ROCKFORD – Four Rockford Public Schools boys basketball programs will begin 2020 in a tight race for to the top of the NIC-10 Conference.
The fact that Guilford (4-2) and Jefferson (4-2) are competing for conference championship isn’t a surprise. Both teams returned all of their top scorers from last season when the Vikings were 18-14 and the J-Hawks 15-17.
The fact that East is alone at the top (5-1) and Auburn is in the mix (4-2) is a little bit of a surprise. The E-Rabs graduated two 1,000-point scorers from last year’s state qualifying team and the conference’s best returning player, Sincere Parker, chose to spend his senior season in Arizona.
The E-Rabs have thrived with balance. They have four different players averaging 11 points per game in Markarious Luster (13.), Jaedyn Brannan-Davis (11.9), Josh Crawford (11.5) and Pashens Harris (11.2).
With Parker in Arizona, the title of “best player in the conference” should have fallen to Auburn junior Josh Ausler. Ausler hasn’t been eligible yet the Knights have stayed in the race behind steady play from seniors Haniefe Johnson (13.1 points per game) and Javin Davis (11.1) and the occasional scoring explosion from sophomore Javante Mackey.
Should Ausler return, the four RPS schools are a good bet to accomplish something that hasn’t happened since the 1960s – all RPS boys basketball teams having winning seasons.
RPS looked like it would accomplish that last year with East (34-4), Guilford (18-14) and Auburn (17-15). Jefferson, though, had a rough end to the year to finish below .500.
The last time RPS 205 had all of its boys teams have records of .500 or better was 1966-1967 when West went 28-2, Auburn 13-9, East 12-10 and Guilford 12-12. That year, RPS players comprised the entire first team all-conference squad (Jim Sallis, Carl Glover and Steve Amidon of West, Jim Foote of Auburn and Mike Mauriche of Guilford).