2009-10 Preview: Jackson celebrates 25th year as Viking coach
Sept. 24, 2009
BELLINGHAM, Wash, - He's been at the helm of the Western Washington University men's basketball team for nearly a quarter-century. He's taken one team to a national semifinal, two others to national rounds of 16.
Now, as he enters his 25th season, Brad Jackson is the longest-tenured coach for any sport in Western's athletic history, which goes back to 1903. With a career record of 445-257, he ranks among the top 20 for active coaches in NCAA Division II in victories and in the top 40 in winning percentage (.634).
But even Jackson, with all he's seen in a quarter-century of coaching, labels the 2009-10 "unique" in its makeup.
The Vikings have two starters back from last year's 21-6 squad that won the school's first outright Great Northwest Athletic Conference title and reached the West Regional of the NCAA Division II National Tournament.
But that statement only partially tells the story. Not only are those two players - senior guard Morris Anderson (Federal Way) and senior forward Michael Duty (Seattle/O'Dea) - part of a group of eight letter winners returning, there are also three players back who played regularly in the 2007-08 campaign.
In all, Western has seven seniors on the team, all but one of whom has made at least eight career starts.
"It's an interesting mix," Jackson said. "We certainly have a lot of experience on paper, but it is still a team that needs to create its own identity."
Anderson was spectacular at times last season, averaging 12.6 points, 6.1 assists and 5.4 rebounds while earning GNAC Newcomer of the Year and first-team all-GNAC honors.
"He's an outstanding player, a multi-faceted, very complete player," Jackson said of Anderson. "He makes people around him play better."
Duty averaged 10.3 points and 4.5 rebounds. He had 20 points on three occasions.
"Mike brings a real presence," said Jackson. "He's physically imposing, a real competitor. He had some games last year where he was outstanding, his key to having a great year is playing with consistency."
Another returning senior is guard Harold McAllister (Vancouver/Mountain View). A three-year letter winner, he averaged 2.0 points in 23 games. As a freshman in 2006-07, he averaged 8.0 points a contest and made 14 starts.
Senior center Dave Vanderjagt (Townsville, Australia) and sophomore guard Cameron Severson (Petersburg, AK) each return after being a regular part of the rotation last season. Vanderjagt, at 7-feet the tallest player in school history, averaged 4.7 points and 3.7 rebounds. Severson averaged 5.0 points a game.
Also returning after seeing action last season are sophomore forward Rory Blanche (Ashland, OR), junior guard Anthony Wiederkehr (Lakewood) and redshirt freshman Chris Mitchell (Everson/Nooksack Valley).
Blanche played in 15 games, averaging 3.8 points while shooting 63.1 percent from the field; Wiedekehr played in 16 contests, averaging 2.9 points. Mitchell was in three contests before suffering a foot injury, and has been granted an injury hardship waiver to restore the year of eligibility.
They'll be joined by three returnees who missed last year. Senior guard Derrick Webb (Port Orchard/South Kitsap) redshirted after breaking his wrist in preseason training, and senior center Zach Bruce (Oceanside, CA) also redshirted. Webb averaged 9.0 points in 2007-08, Bruce 5.1 points and 3.1 rebounds. Back after taking a year off from school is senior guard Andrew Ready (Chicago, IL/Westinghouse), a part-time starter in 2007-08, when he averaged 7.3 points and 2.8 assists.
"Anytime somebody sits out a year, it has some impact," said Jackson. "All three guys are eager and work hard, they'll all be better. They're very familiar with the system, it's not like bringing someone in who hasn't competed at this level."
Two freshmen could make an impact quickly. Guard Jarrell Banks (Des Moines/Mount Rainier) averaged 21.7 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.1 assists to earn first team all-Seamount League honors as a high school senior. Guard Richard Woodworth (Bellevue/Newport) averaged 15.3 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.6 assists as a high school senior, earning first-team all-KingCo honors and a spot in the all-state game.
"It's a very competitive group, with a good mix of younger and older players," Jackson said. "We have the capability to play as a big team, or to be smaller and more athletic."
For Jackson, the milestone of 25 years provides an opportunity for reflection.
"The game has changed in some ways, the 3-point line was one change years ago, and we've gone through a transition at the university, moving from NAIA to NCAA Division II," said Jackson. "I hope we've created a situation in our community where people enjoy coming to games, where we represent the institution well."
He added that he views the role of the coach being one of a teacher.
"You have an opportunity to help young people meet their goals," said Jackson. "Basketball is a great forum to teach and have significant influence; you interact with a relatively small group at an intense level for an extended period of time."
The Vikings get an early start to their season this year, playing three games at the NCAA II Disney Classic at the end of October.
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