Jordan Rawls’ star continues to rise for Allegheny men’s basketball
Jordan Rawls’ affinity for basketball came naturally: His father, Dwayne, was an all-Atlantic 10 second-teamer at Duquesne in 1986. As a tribute to that influence, Jordan wears his father’s No. 50 at Allegheny.
The way the younger Rawls is playing, he will match his father’s all-conference honor, too.
Rawls, a 6-foot-6 junior forward from Allderdice, is having his best season for the Gators (8-12, 4-10 North Coast Athletic Conference), averaging 17.3 points and 7.7 rebounds, both top-five numbers in the NCAC. And he has had his best games against the toughest competition.
Against Wooster, the current No. 9 team in Division III, on Jan. 23, Rawls had a season-high 33 points on 11-of-15 shooting. The following game, against then-No. 24 Wittenberg, he had 17 points and 12 rebounds.
Rawls wasn’t done. On Feb. 1 against No. 14 Wabash, he shot 8 of 10 from the field and 12 of 14 at the free-throw line for 31 points — 22 in the second half — in an 80-68 victory, the Gators’ first win over a ranked team since 2007.
He followed that with 21 points and eight rebounds against DePauw. That, combined with his effort against Wabash, earned him NCAC Player of the Week honors.
These types of numbers aren’t an anomaly but rather part of a trend: Since the end of December, Rawls has raised his scoring average nearly five points.
“First and foremost, I credit my teammates for getting me the open shots and open looks,” Rawls said, singling out guard Billy Urso (Fox Chapel) as someone with whom he has developed a strong on-court rapport. “But it’s just me coming out and being aggressive. Coach always talks about throwing the first punch.”
His coach, Bob Simmons, might be a bit biased, but he said he believes Rawls is the best player in is a very good conference. The NCAC has had as many as three teams ranked in the top 25 this season.
“He’s our most talented player and our hardest worker,” Simmons said. “He’s the first guy in the gym every practice. He wants to be the best, and he works at it.
“He doesn’t take a lot of shots to get his numbers. He’s probably one of the most efficient players I have coached in 23 years.”
Rawls said he picked up a few other qualities from his father, namely his work ethic, having the right attitude and being a good teammate. He also tries to live up to his father’s reputation as an aggressive rebounder, although he admits to falling short in that area sometimes.
Simmons, too, said he would like to see Rawls’ rebound numbers increase. He also has been encouraging Rawls to improve his face-up ability so he can add a mid-range game to complement his catch-and-shoot and driving abilities.
“I’m playing pretty good basketball right now,” Rawls said, “but there’s always room for improvements, and if I make them, there’s room for better basketball.”
Earlier this season, Rawls scored his 1,000th career point, and, if he maintains his scoring consistency — he averaged 14.8 and 16.6 points his first two seasons — he has a chance to finish as the Gators’ all-time leading scorer. Though he said it would be a great accomplishment, he is more concerned about winning, something the Gators will need to do down the stretch.
Though Allegheny is just 4-10 in the conference, it holds the eighth and final seed for the NCAC Tournament and controls its own destiny with four regular-season games to go. If Rawls continues his torrid play, the Gators could be a tough out.
“I’d like to think we can beat any team in the conference,” he said. “I think we proved that when we beat Wabash the way we did. I just need to take it game-by-game and make sure I’m locked in.”
Chuck Curti is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chuck at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @CCurti_Trib.
Chuck Curti is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chuck by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .