinois incoming freshman got a text from a current player.
It was Luke Goode, reaching out and letting them know they are a part of a youth movement at Illinois, one with only one player who has started a significant amount of games at the college level – transfer Terrence Shannon Jr.
“It was like you see all the transfers and stuff, it just gives y’all a bigger opportunity to come in and get that started,” Clark said.
That influx of young talent – and Goode’s 28 games for the Illini, which is second to only Coleman Hawkins on the roster – means there is a leadership void to fill.
The addition of Shannon, a seasoned NCAA Tournament veteran, helps with that, but Goode will be one to step into that role as well.
“I feel like this year I’ll really get to use my leadership skills,” Goode said. “That’s something last year I didn’t really get to do just in my limited minutes, kind of in and out. I’m excited. Growing up in high school, I liked to be the voice of the locker room and be the leader, so this year I’m really excited to do that.”
Those leadership skills were on full display at Homestead High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where Goode quickly became a leader on the basketball team, in addition to being the starting quarterback.
In Goode’s first high school varsity game, Homestead lost to Huntington North by 23, but there was a silver lining.
Goode came off the bench and scored in double figures. From that game on, he was a fixture in the starting lineup for the rest of his career.
“Anytime you can shoot the way he can shoot and the way he was being the leader and showing that he was ready, we moved him in,” high school basketball coach Chris Johnson said.
Months later at the end of his freshman season, Homestead played that same Huntington North team in the playoffs. This time around, with Goode starting, Homestead got a victory and a sectional championship.
Homestead won 62 games over the next three years, including a 25-1 season when Goode was a senior.
During those years, Goode also became one of the top quarterbacks in the area. He broke the school’s passing yardage record as a junior in his final season, where he earned All-State Junior honors in Indiana’s 6A class.
“If Illinois ever needs a quarterback in a bad way, they should check him out,” high school football coach Chad Zohlman said.
Goode split time his sophomore year, but made an impression. Down late in the fourth quarter against Concordia Lutheran, Goode scrambled away from the defense on a broken play and thread the needle to a crossing tight end on fourth down to keep the game-winning drive alive.
His impressive junior season after that set the table for college football interest, but Goode was set on basketball, focusing his senior year on that as an Illini commit. Zohlman was confident that Goode would have had strong Division I offers with a senior season on the gridiron.
“He didn’t sweat the big moments,” Zohlman said. “That’s what I noticed is another leadership trait of his. He didn’t shy away from them. He’s always been the guy in basketball that you want to shoot free throws at the end of the game to ice it. That showed in football as well, you know, the moment was never too big for him.”
But what stands out most looking back on Goode’s athletic career isn’t the impressive play for his coaches. Instead its the way he interacted with teammates and his work ethic.
“Any individual, and especially a big-time player like he was and is, you want your best player to be your hardest worker,” Johnson said. “He would always be the first one there, the last one to leave.”
“For me, he stood out because he was an encourager,” Zohlman said. “I didn’t see him hitting on people and things like that. It was always ‘you know, come on, let’s go next play.’ When something went wrong, he was usually the first one in the huddle that said, ‘Okay, let’s go and get things rolling.'”
That’s what Illinois will be in search of next year, and it looks to be something Goode is already providing.
“It’s natural for Luke,” coach Brad Underwood said. “You can tell he was a quarterback. He’s got instincts. He’s got feel. He tried to do that this year, feeling his way through that. It’s sometimes hard for a freshman. He has had a phenomenal spring. He’s gotten bigger. You can see it in his shoulders, his back. His game has grown from his ball-handling and with that will come a confidence that is instinctive for him to lead.
“He’s got an innate ability to draw people to him. He’s likable. And yet, he’s not afraid to talk a little trash, get into somebody. He knows right from wrong. I’m really excited. I think he’s a guy that is an incredible asset to our locker room.”
Follow Anderson Kimball on Twitter at: byAndy Kimball