Jackson basketball coach Steve Johnson has run out of words to describe Timberwolves standout Jason Todd.
And Johnson is an English teacher.
“(I) like to think I have a good vocabulary, but it’s tough to come up with new superlatives.” Johnson said. “He’s just such a great role model, not just for the team, but for the little guys growing up.”
Todd, a four-year varsity starter, completed his stellar high school basketball career last weekend by helping the Timberwolves (25-2) place fourth in the Class 4A state tournament. In his senior season, Todd averaged 17.2 points and 10.5 rebounds per game.
For his efforts, Todd has been named The Herald’s Boys Basketball Player of the Year for the second straight season. He was a near unanimous choice in voting by area coaches.
“My job every night was to go out and give my teammates and coaches everything I had,” Todd said. “I was fortunate that led to a lot of wins. I hope that I can be a part of a rich tradition at Jackson. Guys before me set the bar, I tried to continue that and I know the guys after me will keep it up.”
Todd will continue his basketball career at the University of Portland, a member of the West Coast Conference. He committed to the Pilots in September then turned his focus and energy toward getting Jackson back to the state tournament.
The Timberwolves finished second at state in 2013 and, with 10 seniors on the roster, entered the 2013-14 season with high expectations.
Those expectations only increased when Jackson won the the prestigious MaxPreps Holiday Classic Tournament in Palm Springs, Calif., in December. Todd was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player as the Timberwolves posted a 4-0 record.
By the time the state tournament rolled around, Jackson was one of the favorites to win the 4A title.
That goal got derailed in the quarterfinals, with Jackson dropping a 56-44 decision to Issaquah. The Timberwolves, who have been to the Tacoma Dome five years in a row, rebounded from the tough loss with back-to-back wins over Kentridge — in overtime — and Gonzaga Prep.
The fourth-place finish left Todd and his teammates with conflicting emotions.
“I wouldn’t say satisfied. I don’t think I’m ever satisfied until I win it all,” Todd said. “That’s kind of who I am and how Jackson is. … Sure we would have liked to win a state championship, but at the same time, fourth in the state is pretty good. It’s pretty incredible.”
A few days removed from his final high school game, Todd looked back on the experience and found some positives in the Timberwolves’ 2014 finish. There was one major difference from the previous season, which ended with a 60-56 loss to Curtis in the 4A title game.
“Last year we lost our last game and that was a bitter taste in our mouths,” Todd said. “We wanted to win that last game this year and have it be for a state championship, but that wasn’t meant to be. … Going out of your high school career with a win is pretty special and not something a lot of kids get to do.”
The Monday after the state tournament, Todd took a rare day off as he tried to get used to the thought of never wearing a Jackson jersey again.
“It really started to sink in (Monday),” he said. “I didn’t have practice after school. It was surreal. It was like ‘I’m done.’ But I’m really happy with everything that transpired. I gave it my all. It’s part of the reality that you’re not going to play high school basketball forever.”
There are a few people who are glad to see Todd move on.
“I’ll be happy to see him go. But I tell you what, he’s a good kid and he’s a great competitor,” said Arlington head coach Nick Brown, whose Eagles lost to Jackson in back-to-back district title games as well as in a 4A state semifinal last season. “He’s one of the kids where after he beat us in the district championship, he came up and talked to us and that meant a lot to me.
“I got frustrated coaching against him, but he’s always classy.”
Despite the gaudy numbers, one of the hallmark’s of Todd’s career was his unselfishness. Even into his senior season, he had to be encouraged to shoot more, Johnson said.
“I think he’s very humble and very appreciative of the opportunity to be successful,” Johnson said. “I think he’s appreciative of those that have helped him become successful. I think in that regard, it’s really sincere. He’s had some good role models in his parents and his older sister and brother. He’s a product, I think, of some great role models and great people that have been around him.”
Todd has been a vocal leader for the Timberwolves since his sophomore season, Johnson said, which makes it even harder to lose the senior.
“I have just tremendous respect for the kid and appreciation of what he’s done for the program,” Johnson said. “He’s very deserving of all the accolades and success he’s won. I’m going to miss the hell out of him.”
While Todd said he was fortunate enough to play in many high-profile games, he considers himself lucky to get to play the game he loves with some those closest to him.
That, he said, is what he’ll miss most.
“It was just awesome,” Todd said. “It was the time of my life. Going out with all your buddies that you’ve grown up with is not something that a lot of people get to do. Playing for Jackson is one of the best things I could’ve done. I wouldn’t want to play for — or with — anyone else.”