For the second straight season, the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association bestowed Central senior guard Jaeden Zackery with an award commensurate with his talented peers throughout the state.
On Monday, Zackery was named WBCA Division-2 first-team All-State for the second straight year, joining nine other players who are among the best in the state of Wisconsin.
Zackery, who was previously named the Southern Lakes Conference Player of the Year, said it’s an honor to again be recognized among his peers.
“It’s truly a blessing,” he said. “... Being able to get it two years in a row is something special.
“... It really gives me a good feeling, just getting a lot of people to notice who I am. ... It really opens up a lot of eyes.”
Said Central coach James Hyllberg: “It’s just an example of how hard the kid works.”
Zackery led the Falcons to a 23-2 record, an undefeated SLC championship and a third consecutive appearance in the WIAA Division-2 sectionals. One of the top senior playmakers in the state, Zackery averaged 21.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game.
He finished his Central career with 1,250 points, just 15 shy of the all-time program mark held by 1989 graduate Tim Cates.
During his tenure with the Falcons, Zackery helped lead the program to heights it hadn’t seen before.
Central reached its first sectional final during Zackery’s sophomore year, went to the state tournament for the first time during his junior year and — even though the Falcons dropped a sectional semifinal heartbreaker to Elkhorn — lost two games by a total of two points this season and became the first Central team since 1962 to capture an unbeaten conference title.
“He just continued to get better every single year,” Hyllberg said. “The thing I was most impressed with was he got better on both sides, both offense and defense.
“But what also impressed me was just how coachable he was and the kind of teammate he was, as well. Sometimes success will change high school players, and ‘J.Z.’ stayed very humble.”
Still mulling options
Zackery will play in college and has interest from numerous NCAA Division I and II programs. He begins his spring AAU season this week and will continue through the recruiting process.
“I’m kind of just going through the process, just playing out this AAU spring session and just seeing where it goes from there,” he said.
Hyllberg feels any college team would be lucky to have Zackery.
“Until you get him there on your team, I don’t think you realize all the good things he’s going to bring to a team until he’s actually on board,” Hyllberg said.
Joining Zackery on the Division-2 All-State team were a trio of underclassmen who were unanimous picks.
La Crosse Central junior Johnny Davis, Milwaukee Washington sophomore Michael Foster Jr. and Nicolet junior Jalen Johnson were the three unanimous selections on the first team.
Like Zackery, Davis and Foster were repeat selections. Johnson, regarded as one of the top 10 juniors in the country, was first-team Division-1 All-State last season at Sun Prairie before transferring to Nicolet and leading the Knights to a 27-1 mark and the state title this season.
Also named to the first team were Washington senior Deontay Long — his third selection — Kaukauna senior Donovan Ivory, Green Bay Southwest senior Will Pytleski, Nicolet junior Jamari Sibley, DeForest senior Austin Westra and East Troy junior AJ Vukovich.
Vukovich, a Louisville baseball commit, was first-team Division-3 All-State last season before Easy Troy moved up a division this year.
Wilmot coach Jake Erbentraut was a member of the voting panel, along with Zac Campbell of River Falls, Derek Lemmens of Rhinelander, Tim Ladron of Beaver Dam, Mike Schalow of Kaukauna, Todd Nesheim of Mount Horeb, Scott Witt of New Berlin Eisenhower and Ryan Walz of Wisconsin Lutheran.