Cobden’s basketball history includes a second place finish in the 1964 state tournament, three 20-win seasons since 1972 and an all-time winning percentage of .432.
Which is why this season has a chance to be pretty special for the Appleknockers. They have one of the area’s best all-around players in 6-5 junior Noah Franklin, a good post presence in 6-6 senior Joe Brumleve and a much-improved point guard in senior Dylan Lewey.
If the pieces fit properly, Cobden could not only enjoy consecutive 20-win seasons for the first time in program history, but a South Egyptian Conference title and perhaps its first regional championship since that 1964 team.
“There’s a poster of the 1964 team in the locker room,” second-year coach Wendell Wheeler said. “We understand it’s something … we are so proud of our legacy. Very aware of it, and it’s something we want to do for those guys.”
The Appleknockers’ centerpiece is Franklin, a well-built performer who has the type of versatile game that translates well to the next level. He possesses the body and height to score at will in the lane, but he is smooth enough to play the wing and create for himself or others off the dribble.
Franklin averaged 18.7 points and 7.9 rebounds per game last year, numbers he couldn’t come close to challenging Monday night in a two-point loss to Eldorado. Franklin played only nine minutes, hamstrung by foul trouble.
But when he’s on, Franklin can stuff a stat sheet like few players in Southern Illinois.
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“His ballhandling and wing skills have gotten better,” Wheeler said. “We can swing him in and out and utilize him different ways. Noah has put a lot of time in and worked hard. We can play him different places because he’s a big, strong kid with wide shoulders and really good balance.”
The reason Franklin can roam the floor and play the perimeter at times on offense is Brumleve. He hit for 12.4 ppg last year while grabbing 8.8 rebounds. Like Franklin, he has a good chance of playing in college.
Brumleve is more of a back-to-the-bucket player. His ability to finish around the bucket commands double-teams from defense, which opens up opportunities for teammates such as Lewey and senior guard Alex Remsey.
For good measure, Cobden can also trot out senior post Landon Britt and 6-3 freshman Tyler Franklin, Noah’s younger brother. It will have the size to create matchup problems all over the floor, especially if the bigger lineup can defend.
“We’ve got a good core, and we’ve had a good summer and preseason,” Wheeler said.
Can that add up to championships? An SEC title would be newsworthy, particularly given the fact that Meridian has lost only one conference game in 10 years. Cracking the Bobcats’ code might be the impetus the Appleknockers need to produce a postseason run that might put their team picture in their locker room 50 years from now.
“It would be huge for our school and community,” Wheeler said.