Hair-raising Hoopster

Headbands are flying off the shelves in Mill Creek.

It’s all because of one young man’s unusual fashion sense and mesmerizing athletic ability.

Jamie Eisinger turned heads for donning a head band and sporting an unruly hairdo this season, but the point guard from Jackson High School made a bigger impression with his array of eye-crossing offensive moves and dozens of how’d-he-do-that passes.

One of the flashiest, quickest guards to compete in the Western Conference in recent years, Eisinger endured an incredible load as a senior to help Jackson overcome key setbacks and win its second straight league title.

For a season in which Eisinger juiced up his performance – averaging 21.1 points, 5.3 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 3.5 steals – he is The Herald’s 2006-2007 All-Area Boys Basketball Player of the Year.

Headbands have been popping up on the heads of kids in Mill Creek’s youth basketball league, Jackson coach Steve Johnson said. Johnson knows why the youngsters emulate the 5-foot-11 senior.

“He’s definitely a fun kid to be around. He’s been a great face for our program,” said Johnson. “Kids that come to (Jackson) camps, they all want to be like Jamie.”

This year, Jamie tried to be like Drew.

Drew Eisinger, Jamie’s older brother, was The Herald’s Player of the Year last season. Drew’s graduation left Jackson with a scoring void of 19.6 points per game. But Jamie filled it, and then some. After averaging 12.6 points as a junior, Jamie increased his scoring average by 8.5 points while maintaining his knack for finding open teammates.

“Personally, I’d rather get 10 assists than 25 points … I’m more that kind of guy,” said Jamie.

He actually managed to excel in both aspects.

Learning to play without Drew was difficult, Jamie said – “It was weird. It didn’t feel normal.” But at least Jamie knew that would be a reality going into the season. He had no idea, however, that three Jackson starters would miss significant time for violating district athletic rules, and that two of the starters would be completely removed from the team and miss the final six-plus weeks.

“It was tough. I think that he felt, to some degree, let down a little bit, and so to overcome that disappointment … it was draining,” Johnson said. “I think it showed his toughness to not let that bother him.”

Some observers figured after the player dismissals that Jackson would crumble and fail to reach the playoffs. But Eisinger’s leadership helped the Timberwolves win a league title and two district tourney games. They fell one victory short of a state tourney appearance.

Over Jackson’s final 11 games, Eisinger averaged 23.6 points, guiding a reworked squad that included several players who competed on the junior varsity team the first half of the season.

“He became more of a leader,” said Johnson. “He had always deferred to his brother until this year, always worked hard and led by example, but this year he was more verbal, especially with all the chaos we had.”

Statistically, Eisinger led Jackson in points, assists and steals. Despite his relative lack of height, he was No. 2 in rebounds.

Eisinger’s speed and quickness made him unique, but his brawn helped as well, Johnson said: “He’s definitely got another gear, as they say, that oftentimes kids don’t have. That definitely was his main strength. He’s a really strong player, too. People don’t knock him off the ball and can’t take it from him.”

Maybe it was the hair. Eisinger started growing it in the summer and didn’t cut it until after the season ended, leading Johnson to speculate that Eisinger now weighs five pounds less.

Eisinger hopes to play in college and has received interest from several Big Sky Conference schools. He’d like to once again team up with his brother, who spent the past season competing for Western Reserve Academy, a private prep school in Hudson, Ohio.

“That would be tight,” said Jamie, who said he’s always been his brother’s sidekick.

This season, Jamie turned into a leading man.

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