Their one-on-one basketball games typically consist of trash talking and physical play that includes an occasional push or shove.
William and Persephone Goodwin didn’t used to be this close. The siblings, both standouts for their Southwest DeKalb high school basketball teams, have grown closer since the older Persephone gave up cheerleading for basketball in seventh grade.
“Playing against [William] helped me get stronger,” said Persephone, a 6-foot-2 senior who already has signed a scholarship with South Carolina State. “We play dirty when we play against each other. When we first started, he took it easy, but then he grew and it got more physical. Now I gotta keep my head into it.”
Persephone only picked up basketball because she was tall and the middle school coach suggested she play. Unlike her younger brother, a 6-8 junior, Persephone has been slow to warm up to the sport although her natural ability has been recognized by coaches throughout the years.
With no intention of playing college basketball, Persephone applied to South Carolina State before she was recruited. Although she has played on the AAU level for the Wallace Prather Celtics, Persephone played on the junior varsity at Southwest until this season.
Southwest coach Kathy Walton calls her starting center one of the best post players in the state.
“She never made a commitment to basketball until this year,” said Walton, who has led Southwest to three straight Class AAAA state championships. “Last year I thought she was athletic enough to make varsity. She was on JV because of lack of commitment rather than lack of ability.”
Walton compares Goodwin to last season’s post player Chynna Miley, who is a freshman on scholarship at Oregon.
“I think she’s more athletic and quicker than Chynna,” Walton said. “She’s more aggressive and understands her role better now. She still has room to improve; she’s got to get more committed and stronger, and work on some technical things offensively and defensively.”
Persephone gets much of her motivation from her younger brother. William averages 17 points and seven rebounds per game. He is one of the most sought-after juniors in the state with dozens of scholarship offers already.
“Once she started playing basketball, we got closer,” William said. “Her big plays on the court come from us playing together.”
He was instrumental in keeping his sister in a basketball uniform as Persephone considered not playing in college.
“I just offered words of encouragement,” he said “I told her ‘you gotta play.’”
Persephone listened to her younger brother and has been more motivated in her senior season than in year’s past.
“I never thought I was going to play,” Persephone said. “We had a talk and he told me ‘you’re going to college.’ It meant so much to me because we always talk junk to each other. For him to say that meant a lot.”
William Goodwin, laid back and soft spoken off the court, has gained national attention in the past two years. The development of his game kept pace with the increase in height. Goodwin, who plays AAU ball for the Atlanta Celtics, has grown nearly 10 inches since he started high school. Goodwin averaged 17 points and led the county averaging 11 rebounds per game as a sophomore.
His nonchalant demeanor is in direct contrast to the constant swirl of commotion created by his recruitment.
“It’s been crazy,” William said. When asked what will put a school at the top of his list, he said, “People like my mom and my coaches have to like the school.”
Though he is in no hurry to pare down his choices, William lists his top six schools as Georgia, Florida State, Miami, Memphis, Tennessee and Alabama.
“William gets a stack of recruiting letters and brings them in to me,” said his mother, Persephone Goodwin, who attends most Southwest basketball games and has even made some AAU road trips. “I call the coaches. He’s so laid back and nonchalant. He’s always said ‘If I don’t get excited I won’t be disappointed.’ I know he didn’t get that from my side of the family.”
One thing both William and Persephone both got from their mother is the notion that a good education is paramount, no matter what their basketball skills.
“It’s constructive criticism,” William said. “We know that grades come before anything.”
Said his older sister: “She’s hard. Just hard, but in a good way. I got in trouble once for one of my grades dropping to a B.”
Persephone will be the latest in a long line of relatives to attend South Carolina State. Her mother and a collection of aunts and cousins also attended the Orangeburg, S.C., university.
Both stand to reap the rewards college has to offer on and off the basketball court, but both are eager to first make their marks in high school.
Though Persephone was a part of last season’s championship team, she has much more invested this season as a starter. The Panthers are 8-3 this season and ranked No. 2 in the state in the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association poll despite a win over No. 1 Redan.
“A lot of people feel like [our talent] fell off since we lost eight seniors last year,” Persephone said. “But we have a lot of people back and we really want everyone to know we can win state again.”
The Southwest boys team is 7-2 and won the DeKalb Christmas Classic two weeks ago. The boys team has not qualified for the state tournament since 2006 but last year had its first winning season (14-7) in four years.
“This school is mostly known for girls basketball,” William Goodwin said. “I think the time is right for the boys to finally make a name for ourselves. It’s important for us to get back to state to build a tradition like the girls have.”