Lakewood High School boys basketball coach Anthony Wiederkehr isn’t the least bit upset that he’s no longer the program’s all-time leading scorer.
Wiederkehr was more than happy to relinquish that honor to his four-year starting point guard.
During a magnificent all-around performance last Friday night, Lakewood senior Alex Jensen surpassed his coach and broke the school’s career scoring record with a third-quarter basket against Mount Baker.
Wiederkehr immediately called a timeout after the record-breaking bucket, allowing the public-address announcer to share the news and the crowd to give Jensen a standing ovation.
“It was awesome,” said Wiederkehr, a 2006 Lakewood graduate and former Western Washington University player whose school record of 1,104 points stood for 14 years. “I got chills. It’s honestly an honor for him to pass me and to be able to coach him. I couldn’t have picked a better person to break that record. … His character is unparalleled to any player I have ever coached.”
Jensen reacted to the milestone by walking to the sideline and giving Wiederkehr a hug.
“Having it be my coach that I was (passing),” Jensen said, “that was pretty special.”
Not one to bask in the limelight, Jensen handled the moment with his usual humility. After embracing his coach, the four-year team captain simply entered the team huddle like he would for any other timeout.
“It was one of those moments where he wanted to hide in our huddle, and I kind of shoved him out to the halfcourt line and told him to go stand out there and at least wave at everybody,” Wiederkehr said with a laugh. “He just doesn’t like the recognition.”
In a remarkable confluence of events, the career scoring mark wasn’t the only school record Jensen broke that night. Just minutes prior, the 6-foot-1 point guard also broke the school’s career steals mark.
It was all part of a massive performance for Jensen, who posted a season-high 31 points, six assists, five rebounds, four steals and no turnovers while leading Lakewood to an 88-72 win.
Over his four-year high school career, Jensen has averaged 14.5 points, 3.3 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game as a true all-around player. He’s totaled 1,128 career points and 181 career steals.
“He does everything,” Wiederkehr said. “He really does. … (And) he scores in all three areas. He’s great at finishing around the hoop, he’s got a great mid-range pull-up and also scores from 3. Just really does it all.
“He’s the smartest player I’ve ever coached,” Wiederkehr added. “He breaks presses by himself. We literally don’t have a press break. He can draw two defenders and then kick to the open guy.”
Yet to Wiederkehr, what stands out more than anything is Jensen’s natural leadership ability — so much so that Wiederkehr made an incredibly rare move in naming Jensen, as a freshman, to be one of his two team captains.
“I recognized right away, as a freshman, his maturity level was way beyond really any player I had in the program,” Wiederkehr said.
Jensen quickly earned his older teammates’ respect, Wiederkehr said, and went on to average a team-high 15 points per game that season.
“It’s hard when you’re (an upperclassman) playing less because of a freshman on varsity,” Wiederkehr said. “But at the same time, he just has this way of gaining respect from people through his actions. He’s the nicest kid and he leads the right way and he’s just so selfless with everything.
“I think it didn’t take longer than a couple of weeks for all of his teammates to recognize that and just immediately respect him and understand that it’s his team. And it’s been his team for four years.”
Over the course of his career, Jensen has played a major role in turning around Lakewood’s program.
The year prior to Jensen’s arrival, the Cougars went 0-14 in Cascade Conference play while suffering through their eighth losing season in nine years. But with Jensen leading the way, Lakewood has compiled a 37-22 record over the past three seasons. That includes a 16-7 mark during his sophomore year, when the Cougars finished third out of 14 teams in the ultra-tough Northwest Conference.
“He’s been a huge part of turning the program into a winning program,” Wiederkehr said.
Lakewood faced considerable adversity two-thirds of the way through last season, when in the span of days two starters quit the team and two players were suspended. Yet the very next game, Jensen responded with a career-high 33 points while carrying the Cougars to a road win over Bellingham.
“That week, there was a huge amount of just disappointment and stress and frustration,” Wiederkehr said. “And the next game, faced with all this adversity, he played his best game of the year and literally carried us to that victory. And it just kind of paints a picture of who he is — the type of guy that when he’s challenged the most, he’s at his best.”
Jensen has averaged 16 points, four assists, four rebounds and 2.5 steals per game this season, leading Lakewood to an 8-5 start and a 5-1 mark in the Northwest Conference. The Cougars have won five straight games, averaging a whopping 84.6 points in those contests.
Even with his growing list of accolades, however, Jensen has always kept his humble demeanor. Wiederkehr pointed to how Jensen, throughout his career, has often swept the floor before practice to get rid of any dust.
“He doesn’t let the fact that he’s the best player affect his mindset,” Wiederkehr said. “He is humble and is always willing to do the smallest task. … He’s just a perfect example of doing things the right way.”
Basketball is just one area the well-rounded Jensen excels in.
He also is a talented distance runner who plans to run cross country and track in college. He was the Lakewood cross country team captain each of the past two seasons and qualified for the Class 2A state meet both years. And at last year’s 2A track and field state championships, he placed ninth in the 800 meters and was part of the Cougars’ ninth-place 4×400 relay team.
Recently featured as a “Super Kid” in The Herald, Jensen was voted Lakewood’s ASB president and is part of the Running Start program at Everett Community College. He’s on track to earn his associate’s degree by the time he graduates high school and is in the running for a full-ride leadership scholarship at Seattle University. He said he’s also considering attending the University of Portland or Gonzaga University.
“One of the most important things leadership-wise is he appeals to so many different groups of kids — from the best runners on our cross country team, to those that were brand-new, to those who struggled,” said longtime Lakewood cross country and track coach Jeff Sowards, who also is a teacher and ASB adviser.
“Everything that he does athletically or as ASB president is on the foundation of just some great character,” Sowards added. “He’s all in and he’s very intentional about what he does. … He’s not checking off things to build a resume. He’s doing it because he genuinely cares about his fellow teammates and fellow schoolmates.
“Not a lot of students in my career have come close to what he demonstrates for others.”
Wiederkehr echoed those sentiments.
“Social media and societal norms oftentimes drive high schoolers into identifying with social cliques, but Alex defies that and has friends with different backgrounds all throughout the school,” Wiederkehr said. “He possesses the rare ability to bring these groups together and lead all his peers through any activity — ranging from a high-intensity sporting event to a school assembly.
“If you’re likable and you can get along with and be respected by all kinds of different groups of people,” Wiederkehr added, “those are the rare leaders that can really go far. And he is very much that way.”