Trio leads retooled Jackson’s Timberwolves | Basketball
Last updated 8/22/2019 at Noon
It’s next man up for the Jackson boys basketball team.
The Timberwolves’ roster is undergoing a major transition following the graduation of four all-league standouts Ben Olesen and Christian Liddell (both first team) and Kyle Bigovich and Joe Capponi (both honorable mention) from last year’s league championship team.
“We had quite a few seniors who were prominent players,” Jackson coach Steve Johnson said. “In the summer, you’re looking for guys to step into expanded roles.”
Three returning players who the Wolfpack will build around are seniors Jaylen Searles and Jesse Hoiby and junior Carter Korab. Searles and Korab both earned second-team, all-league honors.
“Jaylen, Carter and Jesse all played really well,” Johnson said. “They stepped up and showed themselves capable of assuming lead-
Hoiby handled a lot of the point guard duties last season. He’ll have plenty of help with juniors Bryston Galbert and Nick Sysum, along with sophomore Evan Bates.
“We’ve got a lot of guys who will have the chance to handle the ball,” Johnson said.
The Jackson coach was encouraged by the play of the team’s younger players throughout the summer.
“It’s a little bit of a dress rehearsal to see how the kids can handle varsity competition,” Johnson said. “Some kids answered the call.”
The Jackson girls basketball team also is dealing with significant changes after the loss of five seniors Alexa Martin, Megan Mattison, Lauren Schillberg, Olivia Skibiel and Jaelen Williams who played major roles since their freshman seasons. Wolfpack coach Corey Gibb estimated that the Timberwolves will have to replace about 90 percent of their offense.
“That’s huge,” Gibb said.
Jackson’s returning varsity players and many of the junior varsity players saw a lot of action this spring and summer.
“It was a great opportunity for the girls to learn,” Gibb said. “We brought in JV kids to get acclimated. We’re really young. It’s just a matter of getting them on the court and learning to play together.”
The Wolfpack returns sophomore guard Mackendra Konig, who saw significant time on varsity last season. Konig had the opportunity to play with the Austrian national U-16 team this summer.
“We still had tournaments and we missed her leadership, ball handling and her running the floor,” Gibb said. “It was a good opportunity for other girls to have to step up and lead.”
Konig wasn’t the only freshmen to see varsity action last season. Gibb will be looking to Riley Mekanik, Abigail Grayson and Emma Merwin to assume larger roles.
“They showed a lot of growth through the summer, not just as individuals, but as members of the team,” Gibb said.
A notable newcomer to the team is junior Jaydn Kirton, who is transferring from King’s. Many of the Timberwolves know Kirton, whose older brother Johnie was a Jackson football standout.
“She’s stepped right in,” Gibb said. “The other players have taken her in and welcomed her. She’ll be a nice addition to our program.”
Jackson also lost almost all of its height from last year. So instead of having four players 6 feet or taller, the Timberwolves won’t have any.
“I expect we will have a little more wide open game,” Gibb said. “We’ll be guard heavy.”