The people of Okawville love their basketball and over the last four years, the Rockets gave them a lot to love.
The Rockets were 108-27 over the past four seasons, a strong run culminating with a second-place finish at the recent Class 1A state tournament. The only starter on all four teams was senior guard Noah Frederking, whom area coaches unanimously voted the Belleville News-Democrat’s 2016-17 Small-School (Class 1A-2A) Basketball Player of the Year.
“In Okawville it’s just part of our history, makeup and genetics,” said Frederking, who also won BND Player of the Year honors as a sophomore.” People love it here. It’s a great basketball town; I can’t emphasize that enough.”
Okawville fans helped fill a large section of seats at the state tournament in Peoria earlier this month. They stood in line to buy playoff tickets and celebrated regional, sectional and super-sectional victories.
Even though their state title dreams came up short with a 49-46 overtime loss to Effingham St. Anthony in the state title game, the town welcomed the 32-4 Rockets back with a parade and celebration at the school gym.
When it comes time to list the best players in school history, Frederking figures to be at or near the top. The University of Evansville recruit holds the school records for career points (2,844) and rebounds (977) and averaged 23.6 points and eight rebounds this season while hitting 68 3-pointers.
Frederking was a three-time Associated Press first-team all-state selection and made the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association all-state first team in all four years.
He did all this stuff, but he never got a team to the state tournament. I think that drove him a lot.
Okawville coach Jon Kraus on Noah Frederking
“He’ll be right at the top, for sure,” said Okawville coach Jon Kraus, a unanimous pick by area coaches as BND Small School Coach of the Year. “What he did was pretty impressive, I don’t care who you are or where you play. That’s a lot of points and he did it against tough competition, too.
“We’ve had a lot of high-level players and a lot of really good teams go through this school. To help get a team to state and with all the things he did, he’ll be right up there when you start the discussion for sure.”
Kraus felt three previous playoff runs that ended short of Peoria definitely lit a fire under Frederking this season.
“He did all this stuff, but he never got a team to the state tournament,” Kraus said. “I think that drove him a lot. I’m sure there was something in the back of his mind, maybe to prove that it was legit.”
Once he finally reached the state tournament, Frederking did everything in his power to win a title. He had 24 points and 14 rebounds in the semifinal win over Newark, then had 26 points and seven rebounds in the 49-46 overtime loss to Effingham St. Anthony in the championship game.
“We never gave up,” said Frederking, who scored 20 of his 27 points in the second half of the state title game and helped bring the Rockets back from a 10-point fourth quarter deficit to force overtime. “It was a great group of guys and we fought our butts off. We were down multiple times and we always found a way to come back.”
Frederking felt the state tourney trip capped a magical basketball journey for him at Okawville.
“It was great; that was my goal from day one coming into high school fresh off two state championships in grade school,” he said. “We finally did it my senior year and that was probably our best team one through eight. We had guys come off the bench and gave us some great minutes this year.
“It was such a tight-knit group.”
Finding his way
Frederking and his family moved from Mascoutah to Okawville when he was in fourth grade after his mother, Debbie, was hired in Okawville as a teacher. His father, former Okawville basketball player Brian Frederking, is a professor at McKendree University.
A coach from the St. Louis Eagles AAU team learned Frederking had scored 38 points in in the junior high state title game as an eighth-grader, leading to his affiliation with one of the region’s top summer teams.
“In grade school we won state two years in a row and that’s how I got recognized to play with the Eagles,” Frederking recalled.
In Okawville it’s just part of our history, makeup and genetics. People love it here. It’s a great basketball town, I can’t emphasize that enough.
He played three years with the Eagles on various teams that included Division I players like Jordan Goodwin (Althoff), Reggie Crawford (Chaminade) and Brandon McKissic (St. Louis University High).
“That’s when I realized that I could actually go somewhere for basketball and I was a good player,” Frederking said of his first season with the Eagles. “Somebody told me I was the only 1A kid going Division I this year. It’s a great honor, but I’m glad I get this opportunity.”
Frederking knows he has plenty of work to do between now and the start of his freshman season at Evansville.
“Mostly I’m working on speed and agility things, getting stronger so I can be better on the defensive end,” he said. “I feel like offensively I’ll be all right in that motion offense. I’ve got to keep my shot up and keep myself in rhythm.
“When I went to see them, I watched Jalen Brown and I saw one possession where he got screened for eight or nine times in 25 seconds.”
Frederking also realizes there are doubters who wonder if a small-town kid can succeed in a mid-major league like the Missouri Valley Conference.
“I’m sure there’s tons of them. It’s my job to prove them wrong,” he said. “I want to go and play to the best of my ability and I’m going to do everything in my power to do that.”
Kraus had plenty of tough-love moments with his star player during the last four years. He pushed him to be better in all facets of the game, not just as a scorer. He also worked with him on bringing more intensity on a regular basis.
Asked what he will remember about Frederking, Kraus said: “It’s just the way he practiced and the way he improved. It won’t be the points and those things. To me it’s the person he became. He became a lot more open, a lot easier to coach.
“I always felt like he worked hard, but every year he got better at practicing harder and making himself better in each and every practice. Those are the things I was after. His talent and skill level were there.”
Kraus witnessed another transformation as well.
“He had more fun with his teammates as he got older and became a good leader for us,” Kraus said. “I wasn’t sure about that when he was younger, but he turned out great. He’s not a real vocal guy.
“He played hard all the time, played with intensity. There wasn’t a lot of lulls in his game. I felt like this year he was much more consistent and he shot the ball more consistently, from 3-point especially.”
Coach of the Year
Kraus is always quick to credit the two Hall of Fame coaching legends he played for — Dave Luechtefeld at Okawville and McKendree University’s Harry Statham.
Kraus guided the Rockets to their first state tourney trip since 1987 and nearly brought home the school’s first state title.
“It was a fun weekend, but when you’re that close it’s tough to lose,” said Kraus, who really felt bad for his players. “There’s no question that I’m sure (the loss) sat with them, it sat with me for a while, too. What could you do to help those guys finish their dream? For me it was tough.
“It was still a great weekend and a great ending for this senior class going through Okawville High School.”
2016-17 Belleville News-Democrat
Small-School (Class 1A-2A) All-Area Boys Basketball Team
Player of the Year
Noah Frederking, Okawville, 6-4 sr.
Coach of the Year
Jon Kraus, Okawville
- Trevor Davis, Gibault, 6-4 sr.
- Brogan Kemp, Nashville, 6-6 sr.
- Shane Ganz, Okawville, 6-3 sr.
- Kyle Smith, Marissa, 5-9 sr.
- Connor Toennies, Carlyle, 6-5 sr.
- Hunter Ottensmeier, Wesclin, 6-4 jr.
- Collin Kessler, Gibault, 6-5 sr.
- J.J. Schwartz, Metro-East Lutheran, 6-4 sr.
- Michael Chism, Valmeyer, 6-2 jr.
- Ryan Brink, Nashville, 6-3 sr.
Nate Brede, Wesclin; Noah Coddington, Metro-East Lutheran; Brandon Courtney, Wesclin; Eli Cox, Carlyle; Hayden Heggemeier, Nashville; Karson Huels, Gibault; Khari Jackson, Lovejoy; Dru Johnson, Carlyle; Kendall Kennedy, Madison; Malique Mason, Madison; Jamie Roustio, Wood River; Tyler Siever, Carlyle; Logan Shumate, Father McGivney; Kelvin Swims, Dupo; Cameron Wallace, Lovejoy; Braden Woolsey, Metro-East Lutheran
Small-School Basketball Players of the Year
- 2017 - Noah Frederking, Okawville
- 2016 - Logan Kohrmann, Central
- 2015 - Noah Frederking, Okawville
- 2014 - Jacob Timmermann, Central
- 2013 - Marquis Borney, Madison
- 2012 - Brandon Book, Central
- 2011 - Brandon Book, Central
- 2010 - David Wiegmann, Central
- 2009 - Garrett Gaffner, Central
- 2008 - Sean Rakers, Wesclin
- 2007 - Lucas O’Rear, Nashville
- 2006 - Lucas O’Rear, Nashville
- 2005 - Kevin Lisch, Althoff
- 2004 - Jacob Toal, Gibault
- 2003 - Lance Stemler, Gibault
- 2002 - Jason Guyette, Freeburg
- 2001 - Brent Mueller, Columbia
- 2000 - Robert Lea, Nashville
- 1999 - Les Norman, Lebanon; John Thomas, Gibault
- 1998 - Maurice Baker, Madison
- 1997 - Abel Schrader, Okawville
- 1996 - Eric Schwehr, Lebanon