Senior Jackson Van Wagener rebounds from ACL tear

Luke Liden

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Photo by Alp Tourmtay

Jackson Van Wagener squares up against a Wootton defender. His explosive abilities have helped the team greatly on both offensive and defense. The Wildcats would go on to win the game 65-59.

Senior point guard Jackson Van Wagener started his journey towards stardom at just 5 years-old when he picked up a basketball for the first time. Now, 13 years later, Van Wagener is the star and centerpiece for the WJ varsity basketball team.

Van Wagener consistently puts up jaw dropping stat lines showcasing not only his offensive prowess, but also his defensive presence. His per game averages on the season are an impressive 18 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals and 3.5 blocks. In a recently hard fought 64-61 win against Paint Branch, Van Wagener put up a highschool career high 29 points paired with 14 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks.

“I’m mainly happy that we held onto the W as a team, but it feels good knowing that I really played my part,” Van Wagener said.

What Van Wagener contributes to the team can’t be measured in just statistics, as his presence on the court provides teammates and fans alike with confidence.

“When Jackson’s on the floor he can switch the momentum and speed of the game at any second. It’s crazy to watch and I’m really just happy he’s playing for us,” senior team manager Jesse Sadelson said.

Although Van Wagener’s career is flowering now, he battled to get to this point. After tearing his ACL in December he wasn’t able to get surgery until the following year. This prevented him from returning to the sport he loves until May of 2021, a year and a half after the initial injury.

“It was definitely scary when it happened but I knew that by putting in the time and work that I’d get back,” Van Wagener said.

Instead of simply waiting to heal, Van Wagener relentlessly trained his body back to recovery and put on 35 pounds of muscle in the process. Combining his skills and basketball IQ with his now 6’2 185 pound frame, Van Wagener is a force to be reckoned with.

Van Wagener also missed some time this season with shin splints but quickly returned in time for the end of the season stretch. Right now WJ sits at 6-7 with the playoffs looming.

“Not having Jackson definitely wasn’t ideal. We fought and pieced together a win or two but it’s impossible to replace what he provides to us game in and game out. We’re happy he’s back when it matters the most,” junior guard Aklilu Blumberg-Woll said.

With Van Wagener’s talent, athleticism and reliability on the court, playing basketball at the college level is definitely a venture that his future holds. With his top three options being Salisbury University, Elmhurst University and Susquehanna University, he still has yet to make his final decision.

“My senior season is what’s on my mind at the moment but continuing to play basketball is definitely something I’d love to do given the opportunity I have,” Van Wagener said.