“I was at a summer tournament in California last July when Whitworth contacted me,” Lackey said. “It was a little weird to hear from a school in your own state when you’re playing down in Anaheim.”
Lackey made a visit to Whitworth in Spokane at the end of August.
“It was great to be there and see the campus,” he said. “I got along great with the players there, and the coaches. And they have a great program. They made the (NCAA Division III) Sweet 16 before the season got shut down.”
Lackey didn’t commit to Whitworth right away, hoping that his senior year of high school could bring other offers.
“I just wanted to keep my options open,” he said.
Later in the year, he drew interest from schools like St. Martin’s and Central Washington. But then things took a turn on Jan. 28, when Lackey tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee against Battle Ground.
“I actually tweaked my knee a week earlier against Skyview and a missed the next game against Camas,” Lackey said. “But I knew the Battle Ground was going to be a big one. I knew they were going to come after us, and my knee was feeling better.”
But in the fourth quarter against Battle Ground, Lackey hurt his knee again.
“I definitely knew something wasn’t right,” Lackey said. “I felt something shift in my knee. But I wasn’t thinking it was the ACL. In fact, I tried to get back into the game, but the doctor came over for another look and told my coaches that it probably wasn’t a good idea.”
Further diagnosis confirmed the ACL tear. Lackey would undergo surgery on Feb. 25. His season was over.
“It was definitely hard watching from the sidelines,” he said. “But it did give me a different perspective. It allowed me to see things on the court that I probably wouldn’t if I were playing. And I tried to share those things with my teammates. It was a different role for me, to play the coach role, but it helped keep me involved.”
Lackey said he felt the Titans would be fine without him after watching them rally to win at Skyview in the regular-season finale. Union would run off six more consecutive wins in the postseason before falling to Central Valley in the 4A state semifinals.
“Watching the Central Valley game was super tough,” he said. “It was hard not being out on the court. It left you thinking about all the what-ifs?”
The win the following day over Glacier Peak for third place at state helped ease the pain, Lackey said, especially with his teammate Tanner Toolson deciding to wear Lackey’s No. 2 for that game.
“That was a really special moment,” Lackey said.
Lackey said his rehabilitation from surgery is going well. He’s off crutches and has begun strengthening exercises.
“It’s like night and day from two weeks ago,” Lackey said. “I was even able to meet up with (Union teammates)Tanner and Izaiah (Vongnath) at Frontier Middle School and shoot some hoops. I can’t jump yet, but it was nice to be doing something again.”
Lackey said the Titans were fortunate to be able to finish the season together. The state tournament concluded about six days before most of the sports world was shut down by the COVID-19 outbreak.
“We haven’t even been able to have our team banquet yet,” Lackey said. “You spend so much time together and we shared so many laughs, it’s hard not being able to see everyone and say our goodbyes. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get together when of all of this is over.”
Each week through June, Tim Martinez will spotlight a different high school senior athlete.
If you know of a senior who deserves some attention, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or send a direct message on Twitter to @360TMart.
While other schools backed away after Lackey got hurt, Whitworth remained in contact with him, which cemented his decision to play for the Pirates.
Lackey said the timeline for his recovery could have him playing at Whitworth by December or January, although redshirting his freshman year is also a possibility.
Having his long-range plans settled has helped Lackey deal with uncertainty of the immediate future.
“It’s hard not knowing if we’ll even be able to have our high school graduation or not,” Lackey said. “So it’s a sad time. But it’s also exciting to look forward to going to Whitworth in the fall.”
Tim Martinez is the assistant sports editor/prep coordinator for The Columbian. He can be reached at (360) 735-4538, email@example.com or follow his Twitter handle @360TMart.