By Colin Shields / Online Editor
The Hutchinson Community College men’s basketball team is off to a 8-3 start, with the Blue Dragons eclipsing the 100-point mark in seven games, which included a 139-point scoring explosion vs. Labette earlier this season.
Second year head coach Tommy DeSalme, who is known for his fast flowing and high scoring offenses, has found his go-to guy in redshirt freshman Aaron Franklin. Franklin, a 6-foot, 5-inch guard out of Kansas City, Missouri, is averaging 25.2 points per game, which ranks him fifth in NJCAA Division 1. His 252 total points is good for third in the country, and his 104 made field goals on 53.3% shooting are good for the most made in the country.
After redshirting last year due to a hip injury, Franklin used last year’s loss to Dodge City in the Region 6 tournament championship as motivation to improve and get back onto the court. “When I saw us lose that game in the region tournament, I remember that really bothered me,” Franklin said. “I felt like my extra help on the court could really push us to the edge to win that region championship and even the natty.”
DeSalme also attributes Franklin’s early season success to his hard work in the offseason. “He would have been the best player on our team last year if he didn’t get hurt. He was our best player the first four games, he just had a bad hip,” DeSalme said. “It’s all credit to him, how much work he put in, he lost weight this summer, got in great shape, and he’s a different player. He’s right up there with the best I’ve ever coached.”
Being one of just four returners from last year’s team that advanced to the Sweet 16 in the NJCAA Division 1 Championships, Franklin has taken on a larger leadership role as well.
“Last year, I didn’t really have much of a leadership role, there were a lot of sophomores that led the way since we were an older group,” Franklin said. “Now we have a younger group, so I’m that older guy, me and the three others JG (Jayden Garrison), Ray (Ra’Sean Frederick), and Trey McClure, so we’re able to help those young guys understand the system and get better as we go.”
Not only has Franklin impressed DeSalme on the court with his play, but his off the court actions have stood out just as much. Last year, Franklin received NJCAA third team All-Academic honors for posting a GPA between 3.60-3.79.
“On and off the court, he’s an All-American both ways. He’ll be an Academic All American, he’ll be a first team All-American, and thank goodness we have him on our team.” DeSalme said.
The Blue Dragons will travel to El Dorado this Saturday to face the 8-3 Butler Grizzlies in a 4 p.m. matchup of the preseason No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams in the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference.