There was no way Jason Todd wasn’t going back in the game.
Hobbled by a severely sprained — and severely swollen — ankle, Todd went back to the Tacoma Dome locker room, had his ankle taped and returned to the floor in minutes. His presence helped galvanize the Jackson High School boys basketball team, so much so that the Timberwolves nearly erased a 12-point deficit in the 4A state championship game.
In part because of his grit and toughness, and in part because he led the 26-1 Timberwolves with 21.5 points and 10.8 rebounds per game, Todd is The Herald’s 2013 Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
“The greatest thing about him is he finds a way to be productive, whether it’s defense, rebounding, assists, steals, he finds a way to impact the game,” Jackson coach Steve Johnson said. “His work ethic, character, toughness, like (in the state championship), it sort of completes the package. It’s hard to measure what he’s meant to the team.”
In the final game of his junior season, Todd was running back on defense when he “caught the ankle and twisted it.” An x-ray showed no broken bones, but there was plenty of swelling.
Todd was already a well-known, highly regarded athlete before the state tournament. Playing with his injury in a game that was televised locally only added to the legend.
“There’s no way you’re going to take me out of that game,” Todd said. “Hurt ankle, whatever. I’m going to give it my all and play for my team. They deserve nothing less than my full energy. They’ve earned that. … I thought to myself you never know if you’re going to get back to the state championship. You’ve got to seize the opportunity. I took a quick breath, said a quick prayer and got back out there. I knew this was my chance to give back to my team.”
Jackson trailed Curtis 31-19 at halftime. The Timberwolves vowed to come out stronger in the second half and did just that, turning what looked like a potential rout for the Vikings into a game that went down to the final buzzer before Jackson fell, 60-56.
“For everybody, it was their last (game) of the season. We had one half, 16 minutes, to play our hearts out,” Todd said. “When you’re playing, you really don’t think about (the pain). That’s something my dad’s always preached to me. If it’s in your head, it’s going to mess with you. The adrenaline high kind of takes over that pain.”
Jason’s father, Kevin Todd, watched his son with pride. He also knew his son would continue to play hurt.
“As I told him the following day, that’s what you’re supposed to do,” Kevin Todd said in an email. “You get back up and keep moving forward. You contribute in other ways, try to help your team and see if you can’t make a run at ‘em and they did. The credit goes to Jackson, not Jason. It didn’t surprise me at all that he was going to finish that game.”
Obviously in pain, Todd repeatedly made his way up and down the court. He continued to go for rebounds and drive to the basket — once falling to the floor with a defender, causing a loud gasp in the Tacoma Dome. All the while, leaving an impression on those in attendance.
“There was a college coach in stands watching that said the way he interacted with his teammates and showed toughness and leadership was one of the best examples of intangible he’s ever seen,” Johnson said.
After the game, Todd had to be helped out of the locker room by coaches and teammates. He spent time in a wheel chair with ice wrapped around his ankle. The ride home with his family was a long one.
“That was probably one of the most painful experiences of my life,” Todd said. “For a lot of reasons.”
Kevin Todd said he’ll never forget that car ride.
“Those are the moments that bring you back to reality,” Kevin Todd said. “What I’ll also always remember is once we were in the car, (Jason’s brother) Ryan prayed with him — that was powerful stuff. The love that (sister) Ashley and Ryan brought that night was something I’ll never forget. The support from his teammates, coaches, the students that drove to Tacoma was awesome. I tried to reinforce the positive on the ride home, not the final score.”
Johnson, too, spent time immediately after the game trying to convey to Todd that he didn’t let anybody down.
“I don’t want to tell you too much, but let’s just say that Jason takes a lot of pressure on himself,” Johnson said. “He takes things very personally. And I told him that he should never, ever, ever feel like he’s let anyone down. Least of all me.”
Despite the disappointing finish, Todd said he can see many positives in a season where the Timberwolves matched the best finish in school history. The 2010 team also placed second, and that squad featured Todd’s older brother, Ryan.
“I definitely consider the season a success,” Todd said. “We did a lot of things not a lot of teams were able to do. We won our league, a district championship and made it to state. Then we got to the state championship. A season is never a failure. I’m blessed to be a part of the season I was. I give all the credit to my teammates.”
Todd couldn’t walk out of the Tacoma Dome last Sunday morning. Next year he plans to walk back in and write a different ending to the story.
“It just wasn’t meant to be and that’s fine,” Todd said. “It’s just more motivation to work hard this offseason. We’re going to push even harder than we thought we could. This year was a memorable year and we need to take all the positives and apply them to next year. Take the things that didn’t go well and work on them this offseason so that they’re better next year.
“I’ve still got one goal and hopefully next year that goal can become a reality.”
Player of the Year: Jason Todd, Jackson, Jr.
The Timberwolves wing was a steady force for perhaps the steadiest team in the state. Todd averaged 21.5 points and 10.8 rebounds per game in leading Jackson (26-1) to the Wesco 4A South title, the District 1 championship and a second-place finish at state.
Coach of the Year: Nick Brown, Arlington
Sure, the Eagles were supposed to be good, but few outside the north Snohomish County town thought they’d be this good. Led by Brown’s unflappable coaching style and appreciation for his kids and community, Arlington won the Wesco 4A North crown, was the runner-up at district, reached the state Class 4A semifinals and brought home a fifth-place trophy.
Jason Todd, Jackson, Jr.
Terry Dawn, Arlington, Sr.
Cannen Roberson, Stanwood, Sr.
Zach Pederson, Glacier Peak, Sr.
Josh Hawkinson, Shorewood, Sr.
Imaan Vicente, Kamiak, Sr.
Blake Fernandez, Mountlake Terrace, Sr.
Marquis Armstead, Mountlake Terrace, Sr.
Ramsey Rosales, Glacier Peak, Sr.
Dan Kingma, Jackson, Jr.
Coaches votes | Player of the Year
Jason Todd, Jackson, 13
Terry Dawn, Arlington, 10
Zach Pederson, Glacier Peak, 4
Josh Hawkinson, Shorewood, 3
Cannen Roberson, Stanwood, 2
Zach Taylor, Cedarcrest, 1
Fan votes | Player of the Year
Through 3 p.m. Saturday
Josh Hawkinson, Shorewood 907
Jason Todd, Jackson 769
Terry Dawn, Arlington 671
Zach Pederson, Glacier Peak 378
Zach Taylor, Cedarcrest 160
Cannen Roberson, Stanwood 151
Coaches votes | All-Area Teams
Imaan Vicente, Kamiak, 8
Blake Fernandez, Mountlake Terrace, 8
Marquis Armstead, Mountlake Terrace, 7
Greg Bowman, Mountlake Terrace, 6
Zach Taylor, 6
Ramsey Rosales, Glacier Peak, 5
Devin Stoen, Lake Stevens, 5
Devin Joseph, Edmonds-Woodway, 5
Dreu Vader, Glacier Peak, 5
Josh Thayer, Stanwood, 4
Bayek Tutlam, Mariner, 4
Dan Kingma, Jackson, 3
Travis Bakken, Edmonds-Woodway, 2
Brian Zehr, Jackson, 2
Andrew Roozen, Mount Vernon, 2
Casey Leek, Mount Vernon, 1
Jordan Corpus, Cedarcrest, 1
Brock VandenEkart, Sultan, 1
Caleb Taylor, King’s, 1
Nicota Stevenson, Monroe, 1
Loren Lacasse, Mountlake Terrace, 1