Riverside High School’s Johnay Goddard, seated center, flanked by her parents, Sam Goddard and Chowanda Goddard, signed recently to play basketball at North Carolina Wesleyan. Also on hand for the ceremony were, back row, from left: Samariyah Goddard, sister; Tiffany Goddard, sister-in-law; and Josh Goddard, brother.

WILLIAMSTON — If Ben James could describe Johnay Goddard’s career in a Riverside High School basketball uniform in only one word, it would be progression.

“Johnay’s progression on and off the court took a tremendous upswing after her freshman year,” said James, the Knights’ coach. “She benefitted playing with Kayla Jones and Demetria Bland and learned from them what it took to be successful. To watch her grow and mature as a leader this year was a crucial part to another successful season for us.”

Goddard’s progression resulted in her being named the team’s most outstanding player after the Knights went 20-7 and reached the second round of the state 1A playoffs.

The next step in Goddard’s progression as a player is college, as the Riverside senior signed a national letter of intent recently to play for N.C. Wesleyan College.

Goddard chose NCWC over other schools, namely Central Community College, Peace University, St. Andrews University, Greensboro College and Augusta University.

“I chose this school because it is very diverse, it’s not too close or too far away from home, the school offers good, hands-on learning with your professor, and the people are friendly,” Goddard said. “The coaches also take care of their players and do everything as a family. They have a winning tradition and a strong program.”

Goddard, who plans on majoring in sports management at NCWC, started playing basketball at the age of 6 in Williamston. She progressed through middle school and then to RHS for the past four years. She also played travel ball for Team 252 beginning in middle school through her junior year of high school.

“My work ethic wasn’t good until my junior and senior years,” Goddard said. “That’s when I knew I had to do more than what was required.”

Travel ball proved to be a help.

“Playing travel ball helped me to develop my game and compete against stronger girls from different areas, which made me a better player,” Goddard said.

Goddard is the first female Knight athlete in the school’s 10-year history to play on four straight 20-plus win teams.

She played sparingly as a freshman on a 24-3 team that had future college recruits in Jones (N.C. State) and Bland (Chowan University).

As a sophomore, Goddard increased her production to 7.8 points per game and 5.5 rebounds per contest as Riverside went 22-7.

As a junior, Goddard was the Knights’ second-leading scorer (11.9 ppg) behind Bland (18.3). She grabbed a team-leading 7.7 rebounds and averaged nearly two steals per game while shooting 48 percent (138-for-289) from the field.

It was in her senior season where Goddard made her greatest progression — all while having to play all five positions and being the focal point of the team.

“Johnay was the heart and soul of the team this year,” Coach James said. “She had to do things she was never asked to do before, because we were extremely young and she was our only returning starter.”

Goddard, along with future college signee Danyel Armstrong and transfer Keary Jones, were the cornerstones of a RHS squad which finished 20-7 this past season.

Goddard was second on the Knights in scoring (13.9 ppg), led the team in rebounding with nine per outing and averaged 2.4 steals, 1.3 blocked shots and 1.3 assists.

She ended her high school career as a three-time all-conference player and a two-time all-district performer who picked up the Knights’ most improved player in 2017.

Goddard said some of her favorite moments as a Knights included “the real talks our coaches had with us about life and building our character, the lit practices right before a big game and having my teammates’ backs and becoming a family.”

She counts her personal favorite moment as what the sport has meant to her.

“It was when I realized that basketball is more than a game, I valued the life lessons it taught me such as facing adversity and becoming mentally tough,” she said. “I want to thank my coaches for being my guidance and always pushing me to exceed beyond expectations. They have helped me become the player I am today, especially Coach Ben.”

What did Goddard enjoy most about basketball?

“The competition is the best thing,” she said. “I enjoyed competing the most. Competing shows you who wants it more and who’s going to grind the hardest to get what they want without anyone stopping them. Competing speaks volumes — it reveals who you are as a player.”

Her advice to youngsters who aspire to play in college?

“Put God first — when God is in you, you cannot fail,” she said. “You have to keep your grades up, build your character daily and most importantly, you have to grind and put in the work because nothing is handed to you. Also, get in contact with college coaches early and get help from your coaches to get you recruited.”

Coach James concluded, “Johnay will do well in her post (high school) career and I look forward to watching her take off and continue to build a legacy for herself that we can all be proud of.”