Boys Basketball

Okawville star chasing history; Edwardsville guard enhancing options

Okawville senior Noah Frederking picked up his 2,000th career point Saturday in a game against New Athens.
Okawville senior Noah Frederking picked up his 2,000th career point Saturday in a game against New Athens. Courtesy Southern Illinoisan

Even after becoming only the 14th metro-east player in history to surpass 2,000 career points on Saturday, Okawville senior guard Noah Frederking still isn’t the leading scorer at his own school.

While the University of Evansville recruit’s 34 points in the season opener against New Athens pushed him to 2,002 points before Monday’s game against Flora at the Carlyle Kaskaskian Classic, Frederking still has some work to do to catch former Rockets star player and Hall of Fame coach and Illinois state senator Dave Luechtefeld.

Luechtefeld scored 2,155 points for the Rockets from 1955-58.

“He still talks to me every once in a while and tells me what I need to do better or what I need to work on,” Frederking said of Luechtefeld, who visits some practices and attends many games. “Before my junior year, he talked to me for about 30 minutes and told me what I needed to do better, and it really helps.

“It was mostly basketball talk, how if I wanted to play at the next level I needed to work harder and do certain things to up my game. He loves the community and he loves the high school and Okawville basketball.”

Frederking listened well and earlier this month signed with the Missouri Valley Conference’s Evansville Purple Aces.

When he passed 2,000 points, Frederking also joined an exclusive club of former metro-east stars. According to Illinois High School Association records, only 14 players in local history have scored 2,000 or more points, led by former Wesclin and Southern Illinois University Carbondale standout and current Missouri State coach Paul Lusk’s 2,743 points from 1986-90.

“It’s a great accomplishment absolutely, but at the end of the day, it’s a team game and not an individual game,” said Frederking, who barring injury figures to pass Luechtefeld sometime next month to become the Rockets’ all-time scoring leader.

That’s saying something given the amount of high-level basketball talent the Rockets have put on the court through the years, including several Division I players.

“It means a lot that so many good players have gone through Okawville, all the Luechtefelds back in the day and all the great players that have gone through here,” Frederking said.

Having played for Luechtefeld and now coaching Frederking gives Okawville coach Jon Kraus a unique perspective on Frederking’s achievement.

“My goal when I took over was to continue the program in the way that (Coach Luechtefeld) had built the program,” Kraus said . “Noah had had a lot of people help him get him to where he’s at and he’s worked hard to get there. (Scoring 2,000 points), that’s not on your mind.

“His goals are to win games and he wants to get to a state championship and the state tournament like every other kid. We’ve had a really long run of good players for a really long time at Okawville. That makes it even more impressive I think.”

Signing with Evansville capped Frederking’s dream of earning a Division I scholarship.

“I think committing was the bigger deal, but signing was a big moment in my life so far,” he said. “I know where I’m going to be next year, and it’s all over. Now, I can relax and focus on this year.”

Kraus said Frederking looked much improved in the 34-point season opener, a 74-45 win over New Athens.

“It was one of the better games I’ve seen him have,” Kraus said. “It’s just the way he went about it. He didn’t take many bad shots, he had really good legs and was really athletic. He just had a different look to him and hopefully that continues.”

Smith a difference-maker for Edwardsville

Playing like he has a point to prove, Edwardsville High senior point guard Mark Smith had a dazzling week during the Tigers’ 4-0 run to win the Highland Thanksgiving Tournament.

Smith went over 30 points twice, collecting 31 against Carbondale before exploding for a career-high 37 on Saturday in the Tigers’ dramatic 81-78 victory over defending 3A state champion Althoff in the tourney finale.

Smith is averaging 26 points and has eight 3-pointers while going 26-for-31 (84 percent) at the foul line. Even with all that scoring, he is averaging a St. Louis-area leading 10.75 assists per game.

Smith has hit 66 percent of his shots and is second behind senior inside force A.J. Epenesa in rebounds, averaging 8.8 per game.

While Smith has several mid-major Division I offers, he might be hoping for something better to come along. With performances like the ones he displayed last week, he just might get his wish.

Rockets a unanimous No. 1 in BND rankings

In each of the first two BND Small-School Basketball rankings, Okawville received all seven first-place votes. Frederking is a big reason, but so is having another returning starter in senior Shane Ganz and a talented lineup that may be a bit more explosive offensively than last year.

“Our skill level is pretty high,” said Kraus, whose team graduated three starters from a 28-5 squad. “We’ve got a lot of kids that can shoot the ball, we can handle the ball and we’ve got good quickness. If I wanted to, in certain games I could play 12 guys.”

The Rockets are quicker and taller, too. The starters in the opener were Frederking, Ganz, 6-5 senior Kirklen Meier, Frederking’s younger brother Caleb Frederking and senior point guard Josh Madrid.

Kraus said he also sees Logan Riechmann, senior Drew Frederking, 6-7 junior Luke Hensler and junior guard Payten Harre getting a lot of playing time.

“We’ve got lots of guys that could start, so we’re just playing it by ear,” Kraus said.

The bottom line is a trip to the state basketball tournament. Okawville has reached the state baseball tourney two years in a row with many basketball players in the lineup, but basketball playoff success has been more elusive.

Three years ago, it was a loss to Gibault in the regional final. The next two years, the Rockets lost in the super-sectional and the sectional final.

Their record with Frederking during his four years as a starter is 76-23.

“You have to get lucky and be really good,” Kraus said. “We haven’t been (to state) for 30 years now. You think about all the good teams we’ve had in the last 30 year and we haven’t been to state. It’s not easy and our kids know that.”

Norm Sanders: 618-239-2454, @NormSanders