“What’s interesting is that Gooden and Johnson accomplished their success without all of the accessibility to resources that today’s girls’ players have in terms of trainers, access to spacious gyms, and modern technological advances. In the early ’90s of Fort Wayne Summit Athletic Conference basketball, they just relied on raw talent and a “desire to succeed” to push them towards the greatness that they achieved”…
This piece is one that I’ve been holding onto for a while. I wanted to bring it out at this time because we are coming to the conclusion of the high school girls’ basketball season,
As we move into Girls Semi-State play this weekend and then the state finals the following weekend my thoughts lead me to two of the most entertaining, talented and arguably most successful ladies that have come through our city: Snider High School’s Tiffany Gooden and Northrop High School’s Leslie Johnson. They were ahead of their time in that their skills were so profound and advanced that they played as women among girls. It’s no surprise that both were named to Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame’s Silver Anniversary teams. Gooden being inducted in 2021; Johnson in ‘19.
What is interesting is that Gooden and Johnson accomplished their success without all of the accessibility to resources that today’s girls’ players have in terms of trainers, access to spacious gyms, and modern technological advances. In the early ’90s of Fort Wayne Summit Athletic Conference basketball, they just relied on raw talent and a “desire to succeed” to push them towards the greatness that they achieved.
“Courtside” begins a two-part commentary on what these two remarkable women accomplished during their careers in high school, collegiately, and on into the professional ranks – beginning with Tiffany Gooden.
Gooden came into Snider High School with previously decorated success at the middle school level. She cites her early love for the game of basketball from an early age from shooting hoops with her brother and father, to college coaches coming to her Blackhawk Middle School games. Many of us coaches could see early on that she was a special talent that would experience immediate success once she entered high school and she didn’t disappoint.
In my mind, Gooden came into high school with the very same pressure that LeBron James faced going into high school and eventually the NBA. And in LeBron James like fashion, Gooden rose to prominence and dominated the SAC from her freshman year through her senior year culminating with a senior season, with averages of 28.7 points and 9.0 rebounds per game. She also fondly remembers playing for Snider’s state championship and Hall of Fame coach LaMar Kilmer and his ability to utilize her versatility for the betterment of the team.
“Coach Kilmer realized how much pressure I had as a young person,” she said. “He knew I had a special talent. But he cared about me as a person. And that’s what I appreciated about him. He made basketball enjoyable for me.”
Fort Wayne had never seen a player like her, and being a coach in this city for over 30 years, I think that we’ve seen few since with (Ayanna Patterson from Homestead High School being the only player that would come to mind). The way Gooden dominated games on both ends of the floor with her presence clearly stamped on each game made for unprecedented excitement each time she stepped onto the floor.
Snider High School experienced such unparalleled success that in upon her graduation in 1994 Gooden’s domination of the state of Indiana led to the following accomplishments: 1994 Indiana Miss Basketball where she was also named Naismith National Prep Player of the Year and Parade National Player of the Year. Add to this impressive list 1st team Kodak All-American, USA Today All-American and 1994 Indiana All-Star.
These awards and accomplishments make her arguably the most dominant player to ever play in our city. Yes, we’ve had other Miss Basketball and Indiana All-Star team young ladies be recognized, but nothing compared to the sheer dominance and grace of Tiffany Gooden. She graduated as the 5th all-time leading scorer in IHSAA girls’ basketball history with 2,198 points, along with 859 career rebounds, 329 assists, and 253 steals. She averaged 28.7 points and 9.0 rebounds as a senior and still holds Indiana-Kentucky All-Star game records with 31 points in one game and 55 over two games. In 1994 Gooden won the Journal Gazette’s inaugural award for most outstanding player in the SAC boy or girl. The award was named for her then and still bears her name today.
Tiffany Gooden, I salute you and all of your accomplishments. You were truly an outstanding player that has gone on to become one of our city’s finest leaders and spokespersons. I applaud your willingness to advance the women’s game and place a stamp on the excellence that our young ladies in NE Indiana exhibit. Congratulations on being recognized as one of Indiana’s finest ever. You are definitely most deserving!
Keith Edmonds is a veteran of teaching and school administration from Fort Wayne. He coached boys high school basketball as an assistant at Snider High School, North Side High School and was the head boys basketball coach at Elmhurst High School for 12 years, advancing to the Class 3A State championship in 2003. Courtside with Coach Edmonds will appear monthly during basketball season at Outside the Huddle. These opinions represent those of the writer. No opinions expressed on Outside the Huddle represent those of any of our advertisers.