William Chrisman High School’s Isaiah Jackson and Truman’s Kaimen Lennox are identical in so many ways, it’s hard to think about one without the other coming to mind.

Throughout most of their high school careers, they have been leaders, on and off the court – respected leaders of their respective teams and the guy with the ball in his hands when the game is on the line.

This past summer they were teammates on AAU powerhouse Team KC and both are going to continue their basketball and academic careers at the schools of their dreams.

Jackson will play at NCAA Division II power Northwest Missouri State University, and Lennox is staying close to home to bring his work ethic to Division I UMKC.

It seems fitting that the area’s two premier guards would become the first boys players to share The Examiner’s Boys Basketball Player of the Year Award.

“I just think it’s great they are sharing the award, because I know how much each of them meant to their teams,” Chrisman coach Jake Kates said. “I came to Chrisman three years ago, and I was looking for a leader, a player I could count on at practice, on the court and in the classroom – and I found that player in a skinny sophomore named Isaiah Jackson.

“Man, the way he has grown and developed over the past three years is amazing. I don’t hand out praise lightly, and I could not be any more proud of Isaiah than I am.”

Kates said it was easy to count on Jackson.

“He was so consistent – night in and night out – you knew exactly what you were going to get from him,” Kates said. “Some nights he might not score, but he found other ways to make our team successful – playing great defense, getting the ball to an open teammate.

“I know he would walk through fire for this team and I’m going to miss him – as a player and as a person. And I am so happy he won this award along with Kaimen.”

Truman coach Rod Briggs feels the same way about his standout combo guard.

“Winning the player of the year award is a great honor, and I’m so happy Kaimen won it, and is able to share it with Isaiah,” Briggs said. “Now, I have to be honest, the first time I saw Kaimen, as a freshman, I would not have thought he might win The Examiner’s award.

“I knew he could be a great player if he worked hard – and that is exactly what he did. I saw his progress, and I saw how determined he was to be a great player for Truman High School and all that hard work has paid off.

“He comes from a great basketball family (his father, A.B. Lennox, was the Van Horn girls basketball coach, who recently resigned from the position so he could watch his son play college basketball and his aunt is Betty Lennox, the former Fort Osage star who went on to win an WNBA Finals MVP award) and his work ethic is unbelievable.

“He has strived to be the best player he can be, and he has been a great player and leader for our team. He helped bring a basketball culture to our program.”

Jackson had a strong all-around senior season, averaging 15 points, 8.9 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game for the Bears. Despite being a point guard, he ranked in the top 10 in the metro area in rebounds, according to KC High School Hoops. And he was Missouri Basketball Coaches Association Class 5 all-state selection in addition to being name first-team All-Suburban Middle Seven Conference and all-district.

“Winning your player of the year award was something I never even thought about,” said Jackson, a 6-foot-2 point guard who was equally adept at getting his teammates involved or hitting the big shot himself. “And now that I find out I won it, it is incredibly humbling. And to share it with Kaimen, I can’t even put it in words. We are such good friends, who had some great battles when Truman and Chrisman played, but we could shake hands afterwards and be friends again.

“Sharing the award with Kaimen makes it even more special, more of an honor, because I respect him so much and am so proud of all he has done at Truman.

“He did the same thing I tried to do at Chrisman. I was a sophomore, I was looking for leadership – and for guidance – because I wanted to help change the basketball culture here.

“And I met Coach Kates and it was like the perfect storm. He is a great coach who really taught me about basketball, about how to create a culture, and I am so proud and so honored to say that I am a William Chrisman Bear.”

And now, he is proud to be a Northwest Missouri State Bearcat, as coach Ben McCollum’s teams have won two of the last three NCAA Division II championships and were favored to win again this year when the COVID-19 pandemic canceled all NCAA tournaments.

“I can’t wait to get up there and play for Coach McCollum and the Bearcats,” Jackson said. “They have such a great culture, they are so respected and I am going to get to learn from the best players and best coaches in the country. I’m so excited.”

Lennox averaged 18.2 points per game, along with 4.2 rebounds and 2.7 assists while also being named to the MBCA Class 5 all-state team, All-Suburban Large Seven Conference and all-district.

“I was a guy who always wanted to keep my motor running, to get the guys excited about playing basketball,” Lennox said. “To win the player of the year award is exciting.

“I’m so proud to win the award, and I am so proud to share it with Isaiah. He is a great teammate and a great competitor. We had some great matchups when we played Chrisman and loved going after each other out on the court.

“And when the game was over, we would shake hands and be friends – which it’s all about. I am so happy for all his accomplishments, because I know how hard he worked to make Chrisman a winning program.”

Lennox is now looking forward to the challenge of making the basketball culture at UMKC something that excites the community.

“UMKC has a Division I basketball program here in Kansas City, and you never really hear about it,” Lennox said. “I know Coach (Billy) Donlon wants to change that and I want to help him change it.

“We play in Swinney Hall, which has a great atmosphere, but I want to help make UMKC so big they have to go back and play their games at Municipal Auditorium. I am so excited to be playing at home, so my family can come to all our games and I want Kansas City to get excited too.”