In basketball, height is paramount. And Olympia High School sophomore Jackson Grant has plenty of it.
Grant, at 16 years old, is already 6 feet, 9 inches. His coach, John Kiley, said doctors think he may grow even more.
Kiley said he has been coaching Grant since the sophomore was in elementary school. From the beginning, Kiley said Grant was a great athlete. And, it was Grant’s eighth-grade year when Kiley knew that something special was in the works.
“I think the sky is the limit,” Kiley said. “If he wants to play college basketball and is given that opportunity and he stays healthy, he’ll play college basketball.
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“At what level, it depends on how much work he decides to put in and how much he grows. If he grows significantly in terms of all of his skills, I’m not going to put a ceiling on him. Because he’s that talented.”
The natural athletic ability is why Kiley is so high on Grant. Even as the growth spurt exploded, Kiley said Grant’s athleticism didn’t diminish.
Grant is the prototypical stretch-four position that suits the modern era of basketball. At nearly seven feet tall, he’s long and athletic — which makes him powerful on defense — but he can also pull up and shoot. Grant’s frame is slim, but that doesn’t deter him from playing in the post.
For Grant, Division I basketball is the goal. Programs like Washington, Washington State, Pepperdine and Eastern Washington reportedly have interest in the 2021 prospect.
Grant slides in as the power forward in the starting lineup, which Kiley said will feature variations throughout the season. Other main contributors include senior point guard Dylan Sawyer, senior forward Drew Thompson and junior guards Ethan Gahm and Kai Johnson.
Kiley also expects 6-5 senior forward Andrew Lindsay, who has been hampered by injuries, to make an impact for the Bears this season.
Movement and pace are staples of Kiley’s offensive philosophy. Defense is a mix. Man defense is the first option, while the preferred zone defense is a 2-3.
The Bears (5-2) are coming off a 15-11 season, finishing in fourth place in the 4A SPSL, but have already picked up a key road win over four-time defending league champion Curtis this season. Gahm recorded a game-leading 21 points in the win.
The win has Olympia optimistic as 4A SPSL play begins to ramp up, and the Bears are looking to end a state-playoff drought that dates back to 2011.
“It convinced them that we’re on the right track,” Kiley said. “That the work that they’re putting in translates. To beat a really good program like (Curtis) on the road, even if that’s not their best game of the year, it still is really a tough place to win.
“For us, it was just a great barometer that at least we’re trending. We know that if we don’t get better — and a lot better — between now and later, we’re not going to go very far. This league, this district, this state, is loaded.”