Boys Basketball – 2023 Shore Sports Network Player of the Year: Darius Adams, Manasquan
Darius Adams is still more than two months away from completing his sophomore year at Manasquan, but the gifted, 6-foot-3 guard already has a basketball résumé that reads like it belongs to a player getting ready to walk at graduation in a few months.
Coming off a First-Team All-Shore selection as a freshman while leading Manasquan to 25 wins and a third straight NJSIAA sectional championship, Adams and his team accomplished a list of achievements that would be monumental for a four-year career: averaging 20 points per game; scoring his 1,000th point; helping his team win division, conference, NJSIAA sectional and overall group championship.
That Adams has done all of that at Manasquan in just two years is hard to fathom, but all of it has already become routine for the Warriors sophomore. With that laundry list of accomplishments in just this season alone, Adams made his overwhelming case for the 2023 Shore Sports Network Player of the Year.
The simplest place to start is with the stats. Adams scored more total points than any other player in the conference with 653 and his 20.4 points per game was good for third at the Shore behind Freehold Township forward Jayden Holmes-Cotter (22.8) and Ranney guard Isaac Hester (21.9). His 653 points sent Adams charging through the 1,000-point threshold and left him with 1,097 points going into the second half of his high-school career.
Adams complemented his scoring with a strong all-around game as well. He led Manasquan with 7.8 rebounds per game, plus dished out 2.9 assists, swiped 1.4 steals and was a well-rounded defender who also blocked multiple shots in a game three times this season.
Those numbers are even more impressive considering who they came against. Manasquan played as difficult of a schedule as any team in the Shore Conference, with five regular-season games against teams that won NJSIAA sectional championships – including both overall non-public champions Roselle Catholic and Union Catholic – and eight games against teams that finished in the Shore Sports Network top five: No. 2 St. Rose (two), No. 3 Ranney (three), No. 4 Raritan (two) and No. 5 Rumson-Fair Haven.
Against those teams, plus the likes of Rutgers Prep, Hudson Catholic, Saddle River Day, South River, Middle Township and Caldwell, Adams faced unwavering defensive attention from some of the state’s best teams. He also often went to the bench early against Manasquan’s lesser opponents when the Warriors were up big. Facing some of the state’s best defenders for 32 minutes and checking out early against easier competition does not make for an easy road to 20 points per game for a sophomore, but Adams still and still got there with room to spare.
Manasquan played in everything ranging from small, Group II gyms to high-major college arenas and the bigger the venue, the better Adams played. Four of the most meaningful venues for a Shore Conference players are RWJ Barnabas Health Arena in Toms River, Brookdale Community College, Monmouth University and Rutgers.
Toms River is the site of the WOBM Christmas Classic and the late rounds of the Shore Conference Tournament and Adams tore it up there with 23.25 points per game, 8.0 rebounds and 3.75 assists in four games. He won the WOBM Classic MVP three 20-plus-point performances, including 29 points, eight rebounds, three assists and four steals in a win over Brick Memorial in the semifinals. Adams also put up 19 points, nine boards and six assists in a SCT semifinal rout of Raritan in Toms River.
At OceanFirst Bank Center on the campus of Monmouth, Adams shined in his first high-school game at a Division I college arena. He went off for a game-high 26 points, including 20 in the second half, to help Manasquan overpower Ranney and win the Shore Conference Tournament championship for the third time in three years.
Every boys team in New Jersey comes into a basketball season hoping to end its season at Rutgers, which hosts the NJSIAA Group championships and used to host the now-defunct Tournament of Champions. In the Group II championship game against Caldwell, Adams put on a show for the crowd at Jersey Mike’s Arena, scoring 22 points while also posting 12 rebounds, five assists and two blocks with an 8-for-13 shooting performance from the floor. The 62-29 rout of the Chiefs secured Manasquan its first ever NJSIAA group championship in boys basketball.
Brookdale is the site of the Hoop Group Boardwalk Classic, where Adams coasted to 20 points and eight rebounds in a win over Hightstown. The Warriors were originally scheduled to face Don Bosco Prep and highly-rated junior guard Dylan Harper, but Don Bosco’s game one night earlier vs. Camden prompted the Ironmen to drop out of the showcase.
Adams’s performance at Monmouth capped an SCT in which he averaged 23.5 points, 9.0 rebounds, 4.75 assists and 2.25 steals, with Manasquan winning all four tournament games by at least 15 points. In the NJSIAA Tournament, he averaged 21.8 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.3 steals in leading Manasquan to its first ever Group II title. In 10 total postseason games between the two tournaments, Adams averaged 22.5 points, 9.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.7 steals – all higher than his season averages in each category.
With his career only halfway over, Adams has his sights set on some major potential milestones over the next two seasons – both for his team and himself. Manasquan is set to return four players with starting experience in Adams, junior Ryan Frauenheim, junior Alex Konov and sophomore Griffin Linstra, which will give the Warriors a leg up on much of the competition in Group II and keep them in the mix for yet another Shore Conference Tournament title along with a St. Rose team that is slated to return its entire top seven.
As for his individual pursuits, Adams is well on pace to reach 2,000 points in his career, which would make him the ninth player in Shore Conference history to hit that milestone. With another full, productive season next year, he could pass 2004 graduate Tom White (1,680) for the all-time scoring mark at Manasquan and also find himself within reach of the all-time Shore Conference scoring record (2,499) held by former Ranney star Bryan Antoine heading into his senior season.
Colleges are also already in hot pursuit in landing a commitment from Adams sometime in the next 18 months, with the sophomore already holding offers from Rutgers, Seton Hall, Syracuse and St. John’s. According to both Rivals and 247Sports, Adams is a top 25 recruit nationally in the Class of 2025.
Adams joins former teammate Ben Roy as the second sophomore from Manasquan to win the SSN Player of the Year Award and he is the third sophomore to win the award in the last seven years, with Antoine being the other in 2017.
The start to Adams’s career is bordering unprecedented for a Shore Conference player and the accomplishments he has already checked off are exceeded only by what he might do in the next two years.