O’Fallon’s career scoring leader in boys basketball, Donovan Franklin, had offers from several Division I schools.
But the 6-foot-5 Franklin, believing he’s capable of playing at the highest level of D-I, instead has signed with Gulf Coast State College, a two-year school located in Panama City, Fla. The Commodores were 19-10 last season.
Franklin averaged 21.1 points, 7.7 rebounds and three assists per game for the Panthers, and ranked second on the team in 3-pointers with 35. He shot 79 percent from the free-throw line and was a first-team pick on the News-Democrat’s large-school all-area team. Franklin finished his career with 1,616 points, surpassing Marv Reno’s former record of 1,532 points.
“He’s a qualifier (academically), so he didn’t have to go the JUCO route,” O’Fallon coach Rick Gibson said. “But he just has never been sold completely on the schools that were recruiting him. He had SIU Edwardsville, SIU Carbondale, Tennessee State, Tennessee Tech, Jacksonville State, those kind of schools that were interested and had offered (scholarships).
“But I think he was kind of waiting around to see if some of these bigger schools were going to contact him, and (some) of them did. I heard from West Virginia, Creighton, Mississippi State and Kansas State once their seasons ended. But they never pulled the trigger with an offer, and I think Donovan kind of thought he was a kid who could play more at that level.”
Franklin might still get his chance, perhaps after just one year at Gulf Coast State, which is coached by Jay Powell.
“I think Donovan kind of thought he was a kid that could play at more of the level of the Big Ten, Big 12, those kind of schools,” Gibson said. “The offers just weren’t there. I think he kind of realized that if that’s the level he thought he could play at and wanted to play at, he was going to have to go a year of JUCO and see if his stock rose in the eyes of those schools.”
Gulf Coast State’s assistant coach is Brendan Walker, a former assistant at Lake Land College in Mattoon. Walker recruited Franklin’s brother, David, to Lake Land two years ago. David Franklin, an Althoff High graduate, played two years at Lake Land before signing with McKendree University in April. He has two years of eligibility remaining.
“Donovan went down there (to Florida) last weekend and visited the school and seemed to like everything about it, so he went ahead and signed with them,” Gibson said. “He may have gone in as a freshman (at a Division I school) and not played a whole lot anyway, and not been real happy. Here, he’s going to get a chance to play a lot and hopefully improve his game. If something opens up, he’ll still get three years somewhere.”
Gibson said Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville and John A. Logan College in Carterville were also among several junior colleges in pursuit of Franklin. Some Division II schools expressed interest, too. McKendree, despite the presence of David Franklin, was not in the mix.
Donovan Franklin made remarkable strides in defense and rebounding, areas that were of concern to some college programs. Franklin remains lean at 175 pounds and figures to benefit from a year in a weight program at Gulf Coast State.
Franklin on Saturday was named the Most Valuable Player in the annual Class 3A-4A Illinois Basketball Coaches Association All-Star Game, held at Pontiac High. Franklin scored 19 points for the South squad as it defeated the North for just the 15th time in 41 career games. Franklin’s 3-pointer and dunk broke an 89-all tie in the fourth quarter and sparked the South to victory.
“He’s offensively gifted,” Gibson said. “He can score from everywhere. Not only does he score, but he shares the ball as well. He ended up in our top four or five in assist totals, too. It’s been a joy getting to watch him. It was fun to watch him progress and do the things that he did.”