It’s easy to see why Ryan Todd and Brett Kingma had idealistic expectations.
A few years ago they watched their sisters, Ashley Todd and Kristi Kingma, help lead the Jackson High School girls basketball team to new heights, including three straight state tournament appearances before Ashley and Kristi graduated in 2008.
The boys expected to achieve similar success. But for a variety of reasons — including strong local competition and a major injury last season — it hasn’t turned out that way.
With one more winter together in the Jackson High boys basketball team backcourt, Ryan Todd and Brett Kingma are determined to make a long-awaited trip to the Tacoma Dome as players, not spectators.
“There’s no way that I’m going to go four years playing Jackson basketball without reaching Tacoma” for the Class 4A state championships, Todd said.
“It kind of set a standard, almost,” Kingma said of his and Todd’s sisters’ state streak. “So us not getting there last (season) and then the year before being the first time we played together in high school, it kind of felt like we didn’t accomplish what we wanted to.”
Besides being highly recruited guards — Todd, a senior, already signed with Seattle Pacific University and Kingma, a junior, has offers from several Division-I programs — the two are longtime best friends.
They met before kindergarten after their older sisters became best pals. The families were neighbors in Mill Creek. Later, the families moved but ended up near each other again. The boys bonded during summer stays at Lake Chelan.
“That was the relationship. We were best friends from the beginning,” Todd said.
Due to their age difference, Todd and Kingma didn’t play much together until 2007-08, Kingma’s freshman season at Jackson. They both started and helped guide the Timberwolves to districts.
They expected last season to be the big breakthrough.
But after a promising start, Kingma broke his left arm when he was fouled during a drive to the basket and crashed to the floor in a game against Lynnwood. Kingma, who was leading the Western Conference South Division in scoring average, missed 15 games. Todd stepped up and had a stellar all-around season (19.9 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.8 steals per game), earning all-league first team honors and leading Jackson back to districts.
Kingma returned earlier than expected from the injury and played at districts, but Jackson was eliminated and failed to earn its first state appearance since 2006.
“This is what we’re practicing for. This is what we’re giving up time and energy and effort (for), to reach that goal,” Todd said of this season.
In terms of guard talent, Jackson’s duo is up there with any team in the state. Glacier Peak basketball coach Brian Hunter said, “I’m not sure who has a better backcourt around, even if you talk Seattle and Tacoma.”
Glacier Peak, which has solid guards as well, and Meadowdale (both 3A schools) are expected to challenge 4A Jackson in the South this winter. All three teams are included in the Tacoma News Tribune’s preseason top-10 rankings (Jackson No. 7 in 4A; Glacier Peak and Meadowdale No. 7 and No. 8 in 3A, respectively).
Todd and Kingma are excited about their supporting cast, which includes experienced returners like forwards Mike Wishko (6-foot-4 junior), Andy Gay (6-5 senior) and Austin O’Keefe (6-4 junior), and senior guard Brandon Rucker (senior). The T-wolves also added quick guard Marshall Massengale, a transfer from O’Dea.
“I’m just looking forward to having all of our guys together and seeing how we can start and grow and develop as the season goes along,” Jackson coach Steve Johnson said.
In District 1, three 4A teams will advance to state. Besides its South foes, Jackson must watch out for Wesco North teams Lake Stevens, Stanwood and Snohomish, based on the North coaches’ preseason predictions.
Stanwood has a potent inside-outside pair: post Zack Johnson and wing Kale Schmidt. The seniors both earned all-league first team honors last season and helped the Spartans beat Jackson in districts for the second straight year.
“That’s a unique deal,” Johnson, said of Stanwood’s combo. “You’ve got a really strong inside presence in Johnson and a really athletic outside shooter in Schmidt.”
An interesting wrinkle for all boys hoops teams in Washington this winter is the addition of a shot clock. This past April, school athletic directors overwhelmingly approved adding a 35-second shot clock. It’s new for boys hoops in this state, but girls basketball players in Washington have used a shot clock since the 1970s.
It might speed up the pace of play for some teams and it will certainly affect coaches’ end-of-quarter strategy. The shot clock can only help up-tempo Jackson, Todd and Kingma agreed.
“Teams know what we like to do,” said Kingma, “and so I think the shot clock will only benefit us and play to our strengths.”
Meanwhile, a different clock is ticking, counting down Todd and Kingma’s final run together.
“This will be my last year here,” said Todd, “so when you succeed you want to do it with the people you care about. This year could be a very special year for not only Jackson but just kind of us two (Todd and Kingma) as a way of showing our friendship.”
Mike Cane writes for The Herald in Everett.