When Arlington County made the decision to cancel winter sports a month ago, hundreds of athletes in the county reacted with shock and dismay. Losing one’s senior year in sports to circumstances beyond one’s control is not an easy pill to swallow. That decision was even more painful for one Yorktown High School basketball senior, who had already lost most of the three previous seasons to circumstances beyond her control.
Arlington County has since reversed its decision to cancel winter sports, which came as a great relief to Malina Goodwin. After transferring from girls basketball powerhouse St. John’s of DC, Malina now can barely contain herself at the prospect of playing in meaningful basketball games for Yorktown in her final year of high school.
“I was really disappointed [when Arlington made its initial decision],” Malina told us. “I was looking forward to this to be my breakout year, my final year. To really, finally play basketball again. And when they cancelled it was really frustrating because I was so ready to play…finally get my high school basketball career going.”
It isn’t usual for a senior to look forward to starting her high school basketball career, but Malina’s circumstances have been unusual to say the least.
Not long ago she was a highly sought-after basketball prospect, impressing as a middle schooler on the AAU circuit. As an eighth grader she played on the high school-aged AAU and EYBL teams of Tim and Katie Smrcka-Duffy Fudd as a point guard, impressing coaches with her toughness and ability to handle defensive pressure. It wasn’t long before private school coaches came calling, and Goodwin made the decision to play at St. John’s. A factor in the decision was the ability to play with Azzi Fudd, the number one prospect in the nation and a friend of Malina’s.
The stage was set for Goodwin to begin her high school basketball career at one of best basketball schools in the country. But things didn’t go according to plan.
An accomplished soccer player as well, Goodwin was a member of a high-level Arlington travel soccer team. While that soccer team did some notable things to include winning states, Goodwin tore her left ACL playing–right before she was to play basketball for St. John’s in the winter.
Her anticipated four-year high school career had been shortened to three.
ACL injuries are unfortunately very commonplace in girls’ sports these days but they aren’t anything a determined athlete can’t usually overcome. Goodwin did just that, working hard for the next year to mount a comeback. Everything was looking promising until right before her sophomore basketball season was to begin.
Goodwin tore the ACL in her other leg. Her anticipated four-year high school career had been shortened to two.
“It was mentally tough,” said Malina’s father Sean. “She was just like, oh my gosh, I’m almost cursed in a sense.”
While obviously a depressing situation, the ever-optimistic Goodwin still persevered and battled her way back through rehab. By that time though she faced an uphill climb at St. John’s, with its impressive roster of stars. Even with her friend Azzi tearing her ACL and missing most of the season, Goodwin didn’t garner a ton of playing time her junior year.
So, the Goodwins, Arlington residents, made the decision to send Malina to Yorktown for her senior year. Malina wasn’t worried about the switch–she still had many friends at Yorktown she knew from middle school. Plus, the Liberty District, while not the WCAC, is pretty loaded year-to-year. The decision also was sparked by the fact that she would be playing basketball with her younger sister Asha. As a freshman guard last year, Asha was a rotation piece for the Patriots in 2019-2020.
“I’m excited to play with the girls, but obviously especially Asha,” said Malina. “I’ve played with her only one year when I was in eighth grade and she was in sixth. She’s more of a shooting guard while I’m more of a passing point guard. It’ll be fun.”
Malina is flat-out thrilled for the season to begin. A versatile player who can play off ball as well as the point, she played with GTS Fusion this summer alongside players such as Fudd and top-notch Northern Virginia talent like Lee Volker, who has signed with Duke, and Brianna Scott, who signed with Georgetown. While Malina’s basketball comeback began last year at St. John’s, it was clear she had reached another level this summer by being a key contributor on the 17U GTS Fusion AAU team.
Then, Arlington made its decision and it appeared as though Malina had been gutted again by circumstances beyond her control.
Fortunately Arlington’s superintendent reconsidered his decision and it’s game on–for now. But even if the virus still manages to kill the basketball season, Goodwin will again persevere. Number one, she’s good enough to play basketball in college at just about any level. Number two, she’s got a lot more going for her than just her athleticism–Malina is a member of the National Honor Society with an academic field of study in college already planned.
“I’d love to play basketball in college but if that doesn’t happen it is totally fine,” Malina says. “I have really good grades and I want to eventually become a team doctor, like in orthopedics, so I can study injuries in the sports world. Kind of do for other people what was done for me when I was trying to come back from my injuries.”
Malina Goodwin is all the way back, despite a tough hand being dealt against her. And if there’s anyone that deserves a basketball season this winter, it’s her.