Brad and Debbie Jackson had a simple wish when their son Kyle joined the Western Washington basketball team. "Our hope, as parents, was...

Share story

BELLINGHAM — Brad and Debbie Jackson had a simple wish when their son Kyle joined the Western Washington basketball team.

“Our hope, as parents, was that he was going to be clearly good enough to play and do well, or clearly not very good at all,” Brad said. “Just not in the middle.”

In the middle is where things would have gotten messy for Brad, now in his 21st year as the WWU men’s basketball coach.

In the middle is where the whispers would start. The middle is where fans would wonder if Kyle was playing because he was the coach’s kid and not because he deserved it.

As Debbie put it, “We hoped he was going to be really good or really bad.”

Fortunately for coach and son, Kyle was more than just good enough.

On Saturday, the senior point guard will lead the Vikings in a showdown with archrival Central Washington at KeyArena. The men’s teams play at 7:30 p.m., following a game between the two schools’ women’s teams at 5. The event, billed as the Showdown in the Sound, was inspired by the schools’ football rivalry game played at Qwest Field — the Battle in Seattle.

Showdown in the Sound

Western Washington

vs. Central Washington

When: Saturday; women’s game at 5 p.m., men’s at 7:30 p.m.

Where: KeyArena

Tickets: Available through Ticketmaster, $10-$75

The 5-foot-10 Jackson is in his second year as WWU’s starting point guard. After redshirting his freshman year, he was brought along slowly, forced to earn his minutes. In retrospect, Jackson probably played less than he should have early on.

“I remember early on he didn’t play a lot,” said senior forward Grant Dykstra. “If he were anyone but the coach’s kid, he probably would have played more, but you could tell Coach was worried about how that would look.”

Now, Jackson’s contributions to the team are undeniable.

He is the prototypical coach’s son. He’s the on-floor leader with a lifetime of dinner-table basketball lessons to draw upon. The one distributing the ball and not worrying about his own numbers. He’s a big part of the reason Dykstra and Ryan Diggs average a combined 46.8 points per game. In WWU’s first eight games, Jackson has 35 assists and only 10 turnovers.

“Ryan and I do the majority of the scoring, and we probably get more credit than we deserve,” Dykstra said. “Kyle has made a lot of sacrifices. He’s a great scorer too, but we can’t have five scorers, and he’s the one who gets everyone the ball.”

And it’s tough to argue with the results. The Vikings are 7-1 and ranked fourth in Division II. Both coach and point guard are relishing their final season together.

“This has been a lot of fun,” said Kyle, who was a ball boy for his dad’s teams as a youngster. “Growing up I went to every Western game. Western basketball was a huge part of my life growing up, so getting to play for my dad and play on a successful team has been amazing.”

Kyle’s athletic success shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Brad Jackson played at Washington State, while his wife, Debbie, was a four-time All-American gymnast at Seattle Pacific. Debbie’s father, Roland Halle, was a junior guard on the Washington Huskies Final four team in 1953.

Debbie, her parents and Brad’s parents are all regulars at WWU games.

“It’s really been a family deal,” Brad said. “It has been really special. A lot of times if you’re a high-school coach you get a chance to coach your son, but not a lot of college coaches get that opportunity. I’d have to say that it’s been a very, very rewarding and good experience for both of us. There aren’t a lot of dads who get an opportunity, especially when kids go to college, to get to see their kid every day and share in something that both of you love.”