While most of the top players stretch their college recruitment out until at least the start of their senior basketball season, Olympia High School standout big man Jackson Grant wrapped his up pretty quick, committing to the University of Washington last November.
A 6-foot-10 forward with the ability to light it up from the perimeter, Grant selected the Huskies over Stanford, Wisconsin, Cal and Oklahoma, among other high-profile programs.
“I’ve always been a UW fan growing up. My mom went there, so it always felt like the hometown school,” Grant said. “I always felt in the back of my mind I wanted to go there if they offered.”
Grant entered high school as the tall, skinny kid with potential. In two short seasons, he has transformed into one of the nation’s top players in the class of 2021.
He is ranked as the No. 2 junior in Washington, trailing only O’Dea’s 6-9 power forward Paolo Banchero, a five-star recruit and one of the nation’s top 5 players.
Grant is one of six players from Washington state rated four stars or higher and is listed among the top 50 players in the nation by several recruiting sites.
“It went so fast,” Grant said about his ascension in the rankings over the past summer. “I stated on the circuit and I wasn’t even playing that well. And then I started playing well and got some notice from some colleges and then USA Basketball and it really took off after that. It was crazy.”
Playing for the Washington Supreme select team, Grant’s summer consisted of four circuit tournaments playing against the country’s premier players, as well as competing in Colorado for USA Basketball.
“What’s improved about my game is my attacking,” Grant said. “I think before it was mostly a mental thing. Just knowing I can get to the rim with just one dribble and finish strong through contact. There was a little bit of self-confidence. I wasn’t sure that was my role to attack last year so I would just be a shooter from the outside or pass it. I now know I can attack the hoop and it’s a viable option for me and I do it a lot more.”
After setting the single season school record for 3-point percentage at 45 percent last year for the Bears, Grant’s increased confidence in the paint has made him a nightmare to defend.
“When he played for Supreme this summer, he was exposed to some physicality,” Olympia coach John Kiley said. “You either lean in or lean away and he leaned in. As soon as he was able to change how he played physically and started to go at people, it just clicked for him.”
So, what kind of player are the Huskies getting?
“He’s just scratching the surface,” Kiley said. “We know he can shoot. We know he can post. Now, it’s can he start to beat people off the dribble and that’s the next phase. I think he’s someone who can eventually do all of that.”
Off the court, however, Grant may be even more of a standout.
“He is a very considerate, compassionate young man,” Kiley said. “He’s a great student-athlete. He embodies that. We ask these kids to be role models and what a platform he has, and to me he embraces that. He really is a mature young man and a great ambassador for our program.”
With his college choice already decided, Grant is fully focused on getting the Bears (16-4) back to the 4A state tournament for the first time since 2011 when they finished fourth.
Olympia, which finished second in the 4A South Puget Sound League, will play Mount Rainier (13-8) in the first round of the 4A West Central/Southwest District tournament at home on February 12. The Rams, who were runner-ups of the North Puget Sound League Cascade Division, lost to Auburn Riverside (74-71) in a NPSL crossover game on February 6.
The winner of that first round match up advances to the quarterfinals, which will be held February 14 at Wilson High School in Tacoma. The top eight teams at districts secure berths into the regional round of the state tournament.
The Bears enter district play as the No. 12 team in the WIAA’s 4A RPI rankings. Top seeded Union (20-0), No. 5 Federal Way (19-3), No. 7 Auburn (19-3), No. 14 Sumner (15-5), No. 16 Puyallup (15-5), No. 18 Kentridge (15-6) and No. 20 Battle Ground (11-9) are also among the top 20 ranked teams playing at the district tournament.
Olympia will take a four-game winning streak in the postseason with each victory coming by double digits, including a 30-point beatdown of 4A SPSL champion Puyallup.
“We’re excited,” Kiley said. “This is the time of the year that you train for, you practice for and then you just get after it a little bit.”