When Jackson Grant was on vacation with his family in Lake Chelan, around 10 years old at the time, he saw a teenager shooting hoops on a basketball court near the family’s timeshare. Grant, being plenty social even as a younger kid, went over to join him, taking turns taking shots.
That teenager was Matisse Thybulle, who went on to a stellar career at the University of Washington, capped in his senior year, in which he was recognized as the top defender in the nation with the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year and the Lefty Driesell awards in 2019. Thybulle went on to be selected with the No. 20 overall pick in the first round of the 2019 NBA Draft and currently plays for the Philadelphia 76ers.
That week in Chelan was more or less when Grant started following Husky basketball, just before Thybulle committed to UW.
“My grandma started taking us to games up there to watch him play after that,” Grant said.
Now, it’s Grant’s turn to suit up for the purple and gold. The Olympia High School center will be signing his National Letter of Intent with Washington on Wednesday, Nov. 11, the first day of the early signing period allowed by the NCAA for sports other than football.
The 6-foot-10 senior big man was The News Tribune and The Olympian’s 2020 All-Area player of the year in his junior season, leading the Bears to a fourth-place finish in the Class 4A state tournament, its best finish since 2011. He averaged 17 points and 11 rebounds for Olympia last season.
Following Thybulle’s career helped turn Grant into a Husky fan over the years. He’d attend games and take pictures with Thybulle after the games.
“I’ve looked up to him a lot,” Grant said. “Just his work ethic through the years. I didn’t realize how good he could be. I realize how hard that level that he’s working at is and I really respect that.”
Grant said he hopes to follow a similar trajectory over the course of his Husky career, developing as a player over four years and hopefully turning pro one day.
“I don’t see myself as being a one-and-done player,” Grant said. “I see myself really improving. (Thybulle) really laid out a groundwork to be able to follow at UW.”
Grant was fortunate enough to lock down his commitment and go through the recruitment process before the coronavirus pandemic took hold and shut everything down. He committed to Washington last November.
“I feel super fortunate about that,” he said. “Some of the guys on my (AAU) team, they’re trying to figure out where they’re going to go. It’s been hard, you can’t do any in-person visits now. Those official visits helped me more than anything else. I’m so happy I got that out of the way before everything covid hit.”
Grant took his visit to UW last September, when he took in a Husky football game, naturally, but more important, spent time around the