For Ethan Happ, the rejuvenation of the Rockridge boys' basketball program and his own individual success as a sophomore provided plenty of gas in the Rockets' tank for 2012-13.
"Last year (21 wins and reaching the regional finals) definitely fueled us to try to get back to where we were, and do even better," said the 6-foot-7 junior center, who gave himself plenty of motivation -- and perhaps a little pressure -- to build on his own efforts after committing to the University of Wisconsin prior to his junior campaign.
Averaging a double-double of 23.5 points and 10.5 rebounds per game and earning first-team Associated Press and Illinois Basketball Coaches Association honors in addition to a place on the state's Mr. Basketball ballot, this year's Area Boys' Basketball Player of the Year for The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus was able to take both himself and his team to greater heights.
Sparked by Happ's presence in the paint, Rockridge improved to 23-5 this winter and captured a share of the West Central Conference's North Division championship in its final year before moving over to the Three Rivers Conference in '13-14. The Rockets crowned their achievements by winning their first regional title in 10 years.
"Like we built off of last year, we hope to build on this season,'' he said. "We don't want to stop. We get to get a sectional title, and then go beyond that.''
Goals for next year? "For myself, I'd like to get out on the perimeter more, guarding more guys with quick feet. And, I'd definitely like to make some more outside shots after getting a lot of my points in the paint.''
Feel any pressure after Wisconsin decision? "I get nervous before every game, but yeah, it was nerve-wracking. I knew there would be people coming to specifically see me play, and I wanted to impress them, and not disappoint them.''
Did the season go as good, or better, than expected? "I wanted us to go further than we did -- I felt we should have beaten (Minonk) Fieldcrest (in the Class 2A Farmington Sectional semifinals). We had some jitters, and just didn't come out and play as well as we should have.''
Highlight of the season? "Getting our first regional title in 10 years. It was really special to do it at home, before our fans, and I'm glad our seniors got that opportunity. After our first few games of the season, we all meshed and played really well together.''
Looking forward to 2013-14? "I know we'll be expected to at least do the same (next season) as we did this year. It (playing at state) is definitely my dream, and it'd be a fun experience if we could pull that off.''
Today is Sunday, April 20, the 110th day of 2014. There are 255 days left in the year.
1864 -- 150 years ago: The attention of contractors is called to proposals for building a magazine. The building is to be erected on the south side of the island, above the railroad, nearly opposite Sinnit's ice houses. 1889 -- 125 years ago: Ladies patent leather tip shoes were selling for $3 at the M & K store, and men's spring overcoats were advertised at $7.50. 1914 -- 100 years ago: Fred Feuchter, of Davenport, was elected president of the Tri-City Post Office Clerks club, and Joe Goldsmith, of Rock Island, was named secretary treasurer. 1939 -- 75 years ago: Mass vaccination of more than 1,600 employed of the Rock Island Arsenal has been ordered by Col. Norman Ramsey after a 13-year-old daughter of the Arsenal manager became ill with smallpox. 1964 -- 50 years ago: The 1964 Scout-O-Rama of the Sac-Fox Council of Boy Scouts closed a two-day session last evening at the Rock Island Armory with 5,000 paid attendance. 1989 -- 25 years ago: "From the horse and buggy days ... to this" said Mercer County Sheriff Marvin Thirtyacre, waving his hand to indicate the sheriff's department facilities at the new $1.5 million Mercer County Jail in Aledo.