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Sandy Journal

Unsung hero big part of Alta basketball team’s success Four years removed from lifesaving surgery

Jan 05, 2024 12:01PM ● By Josh McFadden

Alta’s Carter Goodfellow, a senior, shown here going up for a layup in last season’s state tournament, is a key member of the Hawks’ defending state championship basketball team. (Photo courtesy of Carter Goodfellow)

On a team with star power, it’s important to have steady role players too. The Alta boys basketball team might not be where it is now without the consistent play of senior Carter Goodfellow. 

The Hawks are the defending Class 5A champions, having amassed a record of 24-4 last year. Alta won its first six games of 2023-24, with headline players Jaxon Johnson (a University of Utah commit), Ace Reiser, Dash Reiser and Carter Doleac leading the way. 

But Goodfellow has been an integral part of the team. 

The guard is averaging 5.5 points and 3.3 rebounds a game, adding support to his teammates as Alta seeks to repeat as state champions. Goodfellow’s attitude and efforts typify what the Hawks stand for as a group. 

“The best thing about playing for Alta is the brotherhood of our team,” he said. “We are one big family at Alta, and we always look out for each other on and off the court. We have very talented players that all buy in to the team’s success over their own individual success. We don’t care about averaging big numbers; all we care about is winning. We have created a winning culture at Alta which is huge since we haven’t been known for that in years past. Everyone buys in to their roles and that’s what makes us such a good team.”

Goodfellow started playing basketball in the third grade at Dimple Dell Recreation Center. A year later, he started playing year-round and has done so ever since on various club teams. He has recently played for UBC in the Adidas Gold Gauntlet Division where he has played in several tournaments in different states. 

“I always loved basketball from the moment I picked up a ball and watched games on TV with my dad,” he said. “I’ve always loved the team aspect of basketball and playing a competitive game with my best friends. I have played high school basketball at Alta High School for four years now and have loved every minute of it. Seeing the ball swoosh through the hoop has always fascinated me and has driven me to play year after year.”

Goodfellow said he loves the teamwork aspect of the game and working with teammates to achieve a goal. He said he has learned important lessons from winning and losing.

“I love competition and always have since a young age,” he said. “I enjoy competing with a team to take down another team. I enjoy playing with such awesome teammates that each bring something different to the team. Basketball is a very competitive sport, as only five players can play at a time, which always pushes me to work harder so I can be one of those five people on the court. Basketball also teaches me so many life lessons. It has taught me how to work through adversity and how to react to the wins and losses.”

As a player, Goodfellow is good at moving without the ball and finding gaps in the defense. He is a good shooter, which he said “extends the defense to open driving lanes for my other teammates.” He believes he is also good at running the floor and getting easy shots in transition. Goodfellow can finish at the rim, and he’s also adept at guarding any position on the floor. He has a high basketball IQ and doesn’t force shots.

Head coach Travis Ohrn is grateful to have such an unselfish, dedicated player on the team. He said Goodfellow goes about his business and continually works hard, even if a lot of people don’t notice him.

“Most people outside Alta don’t know his story,” Ohrn said. “He’s a really great person.”

Goodfellow’s story isn’t like that of most high school basketball players. In February 2020, as the world began shutting down due to the COVID pandemic, Goodfellow began throwing up. He initially thought it was just a stomach bug, but the vomiting persisted, and he had excruciating stomach pain. A visit to InstaCare revealed his stomach was black and abnormally large. He was rushed off to Primary Children’s Hospital, and within 30 minutes he was in surgery. 

“They found that my stomach was distended with 9 liters of fluid, as there was blockage between my stomach and intestines,” Goodfellow said. “It was a miracle that my stomach didn’t explode. If my parents wouldn’t have taken me in, they said I probably would not have lived.”

Goodfellow remained in the hospital for two weeks. The 6-foot-tall young man had lost a considerable amount of weight and was down to 110 pounds. He left the hospital with a feeding tube. 

The health challenges didn’t stop there.

Two days after returning home, he began throwing up again. His parents rushed him to the hospital once more, where doctors found another blockage, this time in the intestines from his original surgery. He had another surgery and developing a high fever going into it. This turn of events baffled the medical staff. Later that day, after the surgery, Goodfellow went into septic shock. Because he was in the intensive care unit, the on-hand staff was prepared to handle his condition. After another two weeks in the hospital, he was able to return home for good. Goodfellow was diagnosed with superior mesenteric artery syndrome, or SMA for short. 

Goodfellow recognizes how fortunate he is to have survived the ordeal and to be able to continue doing the things he loves. 

“Usually those with this condition suffer chronically with it, but mine was super acute and very rare,” he said. “They are publishing a record of my story in a medical journal coming out soon. I’m grateful for my loving Heavenly Father saving my life so I can be back on the court playing the game I love without complications from my surgeries.”

As for this season, Goodfellow is eager to fulfill whatever role Ohrn asks of him so he can contribute to another successful year. Though state supremacy is the ultimate objective, Goodfellow would also like to claim the region title, which the Hawks lost out on to Lehi last season.

“I just want to do whatever is needed to defend our title by focusing on offensive rebounds, steals and assists,” he said. “Really, I want to do whatever is needed on any given night to win games. I want to continue to be able to defend anyone on the court and to know the strengths and weaknesses of my opponents so I can shut them down. The goal is to repeat state. Another goal I have for the team is to win region, as last year we actually lost region to Lehi, so I want to win region with this special group and then win the state championship again.”

To achieve these goals, Goodfellow said he and his teammates need to “stay hungry.” He said the team has a saying they like to remember and live by: “Hungry dogs run faster.” Alta players are pushing each other to get better every day in practice. For his part, Goodfellow is working hard to get stronger and put in extra time in the gym.

Once this season is over, Goodfellow’s high school career will come to an end, and he’ll begin a new chapter in his life. He plans on serving a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Afterward, he wants to attend Brigham Young University and study finance. But he doesn’t intend on putting down a basketball for very long. 

“I’ve had some schools reach out to continue my basketball career, and I plan on making that decision post mission,” he said. “But know that basketball will always be a part of my life.”