NEW FRANKLIN Manchester senior guard JoJo France joined the school’s 1,000-point club earlier this month, tallying 13 points in a game against Norton to become just the ninth player in school history to reach the career milestone.
France, a two-sport standout, is coming off an outstanding season on the gridiron, leading Manchester to a Principals Athletic conference championship and an appearance in the playoffs. He is hoping to orchestrate similar success on the hardwood for the Panthers, who are seeking their first hoops league title since the 2004-05 campaign.
"It meant a lot to me, being able to reach the mark (1,000 points). There's been a lot of great players that have gone through our program … Mike Phillips, Nate Schindewolf, to name a few. Just being mentioned with those is something really special," France said.
France, a two-time first-team All-league performer, has been a fixture in the Panthers starting line-up since his freshman season starting all but one contest.
In addition to reaching the 1,000 point club, he is ninth all-time in career assists (200) and steals (94), and fourth in career 3-pointers made (153). With most of the season remaining, he has time to climb higher on the all-time list in each category.
He is less than 200 points from cracking the top five in scoring, as he trails former standout Tucker Pappas (1,208) by just 184 points.
Veteran head coach Gene Schindewolf believes that what makes France an impact player on the court is his toughness and competitive fire.
"Jo Jo (France) is a fierce competitor who hates to lose," Schindewolf said. "He's a very hard worker who has played through pain that no one knows about for two years. He's our floor general at the point guard spot."
The Panthers are off to a 1-2 start in the early going after compiling a 15-8 mark, but with a veteran squad, there is hope that they can shake off their early-season doldrums and make the long climb back to the top of the league standings.
"I feel we have a lot of potential and we're expecting a very good season," said France, who along with Van Wallbrown are co-captains of the team. "Gene (Schindewolf) took a leap of faith four years ago, playing a lot of younger players, and we finally started to turn it around last year. We would like to finish the job. There's a lot of good teams in our league, but we can compete with all of them."
In the first three games of the season, France is averaging a team-high 15 points, along three assists per game and is shooting 89 percent from the foul line. With his scoring milestone now behind him, the focus is squarely on helping Manchester capture its first league title in more than a decade.
The last time the Panthers were PAC champions, this year’s seniors weren’t even old enough to play organized youth basketball, so being able to restore the program’s championship shine is an endeavor a long time in the making.