South Whidbey teenager Jacob Ng recently got to live out a hoop dream.
Last month, the young basketball player shared the court with NBA All-Star Isaiah Thomas as part of a segment featured on Bleacher Report, a national sports website.
A producer was in search of a unique, small-town basketball court to visit for a video, and a Seattle coworker suggested the bright blue court in South Whidbey Community Park.
In the video, a spotless white SUV driven by Thomas travels off the beaten path to the court. After exchanging a handshake with the 17-year-old Ng, Thomas proceeds to chat with him about his college plans as the high school senior sinks a three-pointer.
Thomas is a five-foot-nine point guard who got his start playing basketball for the Washington Huskies. Since being drafted in the NBA, he’s divided his time between a series of different professional teams. Most recently, he signed a 10-day contract with New Orleans and played three games.
Ng was chosen for the Bleacher Report video because of his passion for the sport and for his special connection with the court. It was built in 2014 with funds raised by the South Whidbey Rotary Club; Ng’s father, Jack, was president of the club at the time.
Jack recalls his son asking his guests at his tenth birthday party to contribute donations to the court in lieu of giving him birthday presents.
“Jacob’s been really passionate about basketball since he was a kid. He was selling tattoo stickers in the China City lobby,” Jack Ng said, referring to the restaurant he owns in Freeland.
“I don’t really know what motivated me to do that,” Jacob Ng said with a laugh. “I was just trying to think of how to make some money.”
His entrepreneurial spirit paid off — he helped raise $1,000 for the court.
After it was built, the court became an integral part of his life. He has spent many days out of the year practicing and playing pick-up games on its distinctive blue surface.
“I’d be confident in saying I’ve spent the most hours there than anybody else, to be honest,” he said.
Although his meeting of Thomas during the Bleacher Report video was not his first brush with NBA stardom — Ng has met other famed players and even grew up playing with retired point guard Nate Robinson’s son — it was a unique opportunity to star alongside “one of the best players in the world,” as Ng referred to Thomas.
“It’s crazier to think that this guy is shorter than me,” the six-foot-one teen remarked.
“How cool was that, for a 17-year-old kid to play one-on-one with an NBA player?” his father said.