Known for his solid point guard play in the Chicago Public League White-West Conference, senior Romell Franklin, Jr., said he is looking forward to having an impact on the 2021-22 Jones College Prep IHSA basketball roster.
With the IHSA basketball season around the corner, Franklin, a tough basketball player from Chicago’s West Side, said his love for the game of basket ball stems from his days as a child.
“My earliest memories of life stem from my love for the sport,” said Franklin in an interview with the Crusader. “From as early as I can remember, there has always been a basketball in my hand. Growing up on the West Side of Chicago I played in a league called YDL (Youth Development League) at Amundsen Park. I remember countless hours in that gym working.”
Franklin said growing up, he spent most of his time in the gym watching older guys play because he was too young to participate. But once he got older, Franklin said the same gym where he grew up watching older guys play would be the same gym where he earned his stripes as a player.
And due to Franklin’s great play at the gym, he earned the nickname “Rondo.”
“It was my welcome to Chicago basketball [moment],” Franklin said.
Years following his days as a basketball player at Amundsen Park, Franklin said he also attended an elementary school on Chicago’s West Side, Skinner West.
During his time at Skinner West, Franklin said his main goal was to focus on academics along with basketball. Franklin said he was known for producing straight A’s in the classroom.
“[I have] Always been known for my amazing academics,” said Franklin. “I was a Straight A student all my years in middle school.”
After playing for a great middle school basketball program under head coach Brandon Lomax, Franklin said his success in the classroom led to him landing his number one high school choice in Jones College Prep. And after landing his number one choice, Franklin said he was prepared for his next step in life.
“My high school career has been nothing but amazing,” said Franklin to the Crusader. “And it’s sad to say [that] it’s almost over.”
Franklin said he entered Jones College Prep as a little 5’5” freshman who thought he would rule the school one day. And during his freshman season, Franklin averaged 11 points, five assists, six rebounds and two steals for the Eagles. His numbers were good enough to earn him the Freshman of the Year MVP award and a winning season.
In addition to having a successful freshman season, Franklin also remembered his sophomore year as being memorable. “My sophomore year of basketball is where I took a huge leap in my skill level,” said Franklin. “At tryouts, I remember the varsity coach pulling me to the side and telling me, ‘We are going to pull you up to varsity. You will not play, [but] you will help us fill up the varsity roster.’ ”
Thanks to encouragement from his head coach, Franklin said the comment stuck with him for the rest of the season. Franklin said not only did the comment make him work harder as a basketball player, but that anytime there was gym availability he worked harder on his game. Franklin said during that season, he was the first one in the gym and the last one to leave.
“I had to prove myself because I was 2-3 years younger than everybody else [on the team],” Franklin said. “[At the time] I was Jones’ 7th man in the rotation but that wasn’t good enough.”
Franklin said in spite of facing challenges during his sophomore season, it was a game against Lane Tech that really propelled his game.
“Our game against Lane Tech is where I earned my stripes,” said Franklin.
“[Despite an] Upsetting loss in overtime, I kept my team together with the game-tying steal and assist to send us [in]to overtime. I controlled the pace of our game and established my position on this team as a true point guard,” Franklin said
Following the game, Franklin said he was later promoted to the 6th man in the rotation. And by the end of the season, Franklin said he was named a starter for the Jones College Prep Eagles.
In addition to his sophomore season at Jones College Prep, Franklin said his junior season had a few challenges of its own. First, Franklin said, he had to have surgery from a knee injury he acquired playing summer AAU basketball. And second, the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic canceling the season.
“Junior year was a weird year for high school sports,” said Franklin. “[We were] unsure if we were going to have a season. That scared a lot of athletes. It was an upsetting time for me because there was no guarantee I would be cleared for our short season.”
In spite of the challenges he faced his junior season, Franklin used his knee injury as motivation to get healthy for his team down the stretch. Franklin said the motivation helped him complete his physical therapy two months earlier than expected. And after working hard in physical therapy, he was cleared to play for the season.
“The season was extremely weird and rushed,” said Franklin. “We finished with a winning season [that year]. I finished the season averaging 10.5 points per game, 6 assists, 3 rebounds, and 2 steals. I wished we could get that season back because it was so much more left in the tank for us.”
Now entering his senior season, Franklin said his team is now a month away from tip-off. “Now in my senior year [and] a month away from tip-off, I am fired up,” Franklin said.
“This is my third season on Varsity and my last season [as a player]. I intend to make the best of it. I have currently started applying to colleges as a business major minoring in sports medicine. I have a 4.8 GPA, and my future is looking bright. I do think I can play college basketball at the next level and I am ready to show the city what I can do this season.”
About this year’s team, Franklin believes the group has a strong, young core. He said the starting five for this season will feature seniors Jordan and Devin Boston, James Mattar, and a great upcoming sophomore in Ethan Samuels. “With a new addition to the roster [in] Makai Singleton, we hope to have a great season and open a lot of eyes,” Franklin said.
Joseph Phillips is the Sports Editor for the Chicago Crusader Newspaper. He is a Chicago native, who has been a sports writer for over 17 years. He also hosts the SC Media News and Sports Network Q&A radio show on WHPK 88.5 FM Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected].
Joseph Phillips is the Sports Editor for the Chicago Crusader Newspaper. He is a Chicago native, who has been a sports writer for over 17 years. He also hosts the SC Media News and Sports Network Q&A radio show on WHPK 88.5 FM Chicago.