Westosha Central’s Jaeden Zackery, the third annual all-Southern Lakes Newspapers Player of the Year, makes a push towards the hoop against Wilmot during the winter sports season.

Westosha Central junior tabbed top boys player

By Chris Bennett

Basketball aficionados remember those players who excel on one side of the ball, but they revere and memorialize those who dominate on offense and defense.

Dominance on each side of the ball is why Westosha Central High School’s Jaeden Zackery is the Southern Lakes Newspapers Player of the Year in boys basketball.

Union Grove’s Jack Pettit also received consideration, but Zackery is the choice for among the writers and editors.

“Jaeden is a complete high school basketball player,” Waterford coach Paul Charapata said. “He does everything well. “He defends, he scores, he handles the ball and he runs the floor. Most impressive is Jaeden’s physical strength around the basket and his ability to finish at the rim.”

Zackery led the Falcons to a 22-5 record this past season. Central made its first and only appearance in the WIAA Division 2 state boys basketball tournament this past season.

“He was probably the most important piece,” said Dylan Anderson, a power forward and center for the Falcons and one of Zackery’s closest friends on the team. “Using him on both sides of the ball, he really got us going, whether he was on offensively or off offensively, he used his defense to get us going.”

Anderson’s favorite play involving Zackery from this past season was a dunk against another Southern Lakes Conference squad. After a steal at mid-court, Anderson got Zackery the ball in transition.

“I didn’t see it coming at all,” Anderson said. “I threw him the pass, and it looked like he was going to go for a layup, but he extended.”

Zackery extended himself for the Falcons during a history-making campaign. He recalls fondly stepping on the court at the Kohl Center in Madison prior to the state semifinals and realizing that the Falcons were counted among the state’s best.

“After last year, I thought we could go as far, but I didn’t expect to get this far,” Zackery said. “Once we won that game and we went to state, it was amazing.”

In 2017, Central lost 57-39 to Waunakee in a Division 2 sectional final game at Middleton. The Falcons’ season ended one game short of state.

The Falcons exorcised demons of previous seasons this past winter when they defeated Monona Grove, 76-55, in the sectional final and advanced to state for the first time in school history.

“My favorite moment out of that whole experience is winning the sectional final game,” Zackery said. “We expected it to be a really close game, and we blew them out. You could see how excited and supportive everyone was.”

The Falcons lost 75-63 March 16 in a Division 2 state semifinal game at the Kohl Center. Kaukauna later beat Milwaukee Washington, 76-74, for the Division 2 state title.

Zackery finished his season with averages of 17.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 3.7 steals per game. He earned first team All-State honors in Division 2 from the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association.

Zackery also earned first team all-Southern Lakes Conference honors, honorable mention All-State honors from the Associated Press, and first team all-county honors from the Kenosha News.

For all of the accolades and honors, opposing coaches and teammates first praise Zackery for being an exceptional and unselfish two-way player.

“Jaeden’s strength and athleticism are tough to match up with,” said Josh Skatrud, head coach of the Elkhorn Area High School boys basketball team. “He can play inside and outside and is an excellent defender. Whenever they needed a big play, he found a way to deliver.”

Zackery said his current strengths are as a defender and as a point guard who gets his teammates involved. He said he would work on shooting in the offseason.

“It’s not terrible,” Zackery said of his shooting. “I just need to improve that most. Over the summer, I’m going to work on that in the gym – on extending my range.”

If Zackery develops a long-range game to pair with his ability to defend and facilitate, he might help rewrite the history he previously helped author. He and Anderson said the Falcons are eager to return to state.

“It’s going to be really good – it’s going to be exciting to get back to where we were last year,” Anderson said. “It’s going to be exciting to see how far he goes and can extend his game even further.”


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