Brothers Tracy and Shea Jackson were years away from playing in their first Gold Medal Tournament the last time Kake won the B bracket title in 2004.
The Jackson brothers, like everyone else from Kake, have great respect for the village’s own ‘Tlingit Heat,” a team that transitioned from the B bracket to the C bracket in the 2000s.
“The Tlingit Heat that I remember: Lloyd Davis, Nick Davis, Jay Peterson, Rudy [Bean], those guys; I remember being little and when they were playing, just the whole gym would be rocking, ‘Tlingit Heat’ chants and everything,” Shea Jackson said.
The Kake team won the B bracket championship in 1999 and 2004 before taking over the C bracket. The “Tlingit Heat” won seven consecutive C bracket championships from 2006-2012 before winning it all again last year.
Now the Kake B team is ready to elevate its level of play to match that of the village’s older (and talented) generation.
Tracy (29) and Shea (26) will be joined by three other Jacksons this year for Kake: cousins Shawn (28), Dion (23) and Charles (18).
“I think the one thing that’s nice about us coming together as a family is hopefully we can emerge with an identity of our own,” Tracy said via cellphone from Fairbanks, where he currently resides. “Because the [older] guys have held it down for Kake for so long.”
The Jacksons will also need help from teammates Tim Demmert and Dean Cavanaugh, who are now regulars on the Kake squad.
The team has come a long way since Tracy first played on the team close to a decade ago.
“When we were younger, we took our lickings pretty bad,” Tracy laughed. “We were young and we just weren’t ready to fulfill that role.”
“We couldn’t get our rotations right. I think we lost most games we played in,” added Shea.
Things started turning around four years ago, though, when the team began making it to Thursday’s quarterfinals.
“We’ve been making the right steps forward. We come together as a team more and more every year… I think we’ve just been coming up with the right rotation and right set guys to where when you sub someone out, you’re not going to lose a step,” Shea said.
Should Kake not go all the way this year, it won’t be from a lack of effort. That’s one thing Shea says he never has to worry about.
“I mean, every year teams don’t show up just to play. If you’re showing up just to play, that’s kind of the wrong reason, you got to show up wanting to win every game. That’s kind of how I’ve looked at it all the years I’ve gone. I go to win, I give everything I have for that tournament.”