Brookswood Bobcats' Tayla Jackson played on the senior girls basketball team every year since Grade 8, helping her team win two titles, finish second once as well as a pair of fourth-place finishes.

Brookswood Bobcats' Tayla Jackson played on the senior girls basketball team every year since Grade 8, helping her team win two titles, finish second once as well as a pair of fourth-place finishes.

The transformation of Tayla

Brookswood's Tayla Jackson has had a remarkable five-year run with the Bobcats senior girls basketball program

A story from Grade 8 illustrates the confidence of Tayla Jackson.

The way Neil Brown tells it, Jackson — who was playing senior girls basketball despite being just 13-year-old — informed one of the province’s best players, W.J. Mouat’s Kayli Satori, that there was “a new sheriff in town.”

Jackson’s version differs slightly.

“I didn’t exactly say those words,” said Jackson, now a Grade 12 student at Brookswood Secondary.

“It was perceived different than how I intended.”

“(Kayli) was so good and we were playing in a game, standing next to each other during a free throw,” Jackson explained.

“It came across bad. I didn’t mean to come across as a cocky Grade 8; it was more that I looked up to her, I wanted to be like her and as good as she was when I was her age.”

That year, Satori was named the most valuable player as the Hawks won the B.C. provincial 3A senior girls championship title.

While some may play senior basketball a year early in Grade 10, Jackson has done so since she first walked the halls at Brookswood.

“Her height was the biggest thing,” Brown recalled about the decision to play up at such an early age.

“She was a tall, confident kid. Most young kids who are tall are not confident; they don’t want to be tall but she embraced being tall.”

While Jackson had height, she was still raw.

“I didn’t have a ton of skills,” she said. “I think I was more star struck, to be honest.

“You are used to playing with 12- and 13-year-olds who are scrawny, just like you. And all of a sudden, you are playing with these 18-year-olds; you are blown away by the gap and the jump you have made.”

Jackson did not dominate the competition.

“I got pushed around a little bit,” she admitted.

“You have to toughen up and step up to the plate.”

The following year, she became more aggressive on the court and in Grade 10, she really came into her own.

“I became that person that not a lot of people wanted to guard,” she said.

“A little bit more beast-like.

“I started to get more aggressive and the more aggressive I got, the more I loved it.”

“Some people bust their ass and by Grade 10, what you see is what you get,” Brown said.

“Tayla has never maxed out her potential.

“Every year, she got better and better.”

In Jackson’s five years with the Bobcats — and even in the early years, she played a contributing role — the team has made the provincial tournament semifinals each season.

Brookswood was fourth in her Grade 8 and 9 seasons and lost in the championship final in Grade 10. But the team has won back-to-back provincial championships in each of the last two seasons with Jackson earning first team all-star awards both times.

In both instances — the finals in 2014 and the semifinals in 2015 — Jackson was matched up in the post against Oak Bay’s Lauren Yearwood, a member of Basketball Canada’s national cadet team program.

Brown told Jackson that is she could play Yearwood to a standstill, the ’Cats would prevail.

And both times Jackson had done better, out-playing her.

“Huge, huge numbers in the biggest games of the year,” the coach said.

In the 2014 title game, Jackson was player of the game with 20 points, 23 rebounds and two blocked shots. Yearwood had 20 points and nine blocks but just nine rebounds.

And this year, Jackson’s stat line read 16 points, 17 rebounds and two blocks compared to Yearwood’s 10, nine and one.

With Jackson’s high school career now done — she is off on an athletic scholarship to the University of California Irvine next season to play NCAA Division 1 — she will suit up on Sunday at the B.C. high school senior girls all-star game at the Langley Events Centre. Game time is 3 p.m.

Jackson, who hopes to become an elementary school teacher, already helps out at Brookswood, coaching younger players.

“I want them to see that if they work hard and put the time in, that they can seriously do anything they set their mind too,” she said about what example she can set for them.

They can go anywhere they choose to go if the opportunities come their way from the hard work. And to have fun with it along the way and not take it too seriously.

“There is more to life than basketball but if you work hard enough, you can have basketball take you to great places in life. You need to be able to enjoy it as well.”

Langley Times