Jan. 11, 2011
"Rocky Top, you'll always be home sweet home to me."
While thousands of Tennessee fans echo the above lyrics to "Rocky Top" time and again on a UT gameday, it may not carry as much weight to some of them as it does to Vols' senior point guard Melvin Goins.
Goins, who is on the third stop of his collegiate career, has settled down and indeed found `home sweet home' at Tennessee.
"Being in the position to lead this team is a blessing in itself," Goins said. "This is big-time basketball in the SEC here at Tennessee. It's challenging but it's also fun for me. It's something I can look forward to just to know that I'm in the position I'm in to lead these great guys to something we want to accomplish."
After Goins signed a national letter of intent to play at Ball State, a coaching change in the summer of 2007 before his freshman season led to an abundance of circumstances that set up a trying year for Goins and the Cardinals.
Goins was one of just nine players on that team heading into the 2007-08 campaign, the tallest of which was 6 feet 5 inches. After Goins led Christian Life Center Academy in Houston to a 42-8 record in his high school career, it took 12 games for BSU to win its first game his freshman season. If that wasn't enough, an injury to BSU's leading scorer, Anthony Newell, just two games into Goins' freshman season, forced the young point guard to grow up quickly.
But he made the best of it, earning Mid-American Conference All-Freshman Team honors after starting in 26 games and leading BSU in assists (2.3) and steals (1.7) per game.
"It was a tough time for me," Goins said. "Coming in as a freshman, I was the starting point guard and I had to step into a leadership role right away. I learned how to persevere through tough situations and handle adversity well. I just tried to stay focused on what it is that I wanted to do. I think that's the biggest thing I learned from it and I think I grew as a person too."
After battling a season of misfortune in Muncie, Goins decided to return home to California and play junior college basketball at Mt. San Jacinto College, less than two hours from where he grew up in San Diego.
"It was a way different experience," Goins said. "I learned how to stay hungry. You don't have a lot of fans at your games and you don't have all the outside things that keep you motivated or get you ready to play, so you have to self-motivate. You have to stay focused on what it is you want to accomplish."
Goins stayed focused, being named the 2009 Foothill Conference MVP and leading the Eagles to the Southern California Regional Final. But what Goins wanted to accomplish was so much more.
With his diverse experiences, Goins was ready to provide leadership to a Division I program again and settle into one place. After arriving at UT and serving as the Vols' backup point guard during their NCAA Elite Eight run last season, Goins finds himself in his senior season in the same position he started his collegiate career: starting point guard.
This time, however, he's much more prepared and comfortable.
"He has stepped up as a leader," head coach Bruce Pearl said. "I think both on and off the court, with his play, with the way he communicates to the team."
While some student-athletes find their place right away and some take longer than others, Goins certainly has embraced his role on Good Ole Rocky Top. Rocky Top, Tennessee.