BY DEAN HOCKNEY
MUNCIE, Ind. – Ask any athlete who has played in one of Indiana’s North-South All-Star games, no matter the sport, and they will tell you what an honor it is to participate. After Sunday’s double-header at the Muncie Fieldhouse, count Kokomo’s D.J. Balentine and Western’s Nicole Rogers in that group. Both seniors represented Howard County in the 2012 North-South Indiana All-Star Basketball Classic, sponsored by Hoosier Basketball Magazine.
“It really is a honor to play with the best-of-the-best in Indiana one last time,” said Rogers, who has a pair of smaller all-star games left before joining the IUPUI Jaguars this fall. “A lot of us have played together, so it was really fun. What a way to close out your senior year before we all go to college.”
Rogers played for the North squad with Indiana Miss Basketball Jessica Rupright, a 6-2 center from Norwell. Unfortunately, the pair could not carry the load and the North fell to the South 87-79. But she did enjoy her first trip to the historic Fieldhouse.
“I like the older gym atmosphere, and this place is very nice,” she said. “The atmosphere is more fun; it seems louder. I love the history and there have been a lot of great players who have played here.”
Rogers struggled in the first half, missing both shots she took – although she appeared to get fouled on her second attempt. But in the second half, she knocked down two shots – including one of her deadly 3-pointers, to finish with five points. She also grabbed two offensive rebounds and a defensive board.
“You have to work hard in this kind of game to get our position because everyone is the best from their team,” Rogers said.
Balentine also was on the losing end of the scoreboard as his North team fell to a very fast South squad 116-102.
“Hey, we had a blast all weekend and it is just an honor to be here,” said Balentine, who once again donned his bright orange shoes. “
The University of Evansville recruit started for the North team and scored an early 3-pointer. A few minutes later, he led a North fast break and brought the crowd to its feet with a two-handed slam dunk.
“The shot felt very good,” said Balentine. “And yes, I even got that little dunk in there – that was fun.”
Balentine finished the game with 13 points, one rebound and one assist in nearly 20 minutes of play. The Wildkat senior still has a few games left in his high school career – a pair of games against the Indiana Junior All-Star squad, a pair of games against the Kentucky All-Star team as a member of the Indiana All-Star Team, and another classic on June 16. He then heads to Evansville to lace up his orange Nike’s as a member of the Purple Aces.
“I am excited to play for the Indiana All-Stars next,” he said. “That is going to really cap my career.”
And what a pair of careers Balentine and Rogers have had. They have represented their schools and Howard County very well – and they are not quite done yet.