Veteran performance

MILL CREEK — Unless you already know him or closely inspect his team’s roster, there’s no way you’d guess Jason Todd is a freshman.

Based purely on statistics, Todd fits the mold of an effective upperclassman, not a fresh-faced frosh: The 6-foot-5 forward averages 9.5 points, 9.6 reboun

ds and 3.5 assists per game for the state-ranked Jackson High School boys basketball team.

Before the 2010-2011 season began, Jackson coach Steve Johnson said Todd would contribute immediately, though not necessarily as a starter. But after quickly earning a spot in the Timberwolves’ starting five, Todd has been a crucial part of Jackson’s return to the Tacoma Dome.

The Class 4A state runner-up last year, Jackson (22-2) earned its second consecutive trip to the T-Dome and plays A.C. Davis (20-4) of Yakima in a quarterfinal contest at 9 a.m. Thursday.

“I’ve always seen what he can do,” Jackson guard Brett Kingma said of Jason Todd. Kingma’s best friend is 2010 Jackson graduate Ryan Todd, Jason’s brother, who along with Kingma helped the T-wolves surprise many by roaring to the 2010 title game.

“Last year when we made it all the way, we were kind of thinking, ‘We could have used Jason for another big guy and depth.’” Kingma said.

At the time, it was just wishful thinking, but this season it’s reality — a dream come true for Jason Todd.

“That was always the goal,” he said of advancing to the T-Dome, where he watched his brother, a guard, compete a year ago. “Seeing him play and just seeing how excited he was after every game and getting a big hug from him — I always wanted that experience, and it’s happening Thursday.”

Many of Todd’s best performances have come during the playoffs. In Jackson’s most recent win, the powerful, cerebral freshman had a double-double (18 points, 13 rebounds) in the T-wolves’ 70-67 come-from-behind triumph over Auburn on Friday.

“He has been very, very good — quite remarkable,” coach Johnson said.

Early in the fourth quarter, Jackson was behind by 10 points. But the relentless Todd erupted in the paint, scoring three close-range baskets during a spurt that got his team back in it.

“I definitely like how hard Jason plays,” Jackson senior guard Chima Acholonu said. “He goes after almost every loose ball and he’s willing to score whenever he needs to, and he’s really tough for a freshman.”

Even last school year as an eighth-grader, it was clear Todd would be a potent force in high school, said Jackson’s Mason Gilchrist, a senior wing. From Day 1 of practice this past November, Todd was confident and effective.

“He was off to the horse races right away,” Gilchrist said. “He’s a monster.”

Jackson’s No. 3 scorer behind the University of Oregon-bound Kingma (30 points per game) and 6-4 senior forward Austin O’Keefe (17.5 ppg), Todd is an unusual big man because of his versatility and passing skills. He leads the team in rebounds, is essentially tied with Kingma for the team lead in assists and sometimes guards the opponent’s best offensive player, regardless of position.

“He’s got perimeter skills with the passing, obviously, and he can play inside and battle and rebound in a crowd,” Johnson said.

“Jason kind of can play almost any position,” Acholonu said, “because he can dribble and handle the ball if we need him to. He can pass the ball; he sees the floor well.”

When he’s not on the hardcourt, the multi-talented Todd is often outdoors on the diamond. He’s a promising pitcher/outfielder who played on the Mill Creek Little League All Star team that played in the 2008 Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.

Since Jackson’s basketball team advanced to the 4A quarterfinals, Todd is missing the first week of his first high school baseball season. But Todd, who said his interest in the two sports is generally equal, is clearly zoned in on hoops at the moment.

“It kind of depends on the time of the year, but right now my focus is basketball. It’s my only focus,” Todd said. “Once baseball comes, I’ll take care of that. But right now it’s basketball on Thursday. That’s all I’m worried about.”

Mike Cane: mcane@heraldnet.com. Check out the prep sports blog Double Team at www.heraldnet.com/doubleteam and follow Cane on Twitter at MikeCaneHerald.

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