Return to State Hoop Final Would Suit Rudolph Just Fine

KEN HAMWEY, Staff Sports Writer
Jack Rudolph has the leadership qualities that make him a top-notch captain for Franklin boys’ basketball.
Issue Date: 
February, 2020
Article Body: 

Jack Rudolph knows what it’s like to be one victory away from winning a state championship.
As a sophomore, the 5-foot-10 guard was a reserve on the Franklin High boys’ basketball team that lost in the state title game to Mansfield in 2018. The defeat stung then, but as Rudolph reflects on that matchup, he still rates that situation as one of his top thrills in his three-year varsity career.
“I was part of a team that got to the state final,’’ Rudolph recalled. “It really was a cool experience. We played at the Mass. Mutual Center in Springfield. The team stayed at a hotel and the MIAA hosted a banquet the night before we played. It was memorable.’’
What will surpass that experience and be more memorable is a return to the final that concludes with the Panthers winning.
“I definitely would like to return and win it,’’ said Rudolph. “It would be an incredible way to end my senior year.’’
When this season began, Rudolph had three team goals — to improve daily, win the Kelly-Rex Division title and go deep in the playoffs. “Those objectives are realistic, because our core group is strong (seven seniors) and talented,’’ he emphasized. “And, our team chemistry and experience are very good.’’
Rudolph’s personal goals reveal why he’s a captain. Instead of aiming for Hockomock League all-star status or desiring to enhance his points and assists averages, Rudolph merely wants “to be the best captain I can be and provide energy or a spark when needed.’’
Color Jack Rudolph a purebred team player.
“Jack is a model citizen and a great leader,’’ said Franklin coach CJ Neely. “He’s a leader by example, but he’s also communicative. The glue to our team, Jack can play both guard positions, he’s dependable, and he’s a good ball-handler who’s instinctive. His court awareness is solid, and he’s a terrific defender.’’
A veteran of club basketball, Rudolph prefers playing the point rather than being on the wing. “A point guard controls the tempo and organizes the offensive attack,’’ he noted. “I like setting up the plays and helping with our spacing.’’
Rudolph blends patience with an aggressive nature, but it depends on whether he’s on offense or defense. “I’m definitely aggressive on defense,’’ he offered. “I value pressuring the ball and creating an atmosphere where an opponent is uncomfortable. On offense, I’m patient and I trust our motion (passing, screening and cutting).’’
A coachable competitor who’s got a high basketball IQ, Rudolph can shoot with the best. At Local Town Pages deadline, the Panthers were 8-1 and he was averaging 10.6 points, 3.4 assists and 1 steal a game.
I’m a catch and shoot scorer,’’ Rudolph said. “And, I’d rate my best shot a three-pointer. “My most prolific game was last year against Mansfield. I scored 21 points and connected on six three-pointers. Unfortunately, we lost in overtime.’’
Rudolph, who was Franklin’s goalie in soccer, also was a captain last fall when the Panthers qualified for tourney play. Honored to be a captain in basketball, he’s demonstrated leadership by example and a will to be supportive. “I grew up watching Franklin High play basketball, and to be a captain is a special responsibility,’’ he emphasized.
A National Honor Society student, Rudolph is quick to cite teammates for their contributions. His fellow captains — Chris Edgehill and Tom Gasbarro — get high praise.
“Chris is very talented, the driving force of our offense,’’ Rudolph said. “He started halfway through his freshman year and compiled 1,000 points after his junior season. Tom is a natural competitor. He’s big, tough in the paint, a strong rebounder and a good defender.’’
Rudolph also is a fan of his coach, who guided Franklin to state final appearances in 2017 and 2018. “Coach Neely is a great motivator,’’ Rudolph said. “He’s built pride in the program. He knows the game, and he stresses valuable life lessons through basketball.’’
Rudolph, a member of the Student Government committee, is planning on majoring in biology in college and may settle on a career in medicine. He’s considering Worcester Polytech and Union. “I would like to play basketball in college,’’ he said.
Rudolph’s philosophy of competing focuses on winning, reaching his potential and enjoying athletics.
“If I’m improving, giving 100 percent and having fun, then winning will be the by-product,’’ he emphasized. “And, sports can teach life lessons, like being a leader. I’ve also learned to be resilient, to dig deep and persevere through difficulties.’’
Rudolph is a fan of former Celtics’ guard Isaiah Thomas. “He’s small, like me, but he doesn’t let his lack of size be a negative,’’ Rudolph said.
A negative that Rudolph has put in his rear-view mirror is last year’s early exit in the playoffs. Franklin had a bye, then lost to Algonquin in its opener.
“This year I’d like to win the division, then start fresh in the tourney and go deep,’’ Rudolph offered.
A second state tourney appearance for Rudolph would be a big plus. And, instead of getting just a few minutes at the end of the title game as he did two years ago, he’d be a prime-time contributor this time around.
That’s a pressure situation Jack Rudolph would welcome.