Bound for Glory

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Jackson Grant’s McDonald’s All American Games award.

Zack Hayes , Journalist

By Zack Hayes

On February 23, Jackson Grant, a senior at OHS, became one of 48 basketball players in the nation to join the McDonald’s All American Games Class of 2021. Grant is a 6-foot 10-inch center for the Olympia Bears who helped lead the team to a fourth-place finish at State last spring. He plans to attend and play basketball at the University of Washington in the fall.

In a typical year, the 24 male and 24 female athletes selected from across American high schools for this prestigious award get to play two games at a large basketball arena. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the awards are being held virtually this year. “I was literally shaking,” said John Kiley, Olympia High School Boys Varsity coach. Coach Kiley has been coaching at Oly for years and has coached Grant since he was in fourth grade. “A reporter from the News Tribune called me the morning of the announcement. We kept it a secret until Rachel Nichols of NBA “The Jump” announced his name on ESPN. It was surreal.” Coach Kiley emphasized the impressive company Grant joins with this award. “I have jerseys of Michael Jordan, LeBron James, and Zion Williamson in my office [who also won the award]. It is crazy to think that a young man from Thurston County joined the ranks of these high school (and all-time) greats. I believe it is the greatest high school accomplishment of any athlete in the history of Thurston County.”

Grant commented on the award, describing how significant it is for him. “This award means a ton to me. It’s amazing to be in the same category as NBA legends were at in high school, and I think it’s just a tribute to all the hard work I have put in in the last couple of years, and all the help my teammates and coaches have given me to propel me to this level,” he said. Grant also commented on his goals for the future, saying, “it makes me want to work harder to see how far I can go playing this game, and my goal is to play in the NBA… But first I want to win a Pac-12 championship at UW and a national championship.” 

For Grant’s teammates, it is no surprise he has been so successful. Alfredo Ramirez, a senior at OHS and long-time teammate of Grant’s reflected on their experience playing together. “I’ve been playing with Jackson since the 2nd grade. It’s been awesome growing up with him seeing all his work reaping its fruit,” he said. “I’ve seen Jackson grow into an amazing basketball player, developing a great shot and an incredible work ethic. Seeing him gain all this attention and success and still be a humble servant leader has been my favorite part of growing up with him,” stated Ramirez. Another senior teammate, Josh Kiley, shared a similar perspective about playing with Grant. “He really gives off a lot of energy when we play. His dunks, blocks, and stuff like that can really boost a team’s confidence,” said Kiley. 

The honor of being a part of the McDonald’s All American Game is no small feat. Jackson Grant has proven to be a dominant basketball player, showing his skill in state and national contests, and placing his name next to some of the greatest basketball players ever. “Jackson Grant is a faith-filled, humble student-athlete,” said Coach Kiley. “He is a great role model for young athletes in the Olympia community and always makes time to give high fives or sign autographs for young players. He continues to work and is getting better day after day.”