By Matt Nestor
Prep Sports Reporter
On the one hand, there is not a typical post threat in the NIC-10 this year like former Freeport Pretzels star Austin Davis or former Rockford Boylan anchor Nick Bautch.
On the other hand, that would likely make no difference to Rockford East’s Darshawn Pumphrey-King.
DPK, as his teammates call him, is as tough and physical as they come down low in the NIC-10. And that goes for all 5 feet, 7 inches of him.
“One thing you can say about Darshawn is you know he is going to show up and play every day,” East Head Coach Roy Sackmaster said of his senior star.
Last season, during the E-Rabs’ run to the sectional finals, they relied on offensive rebounds. With no shooting threat, East would like to throw the ball on the backboard and go get it.
Much of that rebounding was done by since-graduated Alonte Holiday. With most of that team back, there is still not a consistent shooting threat on the team.
There is some size, with senior Steven McNease and junior Devion Smith. But Pumphrey-King has taken over as that bulldog down low.
“He doesn’t have the most skill in the world, but he plays hard and he plays tough,” Sackmaster said of Pumphrey-King, who also starred on the football team. “So far, that’s why he’s been our best player by far. It’s not even close, even though he’s not our most talented guy.”
Sackmaster said the undersized player would likely shatter the record for rebounds by a player his size, if anyone kept track of such a stat. And it is that type of tenacity that has helped East struggle through a tough start offensively.
“When he moved to the four and went into the post for us, at 5 feet, 7 inches, we actually played a little bigger than when we have our post players in there,” Sackmaster said. “You know what you are going to get every day. You are going to get a consistent effort.”
In holiday action:
• Belvidere, which was coming off a big conference win over Machesney Park Harlem, had the most successful holiday break in the conference. The Bucs went 4-0 on their way to winning the Plano tournament, including a win over Rockford Christian. Kane Steger, Joe Byers and Josh Houser all landed on the all-tournament team.
• Rockford Auburn acquitted themselves nicely, although they were disappointed with their finish at the highly-acclaimed Proviso West Tournament. Fred Van Vleet found his rhythm as he led the Knights to a 3-1 record and a third-place finish, with their only loss coming against tourney champ Proviso East.
• Harlem went 4-1 in DeKalb, while East was 3-1 in Elgin. Freeport went 2-2 at the Pekin tournament, the same place where Boylan was a surprising 1-3. Fellow first-place team Rockton Hononegah went 2-2 in Bloomington, the same record as Rockford Jefferson and Rockford Guilford. Belvidere North went 1-2 during the break.
From the Jan. 4-10, 2012, issue