Sooner ties brought preferred walk-on Sam Godwin ‘home’ to OU. Nine games in, he’s become a temperature-setter in Norman.
NORMAN – First, there’s the Sam Godwin that people in the junior forward’s life know off the basketball court.
This is the quiet Godwin, the 6-foot-10, 20-something who largely keeps to himself; the one who enjoys playing card games at home and loves the family dog, a three-year-old goldendoodle named Moose.
“He’s like my best friend,” Godwin said in an interview with Tulsa World. “I love this dog.”
Then there’s the Godwin, who pops up on the court in the 13.1 reserve minutes per game he’s played for Oklahoma so far in 2022-23.
This is the energizer Godwin, whom his parents and two older brothers call “the great lion” for his wild style; the one who pops in the paint, lunges at loose balls, and usually returns to the bench with skid marks or fives on the body; the walk-on by Ada that gives the Sooners a smack off the bench as they arrive in Tulsa to face No. 9 Arkansas Saturday afternoon.
People also read…
Guerin Emig: This portal season should cause Mike Gundy to reconsider some things, to ask important first questions: What can I/we do?
Former Oklahoma State four-star recruit Braylin Presley from Bixby to enter the transfer portal
The Tulsa planning meeting was disrupted by a crowd claiming global conspiracies, officials say
Bill Haisten: For Oklahoma’s best back, Braylin Presley, a perfect OSU fit became imperfect
Servers tipped $1,500 at Los Cabos in Owasso: ‘It only means the world’
OSU QB Commitment Zane Flores met with Mike Gundy on Tuesday. What did the trainer say about the position and portal situation?
Bill Haisten: A perfect experience for Tucker Barnard and the Pioneers
Tulsa Football Notebook: Coaching Search Update
OSU’s Spencer Sanders enters the transfer portal
Def Leppard, Motley Crue, Alice Cooper bring a tour to TU’s Chapman Stadium
Bill Haisten: The Bixby machine is doing it again, adding to their stack of milestones
Tulsaner of the Year: As stewards of Cain’s Ballroom, the Rodgers family keeps the historic venue alive
Bojangles isn’t coming to Oklahoma after all, and why is a mystery
Body of 7-year-old Texas girl found, FedEx driver arrested
Connor Kirby leads Bixby’s 69-6 loss to Owasso for the title
“Sam will just look you in the eye and kick your ass,” his father Wendell explained this week. “That’s his whole MO. He won’t say a word. He will only defeat you. overwhelm you Make yourself look bad and do it in a calm way.”
Behind top scorer Grant Sherfield (17.1 points per game), there is perhaps no more important addition to Porter Moser’s second team at OU than Godwin, the lanky transfer from Wofford.
After two years on scholarship with the Terriers in Spartanburg, SC, the former Southmoore star joined Norman in the spring looking for a college basketball life closer to home. Now, a month into his debut season with the Sooners, Godwin is taking on a pivotal role, delivering points, rebounds and energy in the minutes when star forward Tanner Groves leaves the court.
He scored 12 points and six rebounds in a win over Seton Hall on November 25; 11 points and another six rebounds against Ole Miss in the ESPN Events Invitational title game two days later. On Tuesday, Godwin found himself back in double digits in a 22-point loss from UMKC.
And on the floor at the BOK Center, he’ll tussle with the Razorbacks’ top 10 indoors Saturday and continue playing in a role that even the confident transfer could not have foreseen just nine games ago.
“Honestly, I didn’t imagine it would be like this when I came in,” Godwin said. “I’m not sure I would play at all. Right now, I’m just taking the opportunity that comes my way and doing my best to make the most of it.”
“I just wanted to be here”
If Godwin’s 6.3 points and 4.0 rebounds per game tells only part of the story in terms of its impact and scope, a poll of two of the Sooners’ key figures in 2022-23 will help fill in the gaps.
“Sam, he’s technically a walk-on, but I think he’s the best walk-on in the whole nation,” said fifth-year forward Groves after an OU win on Nov. 18. “What he brings to our team is he strengthens our team so much. He brings a lot of energy.”
“We talk to our guys about that old Ray Lewis quote, ‘Are you a thermostat or are you a thermometer?'” Moser said. “Are you setting the temperature in the room? Or do you just always check it? Sam sets it up. He’s a thermostat, man. He comes in, that energy goes up.”
Godwin transitioned well into his temperature-setting role, at least in part because transitions were a common part of his upbringing.
A family move from Dallas brought him to Ada around third grade. There, Godwin matured into his basketball frame and looked up to Sooners like Blake Griffin and Buddy Hield. Another former OU player he admired? Lon Kruger-era Walk-On Daniel Harper, a trainer in Hield’s AAU “Team Buddy Buckets” program.
“He was probably a big reason why I came here and felt comfortable being a walk-on,” Godwin said.
At the AAU circuit, Godwin traveled the country playing against some of the nation’s brightest prospects. It was also here that Moser first saw Godwin on the court and met the family at an event in Houston during his earlier tenure at Loyola-Chicago.
“I remember his mother,” Moser said of Godwin’s mother, Susie, this week. “She’s gorgeous.”
In the AAU scene, the Godwins also realized that their son’s dream of playing at the next level may hinge on another move away from Ada.
“[We realized]if Sam has any ambitions to play college basketball, he really has to play at the highest level,” said Wendell, the varsity president of East Central in Ada. “When you play 3A or 4A basketball, it’s hard to get recognized.”
So the family moved again, this time to Moore.
In his two seasons at Southmoore, Godwin recorded more blocks and rebounds than any other player in school history and took the SaberCats back-to-back trips to the state playoffs.
The jump to Wofford in 2020 represented another transition. Godwin made 17 starts in 52 games with the Terriers and averaged 6.3 points and 3.4 rebounds per game over two seasons.
He loved his teammates. He enjoyed the small classes on the campus of 1,692 students. In Year 3, he could have made a major contribution to a marginal contender for the Southern Conference title.
Instead, after his sophomore season in college, Godwin felt drawn closer to home.
“I’ve had offers to play everywhere,” he said. “Even before I was in the portal, I (OU) wanted to come, whether I play basketball or not, a scholarship or not. I just wanted to be here.”
“I feel like I can bring value”
Inwardly sure of his next target, Godwin and his parents explored all his options from the transfer portal. So in the spring, Godwin and his father reverted to an agreement they made during the initial recruiting process outside of high school.
“The coaches always try to sell you the university at the end of the visit, they sort of graduate,” Wendell explained.
“It’s a lot of pressure on a teenager,” he continued. “At that point, I would step in and say, ‘We appreciate your interest. We are honored and blessed that you want my son and that he is playing for your team. We have other visits we are planning.”
After Godwin came across the portal, there was interest from North Texas. Tulsa. Sam Houston. Southern Illinois. A handful of Division II programs. At the end of their respective visits, they all received more or less the same agreed upon message.
The day Moser drove to Ada’s and gave the family the fitting suggestion for Godwin at OU, Wendell was ready to plunge into the familiar chatter until his son cut him off.
“I can barely get those words out of my mouth,” Wendell said. “Sam gets up and says to the coaching staff, ‘I don’t know anything about my dad. But I’m going to OU next year.'”
“When I told him he had a place on our team, it was over,” Moser said. “I get goose bumps just thinking about it.”
Godwin made a bet he’d come to Norman without a scholarship. He admits he’s lucky to have a family that can pay for his education while chasing a dream.
But the same confidence Godwin flashed when he signed on to Moser and company now serves him in the role he’s carved.
Godwin credits some elements of his game – like his nimble footwork – to his time in youth football. Other parts, like his toughness, can be attributed to growing up with two older brothers who “beat him up the most mercifully in the backyard,” Wendell said.
Yet the energy and impact that Godwin OU has delivered to this point comes largely from his approach to minutes he fills off the bench.
“It’s the area where I feel like I can bring value,” Godwin said. “Whether your shot comes off or not, you can still come in and make those plays. That’s what I’m focusing on and trying to get my mindset before I go into the game.”
The Sooners’ journey to gain a foothold in 2022-23 continues on Saturday against one of the nation’s best sides. In Godwin, “the Big Lion” on the workbench, OU has his temperature controller for the road in front of him.