The plan was put into place before the 2012-13 basketball season even started.
The DeKalb boys basketball team was focusing on its future rather than its present when the Barbs decided to keep all of their new freshmen playing on the same team rather than splitting them up among three different levels. While the varsity team struggled last year, the freshman team was thriving, going undefeated in the Northern Illinois Big 12 East.
“The way our middle school program is, it’s a shorter season and we have two middle schools,” DeKalb coach Dave Rohlman said. “We purposely kept all those kids together as freshmen and then at the end of the season we brought those three guys up.”
Those three guys were Ethan Conroy, Luke Davis III and Michael Pollack, now fixtures in the varsity rotation as sophomores. The trio already is playing crunch-time minutes for the Barbs, who, at 5-9, are only three wins away from already equalling last year’s win total.
Davis, who was named to the all-tournament team in the Chuck Dayton tournament last week, said he still is adjusting to the faster pace of the varsity game but has learned how to deal with playing against other posts who possess his size, or more.
“No matter how good they are, just play hard. Just playing hard, it can go so far,” Davis said. “Them being bigger than me, it doesn’t bother me at all.”
DeKalb got a taste of what the three sophomores could bring in the Barbs’ 55-52 win over Belvidere North in last year’s regional quarterfinals. Davis had a big bucket down the stretch and Pollack scored five points in a reserve role.
But with the loss of a big senior class, including a lot of the team’s size, Rohlman expected them all to contribute much more this year. Their development has allowed DeKalb to make some lineup adjustments that give the Barbs’ offense a boost.
“We started [Conroy] out as a backup point, but at times I really like where we can push Rudy Lopez to the two and let him score more,” Rohlman said. “Let Ethan Conroy take care of running the plays and that deal.”
Rohlman noted that all three have high basketball IQs and it has showed early on as opponents have started to focus on Davis, who seemingly has no trouble passing back out to the perimeter from inside.
Now, last year’s struggles are turning into this year’s – and future – gains.
“The freshmen group, who are now sophomores, only lost one game last year and you can see when the ball goes into the post, the way Pollack will cut off it,” Rohlman said. “They’ve played together enough now where they understand each other.”