There will never be enough words to describe Noah Franklin’s impact on Cobden basketball.
Franklin averaged 27 points, 11.7 rebounds and 6.6 assists during his senior season to help lead the Appleknockers to a 19-0 record. The 6-foot-7 point-forward reached milestones of 2,015 career points, breaking Harold Blunt’s 1979 school record of 1,825 points, while also surpassing his own expectations of 1,052 rebounds and 507 assists for his career.
“People would tell me the sky's the limit,” Franklin said. “That I had untapped potential entering high school and I never understood what that meant until everything was said and done. I just wanted to go, play basketball and have fun.”
Franklin is a coach's dream and possesses all of the skills needed to succeed at Division II Southwest Baptist (Mo.) next year. His personal accomplishments only begin the discussion of why he’s the 2021 Southern Illinoisan Boys Basketball Player of the Year. But let's start with the mismatches he created on a nightly basis.
“We would ask him to go in and play the five and he also played the point,” said Appleknockers coach Wendell Wheeler. “He’s 6-7 with bounce and a really, really good passer. That gets overlooked; there’s a lot of guys that can score, but not many that will pass like that.”
On Feb. 23, Cobden went into halftime trailing against its South Egyptian Conference rival Meridian. The Appleknockers came back and won 63-51 after Wheeler trusted Franklin to run the point guard position in the second half — a position Franklin put himself in with his unique skill set.
Franklin ran guard drills with his family while growing up that helped him gain advantages at all aspects of the game. That allowed him 12 double-doubles and two triple-doubles in his 19 game schedule as a senior. For his career, he reached double digits like it was his job with 40 double-doubles and three three triple-doubles.
But with individual accolades aside, Franklin knows that none of his success would have been possible without the help of his teammates and coaches.
“I always looked at it as I’m one of the five guys on the floor,” Franklin said. “I’m only 20 percent of the team. Teammates play a big part of getting you the ball and getting you in the right spots to score.”
Franklin scored on 60 percent of his field goals and 40 percent of his 3-point attempts to help Cobden to a No. 1 Associated Press state ranking this year. Going into his senior season, Franklin had already helped the Appleknockers to back to back 20-win seasons for the first time in 56 years. Their regional title in 2020 was the first in as many years dating back to the 1963-64 Cobden team that finished 32-3.
Wheeler shared his 400th career win with Franklin in a 72-40 blowout against Meridian on Feb. 27. The coach believes Franklin is leaving his legacy in Cobden for a bright future in college.
“He’s the kind of kid that a lot of coaching cliches are made about,” Wheeler said. “I think he’ll improve quite a bit when he gets to college because of the amount of time he puts in and doing whatever he is asked.”
Franklin is no stranger to hard work or at getting into the weight room. His biggest focus before the season was to add more muscle, that way he could hold his ground in the paint, grab rebounds and score in the low post.
All that hard work prepared Franklin to step up whenever his team needed him. He called it a challenge he felt well-prepared for.
“I’d been working on those skills for a while and when it came time I was able to perform,” Franklin said. “I take a lot of pride in the offseason, I think once you enjoy the off the court aspects of the game it’s easier to get better.”
When he’s not playing basketball, Franklin is a scholar bowl participant performing at the top of his class. He’ll hand the keys off to his younger brother Tyler, a 6-6 junior that shot well for Cobden this season, with hopes of keeping the family name strong.
Franklin plans on taking basketball as far in life as the sport allows him to. In the meantime, he’ll continue making everyone around him better at Southwest Baptist while pursuing a career in physical therapy.
“I really look forward to just being there and getting to know the guys and coaching staff,” Franklin said. “From what I can tell the guys are super trustworthy, so lets hope iron sharpens iron.”