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 Wednesday, Sept. 17, the 260th day of 2014. There are 105 days left in the year. 1864 -- 150 years ago: We are told league merchants have paid no attention to the prohibition on selling ammunition, but continue to sell just as before the order was issued. 1889 -- 125 years ago: The Rev. R.F. Sweet, rector of Trinity Episcopal Parish, left for the East to visit his boyhood home in Boston before attending the general convention of the Episcopal Church in New York. 1914 -- 100 years ago: Dr. E.A. Anderson was named to succeed Dr. E.L. Kerns as head physician of the Modern Woodmen of America, and moved to Rock Island from Holdingford, Minn. 1939 -- 75 years ago: One week late, because of the outbreak of war, Dr. E.L. Beyer resumed his work as professor of romance languages at Augustana College. Dr. and Mrs. Beyer left Germany on the last train to the Belgian border. 1964 -- 50 years ago: Employees in Turnstyle stores in Moline and Davenport will vote Oct. 2 in an election set up by the Chicago regional office of the National Labor Relations Board. Employees will vote either for the Retail Clerk International or for no union. 1989 -- 25 years ago: Rock Island High School is considering a step to help teen moms stay in school and get their diploma. The school board is expected to vote tonight on instituting an on-site child care center.