Having made a commitment to take his game to the Big Ten, Rockridge's Ethan Happ is devoted to making sure his basketball skills are a perfect 10.|
Coming off a breakout sophomore season in which he averaged over 14 points and 10 rebounds a game to help the Rockets win 21 games and reach the Class 2A boys' regional finals, the 6-foot-7 junior forward is looking to become much more than just one of the area's dominant big men.
Even in the wake of an impressive display of scoring power at last week's Orion Tip-Off Classic that helped his club go 4-0 and capture the tournament title, this week's Area Pacesetter for The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus is more interested in discussing defense.
"Game by game, our goal is to try and hold the opposing team under 45 points,'' said Happ. "I mean, the defense can turn on the offense, but then again, you can go a whole game playing good defense and not realize it until you see the final score. We talk about defense and trying to get better at it every day.''
With Happ committing to the University of Wisconsin earlier this year, that has not only inspired him to work on all branches of his game, but also freed him to focus on the possibilities he envisions for this year's Rockridge team.
"It (committing to Wisconsin) made me push myself harder,'' he said. "There always are things you can improve on, and I'm trying to do just that. I've been trying to guard more perimeter players, and not just post players. I'm working on my quickness, my jump-shooting for sure, and my 3-point shooting. I'm definitely looking forward to going up there, but right now, I'm just focused on playing for Rockridge.
"It is good to know where I'll be going, who my future coaches are going to be, so I can focus on what I'm doing now. We just want to get better as a team.''
Happ got the Rockets off the pad at Orion by netting 117 points and grabbing 46 rebounds in four games, posting a double-double in scoring and rebounding in three of those contests. He put up high games of 38 and 34 points, earning All-Tournament honors alongside sophomore guard Bryan Heath.
In the latter game, an 84-34 rout of Knoxville that clinched the tourney title last Saturday, Happ also bagged 3-of-4 3-point attempts.
"It's a good start, but we have other goals in mind,'' he said. "We want a regional championship after we got that taken away from us last year. Last year was a step in the right direction, and I can't say it was a bad season, but I'm not happy with it either. If we win one or two more games -- especially against Monmouth-Roseville -- it could've been better.''
Their 21 wins in 2011-12 the first for a Rocket team in eight years. Rockrdge posted seven seasons of 20-plus victories between 1978 and 2004.
However, Monmouth-Roseville bested the Rockets on the final night of the regular season to beat them out for the WCC North Division title. Then, the Titans denied Rockridge its first regional crown since 2003 with a 52-46 victory in the 2A Orion Regional finals.
"We just want to come out on top when we get to those close games,'' said Happ, who did help his team gain a measure of redemption after besting Mon-Rose (also 4-0) for the Orion tourney title. "That's definitely in the back of our minds when we're practicing.''
AREA PACESETTER ETHAN HAPP
Favorite food: ``My mom's spaghetti.''
Favorite TV show: Comedy Central's Key & Peele.
Favorite music: Kid Cudi and Drake.
Favorite school subject: Algebra II ``with Mrs. DeKeyrel.''
Favorite NBA team: Oklahoma City Thunder.
Favorite athlete: Kevin Durant.
Role model: ``My dad, for sure. He played for North Central College, and he's always pushed me through and helped me to become a better player.''
Pre-game ritual: ``I hand my wristband to my dad, and he'll give me pointers on the game.''
In my spare time: ``I like listening to music and playing video games.''
Parents: Randy and Teresa Happ, Milan.
IN THE RUNNING:
Devin Morford and Austin Rooth, Mercer County: Both set state defensive records in the Golden Eagles' 14-7 win over Belleville Althoff in the IHSA Class 2A finals at Champaign. Morford returned a fumble 95 yards for the deciding touchdown, while Rooth had three fumble recoveries.
Jared Richmond, Riverdale: Opened the boys' basketball season with a hot hand, tallying 77 points in four games to help the reigning 2A regional champions capture the Ridgewood Thanksgiving Tournament title.
Riley Walters, Prophetstown: Netted 34 points in two Three Rivers Conference games as the Lady Prophets opened league play with wins over Bureau Valley and fellow defending co-champion Riverdale.
Bryan Heath, Rockridge: Capped an All-Tournament performance at the Orion Tip-Off Classic by netting 24 points in the Rockets' 84-34 title-clinching win over Knoxville.
Trevor Lay and Matt Jenkins, Wethersfield: Lay earned Most Valuable Player honors and Jenkins All-Tournament kudos at the Flying Geese's Wally Keller Invitational as the hosts went 5-0 to take the championship.
Sarah Hansen, Wethersfield: The senior guard followed up a 35-point game at the Brimfield Thanksgiving Touranment with a 45-point performance.
Martel Hunter and Trayvon Smith, Monmouth-Roseville: All-Tournament pick Hunter netted 56 points and fellow junior Smith adding 65 in four games as the Titans opened 4-0 at the Orion Tip-Off Classic.
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