Trib HSSN Boys Basketball Player of the Week for Feb. 7, 2022

Monday, February 7, 2022 | 7:12 PM

As Jackson Juzang wraps up a marvelous high school basketball career at Winchester Thurston, he accomplished a personal achievement this past week. Now he’s focused on the team goal.

It was an up-and-down week for the Bears, but business as usual for Juzang, who scored 57 points in two games. The senior averages nearly 26 points per game and is in the top 10 in WPIAL scoring this season despite garnering a lot of attention from opponents.

“Teams are trying to face-guard him or double him at all times,” Winchester Thurston coach Justin Walther said. “He’s constantly moving. He hasn’t had that 40-plus point game like he did a couple times last year, but he’s been consistent every night. It is fun watching him compete because I know I get his very best effort. He’s putting a lot of pressure on himself. I wish he wouldn’t, and I’ve tried to get him to understand how to play freely.”

On Wednesday, Winchester Thurston’s hopes of a Section 3-2A title ended when they lost at first-place Greensburg Central Catholic, 69-54. Juzang led the Bears with 28 points.

“We were a disaster in the first half on Wednesday,” Walther said. “Zero energy, and I think Jax had 14 of our 20 (points). But our defense in the second half gave us a chance and Jax made some difficult shots. But when we play very good D, we can get into transition easy and score quickly. It’s fun watching him in transition because he can score so many ways.”

Saturday, the Bears ended a three-game losing skid by beating the team they are chasing in the Section 3-2A standings for second place, Serra Catholic.

“We couldn’t put Serra away Saturday,” Walther said. We would punch it to 15 (points), 36-21, and they cut it to seven at half. Then we’d go back up 13 and then they cut it to five early in the fourth. Jax hit two deep 3s from around NBA range and it was over. He just gives us so much. He reads well to make steals. He gets into the paint and drops to our bigs nicely.”

Juzang became the all-time leading scorer at Winchester Thurston with 29 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists and five steals in the 88-66 victory, moving the Bears (5-3) to one game behind the Eagles (6-2) in the standings.

Walther is amazed and appreciative of the leadership Juzang has brought to the table during another season filled with hurdles.

“It’s been a crazy year again,” Walther said. “We didn’t have a game for 23 days from Dec. 15 through Jan. 7, and he was just trying to keep everyone sharp mentally. In the summer, he would get a good bit of the boys together to work out. I’ve never been around a player more dedicated to improve his game.”

When it comes to the senior’s talents on the floor and his approach to the game, there is a lot that Walther feels is easy to admire.

“His energy in my opinion is his greatest strength,” he said. “When he’s active and vocal, the boys feed off of this. He’s so quick off the bounce and can finish around the rim. You have to respect that he can hit the deep ball, and if you over-extend yourself, it’s over.

“The two things these younger boys have seen from him is his desire to be the very best and how hard he works to get to where he wants to be. It’s been an absolute treat to be around him.”

Winchester Thurston hopes to finish the regular season strong after the big win Saturday. The Bears finish with section games against Jeannette and Propel Braddock Hills as they try to improve their resume for the postseason.

“I’ve grown to not worry about seeding and things like that anymore,” Walther said. “You can be 10-2 in 2A but play a difficult schedule and play up and get beat a lot and it doesn’t matter. So, I just let the chips anymore fall where they may. I just want my boys to continue to develop and play their hearts out. If they do, I’ll take our chances.”

2022 Trib HSSN Players of the Week

Week 6 – Cadin Olsen, Armstrong

Week 5 – Markus Frank, Quaker Valley

Week 4 – Notorious Grooms, Uniontown

Week 3 – Tanner O’Grady, Upper St. Clair

Week 2 – Ben Mayhew, Propel Braddock Hills

Week 1 – Makhai Valentine, Steel Valley


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