by RANDY GREGORY
It is hard to imagine what Nick Allen plans to do for an encore next year for the Rockford basketball team. In his initial foray at the varsity level, he guided the Rams all the way to the Class A Michigan High School Athletic Association’s championship game. Though the Rams fell 54-42 to Saginaw in an exciting contest that went down to the final two minutes, it was an unbelievable maiden voyage for a coach who had spent two years coaching middle school and a single season as the junior varsity coach.
“A lot of people didn’t expect us to make it that far and some might even think we were lucky,” said Allen. “But having the heart to play as hard and as disciplined as we did to make it to that point is a talent of its own. I knew we would always be in games because of how hard we work defensively on a daily basis. But we moved the ball well and hit open shots when they presented themselves.”
Allen was also quick to point out the advantage of having both played and coached under Steve Majerle. Allen was one of a string of hard-nosed players who made his living on the defensive end in his playing days for Rockford while also leading the way at point guard.
“Steve [Majerle] built a program here that was respected throughout the state,” said Allen. “The skills he developed in his players coupled with instilling the attitude that his kids always had a chance no matter who they were playing against were invaluable. We definitely use a lot of his teachings still and they were instrumental in the play of this year’s team.”
Allen also inherited another valuable asset when he took the reins this year.
“Ryan DeKuiper is the best assistant coach I can imagine,” said Allen. “His ability to see and teach the game is incredible. To have the luxury of keeping him on the sidelines for this year was one of our biggest keys to success.”
The Rams return only one starter next year in Chad Carlson. But they return a pair of key reserves in Chase Fairchild and Kyle Short. Carlson was an All Conference and All Area performer, and Fairchild and Short really stepped up their games as the competition got tougher. Xavier Stewart is another promising athlete and Rockford also inherits a 19-1 junior varsity team that suffered their only loss in overtime.
Allen hopes that next year’s version of Rockford basketball can accomplish great things as well, while adhering to the strengths built over the course of this season.
“I feel like we made the community proud with our efforts this year,” said Allen. “I know I am proud to be the coach here and I am proud of all of our efforts. Our expectations will be high next year and we want to raise everyone’s expectations as well. Basketball is a team sport and we will continue to play and grow as a team in every facet. Our expectations should be high as long as we are willing to put in the work needed.”