Colorado Springs star Reggie Jackson returns with OKC

Thunder guard among several familiar faces in Northwest showdown

The last time Reggie Jackson played at Pepsi Center, he walked away with an MVP award. That was during The Show, a high school showcase featuring Colorado’s top players.

Four years later, Jackson really is in The Show.

Jackson, who played at Palmer High School in Colorado Springs, will return to Pepsi Center on Thursday when the Oklahoma City Thunder face the Denver Nuggets. His high school coach Jimmy Grantz will be there to support his former player.

“My wife got my sons and I seats for the game,” Grantz said. “We’ll be just a few rows behind (Nuggets coach) George Karl wearing our Oklahoma City gear. It should be pretty interesting.”

Jackson, the 24th overall pick of the 2011 NBA Draft, is one of only four Colorado high school products currently in the NBA. The others are Louis Amundson (Monarch) of the Indiana Pacers, Chauncey Billups (George Washington) of the Los Angeles Clippers and Jason Smith (Platte Valley) of the New Orleans Hornets.

In 36 games, Jackson is averaging 3.5 points, 1.7 assists and 1.1 rebounds in 11.9 minutes for the top team in the Western Conference.

Even before Jackson started contributing for the Thunder, Grantz has been one of his biggest fans.

“I was coming from Mitchell (High School) and was told that if I took the job coaching at Palmer, I’d inherit the best player in the state,” said Grantz, who just completed his eighth season at Palmer. “That was pretty enticing.”

Jackson lived up to the hype.

As a senior, he averaged nearly 30 points per game and was named the Gatorade Player of the Year after leading the Terrors to the state championship game. Jackson then went on to play three years at Boston College, where he started 92 games. He averaged 18.2 points in his final season and helped the Eagles to a 21-13 overall record before leaving for the NBA.

Though Jackson’s schedule is full during the season, he and Grantz still maintain a close relationship and spend time together when Jackson is in Colorado Springs.

“During the All-Star Break, we opened up the gym for Reggie to come work out and he showed our team some of what he’s been learning in Oklahoma City,” said Grantz.

The Grantz family watches Jackson on television as much as possible and love what he has done for the sport of basketball in Colorado and for the way he represents the state.

“I’ve grown up in Colorado and have coached here for over 20 years,” says Grantz. “I remember Chauncey and Pat Garrity. For Reggie’s name to be mentioned in the same sentence as them is pretty awesome.”

Jackson won’t be the only familiar face when the Thunder make their only Denver appearance of the season.

Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks was an assistant on Karl’s staff for two seasons, while Thunder assistant Rex Kalamian spent one year under Karl in Denver.
In addition, the Nuggets and Thunder squared off in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs last spring.

“I think it’s a pride game,” Karl said. “You’re playing one of the two top teams in basketball record-wise. A couple of their coaches have been here and (the playoffs) last year. They’re getting all the ink of the great young team. We want to steal some of that ink.”

Notes: For the first time since Jan. 2, the Nuggets have nobody listed on their injury report … Denver has won seven of the past eight regular-season meetings against the Thunder …. The Nuggets have played two overtime games on their current nine-game homestand and seven on the season (5-2). Denver played just one OT game in 2010-11 … The Nuggets are undefeated in the seven career games in which Ty Lawson has recorded at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists. He had 21 points, six rebounds and seven assists Tuesday.