Sports

Male athlete of the year 2010: Competition fuels Jeff Brigham's all-around success

Jefferson grad Jeff Brigham was a rare three-sport standout during his senior season for the Raiders. Brigham was an all-league selection in both basketball and baseball and would have qualified for the state golf championships, but was disqualified.  - Mirror file photo
Jefferson grad Jeff Brigham was a rare three-sport standout during his senior season for the Raiders. Brigham was an all-league selection in both basketball and baseball and would have qualified for the state golf championships, but was disqualified.
— image credit: Mirror file photo

Jeff Brigham didn’t really burst onto the high school sports scene until last spring.

That’s when Brigham, then a junior on the Thomas Jefferson baseball team, threw a no-hitter against the hard-hitting and then-unbeaten Kentwood Conquerors.

But Brigham’s performance was just a prequel to an outstanding senior season for the Raiders on the golf course, basketball court and baseball diamond.

“Jeff is an extremely competitive person,” said TJ head basketball coach Kyle Templeton.

That competitive attitude will take Brigham to the University of Washington in the fall, where he will pitch for the Husky baseball team. It also earned him The Mirror’s 2010 Male Athlete of the Year and helped him graduate from TJ earlier this month with a 3.97 grade-point average.

Baseball is the sport that will be paying for Brigham’s college education, but he was also a standout in golf and basketball for the Raiders.

“Jeff is a ridiculous athlete,” Templeton said. “He is good at any sport he tries. Obviously, baseball, basketball and golf, but he is also a really good soccer player. According to people at the school he could have been a varsity starter on the soccer team this past year. He also was a good cross country runner in his earlier years.”

On the baseball field, Brigham had a solid all-around senior season for the Raiders.

Offensively, Brigham led TJ in hits during the South Puget Sound League North Division season with 24 and finished with a .436 batting average. He also had 14 RBIs, scored a team-best 14 runs, had five doubles, three home runs and struck out only four times. Brigham played mostly second base.

On the mound, Brigham overcame some injury problems to throw 20 2/3 innings and finished 0-1. He had 23 strikeouts and had an ERA of 1.02 during the regular season. He also struck out 15 and allowed only two hits during his seven innings of work during a 2-1 win over Graham-Kapowsin at the SPSL Tournament.

“Jeff is a high-80s guy with good sink,” said UW head coach Lindsay Meggs. “He’s someone that will be immediately valuable out of the bullpen since he’ll be able to come in and get ground balls. He knows how to pitch.”

Brigham’s success this season was expected on the baseball field. Something that a lot of people didn’t see coming was the season he had for the TJ basketball program. Brigham actually played last year on the Radiers’ junior varsity team.

Brigham exploded on the SPSL basketball landscape as one of the best shooters in the league during his one season under Templeton, who was in his first year as the TJ coach.

“I knew when I first started coaching Jeff last summer that he could light it up,” Templeton said. “There were a couple of games last summer that he went nuts from the 3-point line. With all that, I still didn’t know or think that he would be as successful as he was this year. He was the focal point of every team’s defense and was still able to get open and his shots up.”

Brigham led the Raiders in scoring at 16.9 points a game and made 70 3-pointers during the season. He also led TJ to a 10-10 overall record and within one game of qualifying for the school’s first West Central District Tournament since the 1980s.

“I was pretty successful in JV last year,” Brigham said. “We played against the varsity so I knew that I could play with those guys. But I was surprised a little bit about this season.”

Brigham was also surprised with the success he had on the golf course, especially since he turned out because it was just something to do during the fall sports season.

“I’ve played golf just for fun with my dad and buddies since I was 10,” he said. “But never took it serious. I just couldn’t pass up free rounds of golf.”

Brigham excelled during his first year on the golf team, which culminated with him shooting back-to-back rounds in the 70s at the West Central District Tournament. The first-day 79 and second-day 77 would have been good enough to qualify Brigham for the state golf tournament. But he was disqualified after the tournament because of a miscommunication.

“I had an issue on one hole and since I don’t play very much, I didn’t know the rules,” Brigham said. “So I was disqualified. It was kind of disappointing. But I was very surprised. I didn’t think I would do any good at golf. It was a pleasant surprise, I guess.”

Kind of like Brigham’s entire senior year.

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