By David Pan Enterprise sports editor
The end of the school year and graduation earlier this month rekindled pleasant memories for Jackson boys basketball coach Steve Johnson.
The 2009-10 season definitely was a year to remember as the Timberwolves wrapped up their most successful season in school history with an appearance in state finals.
The senior class played an instrumental role in Jackson taking second place at the Class 4A state tournament.
Replacing those players, which included first-team, all-league guard Ryan Todd, is going to be a difficult task. In addition to his on-court talents, which he is taking to Seattle Pacific, Todd was a player his teammates looked up to.
“Leadership probably is the main thing in terms of Ryan Todd,” Johnson said.
The same could be said of seniors Martin Massengale, Mike Wishko and Andy Gay. Massengale and Todd were often the main ball handers and Gay, Wishko and Todd were the team’s top rebounders and defenders, Johnson said.
“The senior class paved the way,” he added. “They were just a great group. Obviously replacing them is going to be really challenging.”
The Wolfpack started that process this month as the team played in several tournaments and held its own practices.
Johnson has plenty of talent to work with, though he said that he’s not so sure people should expect Jackson to be in the state finals every year. The goal, however, is to get back to the state tournament and based on what Johnson has seen, it is a reasonable goal.
Of course, just about any team that returns senior-to-be Brett Kingma would figure to be a playoff contender.
Kingma, one of the state’s most prolific scorers, continues to impress. He averaged 40 points at the Franklin tournament helped led the Timberwolves to a seventh place finish in the 32-team tourney.
“He’s definitely an explosive offensive player,” Johnson said. “He’s taking the ball to the basket well. He’s shooting well. … Everyone expects a lot from him as he moves into his last year of high school.”
Since other teams are going to try and neutralize Kingma, Johnson was looking to develop other scorers who could take some of the pressure off of the Jackson guard.
“We do have guys who can do that,” Johnson said. “We want to develop that confidence and understanding.”
Junior Austin O’Keefe came on strong at the end of the season.
“He continues to expand his game,” Johnson said. “We’ve had kids who’ve moved up from JV and from time to time they’ve shown the ability to step into that (varsity) role. It’ll be interesting to see how they evolve.
“There is a lot of potential good competition in our program for playing time.”
Summer has been a good time for those players to see how they stack up.
“We’ve played some really tough teams,” Johnson said. “A lot of players have gotten the chance to see a lot of action. … We’ve given a lot of people exposure to some pretty high level competition. Hopefully, they’ll get better as a result.”