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, April 23, the 113th day of 2014. There are 252 days left in the year.
1864 — 150 years ago: Some persons are negotiating for 80 feet of ground on Illinois Street with a view of erecting four stores thereon. It would serve a better purpose if the money was invested in neat tenement houses. 1889 — 125 years ago: The Central station, car house and stables of the Moline-Rock Island Horse Railway line of the Holmes syndicate, together with 15 cars and 42 head of horses, were destroyed by fire. The loss was at $15,000. 1914 — 100 years ago: Vera Cruz, Mexico, after a day and night of resistance to American forces, gradually ceased opposition. The American forces took complete control of the city. 1939 — 75 years ago: Dr. R. Bruce Collins was reelected for a second term as president of the Lower Rock Island County Tuberculosis Association. 1964 — 50 years ago: Work is scheduled to begin this summer on construction of a new men's residence complex and an addition to the dining facilities at Westerlin Hall at Augustana College. 1989 — 25 years ago: Special Olympics competitors were triple winners at Rock Island High School Saturday. The participants vanquished the rain that fell during the competition, and some won their events; but most important, they triumphed over their own disabilities.