Boys Basketball

Franklin’s big game nets repeat honor as BND Athlete of the Week

A career-best performance has landed O’Fallon senior Donovan Franklin in familiar territory.

Franklin scored 36 points Friday in the Panthers’ 70-52 victory over Collinsville. The outburst earned him the News-Democrat’s Player of the Week award for the second time this season.

“I prepared to play like I do any other game,” said the 6-foot-5 Franklin. “I came in trying to help my team get a win. Sometimes you have a big night that you don’t really plan to have. It just happens like that, you know?”

Franklin was 8-for-11 from the field, including four 3-pointers, and 16-for-18 from the free-throw line. He also dished out four assists and grabbed six rebounds as the Panthers improved to 14-6 overall and 6-2 in the Southwestern Conference.

“It raised my confidence a lot,” Franklin said. “I’ll look forward to the next game and try to produce the same way I did in the game we just had.”

What pleased O’Fallon coach Rick Gibson was Franklin’s continued effectiveness on the defensive end.

“That’s one thing Coach has been on me about, telling me I should try to do more to get better,” Franklin said. “That’s what the team (needs). Most (college coaches) already know I can score.

“Rebounding and playing defense are something I have to key in on because I know a lot of my teammates dictate off me. If I’m playing hard, getting rebounds and playing good defense, my teammates will do the same thing.”

Scoring has been Franklin’s primary calling card, but he’s become a more rounded player with the added emphasis on defense and rebounding.

“He’s been a scorer for us since his sophomore year,” Gibson said. “But the thing I’m honestly most happy about is the way he’s turned it on defensively and the way he’s rebounding. He’s leading our team in rebounding and he’s right up there in the conference lead in rebounding. He’s become so much more of a complete player. He’s doing everything right now.”

Franklin, who’s averaging 21.7 points and 7.9 rebounds, needs just 52 more points to become the career scoring leader at O’Fallon. He is in fourth place heading into the Panthers’ game at Belleville West on Friday, trailing only Marv Reno (1,532), Kyle Wyatt (1,518) and Roosevelt Jones (1,483). Franklin has 1,481 points after passing Kenny Leverette on Friday.

Franklin said it would be a major accomplishment to reach the top.

“It would be a big honor for me to leave some history behind,” Franklin said. “But our goal is to get to state. As of right now, we’re trying to take each game one at a time. We can’t overlook anything. We’ve just got to keep playing hard and playing together, like we’ve been doing.”

Dozens of college coaches are in on Franklin, including some from the Missouri Valley Conference and Southeastern Conference.

Franklin mentioned Creighton of the MVC as being one of schools that has become interested in recent weeks, but he doesn’t want to go much beyond that.

“I kind of want to keep it a surprise,” he said.

Franklin said he has thus far enjoyed the recruiting process and is looking forward to taking his NCAA-paid visits to potential landing spots.

“A lot of teams want someone that can score. He can definitely do that,” Gibson said. “The knock on him has been some of those areas defensively: ‘Does he play hard enough? Does he rebound? Is he going to get in there and bang?’ If teams are taking a look at him right now, they’re seeing that.”

Gibson is looking forward to having another O’Fallon player in the Division I ranks. Jones, a 2011 graduate, is a junior at Butler.

“That’s the fun part of being a coach,” Gibson said. “You watch a kid like Donovan develop as a freshman all the way to where he’s at right now, and hopefully beyond.

“I get a huge kick out of turning the TV on and watching Roosevelt and being able to go over there (for game). I hope to be able to see that from Donovan. I hope to be able to turn on the TV and watch him and go to his games when he becomes a college player.”