As Timberline moves on in the state Class 4A boys basketball playoffs, the players and their coach talk about growth — as players, people and team — and they talk about leadership.
The leader they talk about right now is Jarryn Bush, a senior post for the Blazers.
Bush, a second-team all-area selection at linebacker, will play football this fall for Central Washington University. Most of his senior basketball season was typically solid: about nine points a game, his team’s leading rebounder and tough as leather.
As the Blazers have turned the page to the postseason, however, the intangibles Bush brought have turned expressly tangible. In a six-game stretch beginning with the Blazers’ last regular-season game (an overtime loss to Olympia), Bush has averaged 21 points per game on 58 percent shooting from the field.
Part of his late-season surge is an evolution in the Timberline offense that’s meant looking inside more often to Bush and his 6-foot-8 cousin, junior Jaelen Bush.
And part of it, said Timberline coach Allen Thomas, is a senior stepping forward.
“I think a light bulb has turned on for him,” Thomas said. “He was trying to just bring a lot of leadership — how he practiced, how he communicated with guys on the court.”
Most of Timberline’s scoring production during the regular season came from backcourt players like Erik Stevenson and Austin Curry.
“(Bush) was kind of sitting back, doing little things besides scoring to help us win,” Thomas said. “That shows how unselfish he really is.”
Bush himself talks first about his team’s emergence — four victories in five postseason games heading into a 10 a.m. state regional matchup Saturday at Bellevue College against KingCo Conference champion Issaquah.
“We finally figured it out,” Bush said of the Blazers, now 16-8. “It’s pretty much that if we share the basketball and play defense we’re unbeatable.”
As for his enhanced scoring lately, he said: “At the beginning of the year, the ball just wasn’t falling for me. Now that it’s playoffs, all right, I have to step up my game and do it for my teammates.”
Though he’s on the short side for a high school post player — 6-3 on a good day, his coach says — he has a set of skills that serve him anywhere on the court.
Thomas couldn’t recall Bush shooting from beyond the 3-point arc all season, but in a win that knocked Olympia out of the playoffs and again last Saturday against Kentridge, he knocked down multiple treys.
“He can play above the rim, he can pick and roll, he can pick and pop, he can run and finish the fast break,” Thomas said. “He’s like a Swiss Army knife — he can do a lot of things.”
Cousin Jaelen, the teammate who knows Jarryn best, said his leadership came to the fore this year when the guy he knew as a hothead growing up kept his temper in check. Jarryn acknowledges he might have racked up double figures in technical fouls over the two previous seasons. This year — zero.
“It’s so valuable to have someone you can count on, who even if he doesn’t make the big shot he’s willing to take it,” Thomas said. “To be willing to make a pass to teammates, to trust his teammates, and he’ll do that, too.”