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Northern Valley Regional High School at Demarest grad Jesse Adelson fulfills dream of playing college basketball

Growing up in Closter, New Jersey, Jesse Adelson attended Hillside Elementary until fourth grade. Upon moving on to Tenakill Middle School, Adelson discovered his passion for basketball. Playing on the school team, Adelson tallied the most career points. By the time Adelson reached 7th and 8th grade, he was playing for an AAU team, the New Jersey Gym Ratz out of Mahwah.

“We had a really good team and I had a coach that had a lot of energy and passion,” said Adelson. “I had the fire and motivation and this is what I wanted to do.”

While attending Northern Valley Regional High School at Demarest, Adelson played not only basketball, but also participated in track after drawing inspiration from his older brother Cory.

“My brother ran track for four years at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst,” Adelson explained. “He told me to run track and I loved it freshman year and helped me get into better shape as an athlete. I would go from track practice to AAU practice.”

While playing for the Norsemen varsity basketball team, Adelson enjoyed his best season as a senior averaging 14 points per game, seven assists and five rebounds and helping guide Demarest to 14 wins and spot in the Bergen County Invitational Tournament Championship Game. In addition Adelson earned Bergen County Coaches Association All-Bergen Team honors in his junior and seniors years.

“Demarest will always have a special place in the my heart,” said Adelson. “Playing for Coach (Joe) Dionisio for four years made realize that basketball was something I enjoyed and wanted to continue doing in college. A pretty solid senior year and the thing I take away is the memories and friends I made and still have today. I played with Brandon and Andrew Garcia since 2nd grade and to have a senior year like we did is something I enjoyed. Coach Jabel who was our assistant for four years and still have a relationship with off the court. Coach (Dan) Egorow the JV coach during my time and to see him now as a the varsity coach at Cresskill.”

“We had a really good team and it was up to us to make it happen. Once we knew it was the County Invitational came around we knew that it was time to take it to the next level. We came up short in the final game but sometimes that’s life and not everything is going to go your way but you take it and move on and learn from it.”

“Being recognized as one of the top players in the county was something I took pride in and enjoyed and cool experience. Playing in front of a packed house at home was unbelievable with students’ chanting and place going wild especially with games against Old Tappan. There was never a seat open in the stands and I remember going with my Dad to the games when I was a child.”

Adelson had a significant decision to make whether to attend Indiana University and study business or play basketball at Elmira College. “I just followed my passion for basketball, that was a no brainer and I haven’t looked back since then,” Adelson said”

“On my visit here I was leaving the practice facility with my father and at the time one of the kids on the team Hayden Harkins who ended up being one of my teammates for two years and had moved into the Top 10 on the all-time three pointers list. Walking out of that facility my Dad said to me, you are going to be on that list by the time you graduate. My father telling me that when I was a senior in high school and I said no way I was going to be close to that to cracking into it and was something special and I will take with me for the rest of my life.”

Making the transition easier to Elmira College is the relationship Adelson developed with Soaring Eagles Head Coach Randie Torgalski. “Coach T and I have a really good relationship and the best thing is he has never given on me,” Adelson said. “As a freshman he told me when I came on my recruiting visit I was going to earn everything I get and nothing going to be handed and that’s the truth for my four years that motivated me to do through work. He told me as freshman why I was going to get on the court and needed to play with an attitude and sort of fire to my game. As a smaller guy I really took that to heart and ran away from it.”

Helping further his development on the court Adelson gives credit to Assistant Coaches Phil Pellegrino and Steve Monks. “Coach Pellegrino joined the staff when I was a sophomore as a volunteer assistant and following year as a full-time graduate assistant and developed a good relationship with him on and off the court when I have been struggling. He is the type of the guy I go into the gym with and get shots off.”

“Coach Monks is your typical old school coach, he coached a local high school for nearly 30 years and won a couple of state titles and a guy who brings a different type of energy and meanness to the coaching staff and something we need sometimes when we mess up and first one to let us know when we’re not playing hard. I developed a good relationship with him off the court and has taught me a bunch of different life lessons. He uses a line in practice, Be Quick, Don’t Hurry.”

Averaging 4.8 points per game in his freshman year including third on the team in three-point field goal percentage and knocking down 21 triples, Adelson’s numbers skyrocketed in his sophomore year averaging 11.2 points per game that ranked fourth on the team, scoring a career high 26 points against Stevens that earned Adelson Empire College Athlete of the Week and first in three-point field goal percentage and sinking 52 trifecta’s.

“My sophomore year we beat the number one team in the conference in Stevens and ruined their chances to host the tournament (Empire 8) said Adelson. The first three years we had Steven Tech in the conference and this is the first year they are not in the conference. I would have some nice homecoming games in Hoboken.”

“We played Division I exhibition games against Binghamton on ESPN and a dream come true as a kid. The following year we played at Columbia and my parents’ got to see me play and had 15 points. At the end of the game I checked the ESPN app and my name was the leading scorer on the Elmira side.”

“Our starting power forward Henry (Cuffee) did not play in that game and our second to last game of the season and really looking forward to ending the season strong and having some momentum going into next season. One of those games I got into the zone and hard to take you out when locked into the zone. There is no feeling like that, the adrenaline rush, fans going wild and hearing my parents’ in the stands. Definitely one of those games I will remember for the rest of my life. Over the course of my basketball career I have never been one to receive accolades and to be honored as Elmira (College) Athlete of the Week was really cool.”

“We changed the style of play in years past, pushing the ball out more in transition and run and gun offense. Justin Porrett an immense part of the pushing the ball out in transition and with attention given to him opened up the floor for me and I was able to take advantage of it. Justin grew up in Dumont and he was my point for 3 years and big reason why I came to Elmira College. I played against him when I was at Demarest High School and in the Ramapo College showcase. Our friendship grew over the years, worked out together and one of my favorite teammates and friends I have made here.”

“Another guy that sticks out is Paul Bischoff who was a senior and captain my junior year. He really didn’t play that much but was one of my best friends on and off the court and bench. In the locker room as a vocal leader and when things were not going my way he made sure we stuck together and stayed composed and someone you strived to be.”

For Adelson it’s all about the preparation especially working on the jump shot in the gym with trainers, watching other teammates shooting habits and employing different techniques. “I give a lot of credit to my trainer Jon Kagan and we work on getting shots up probably 2 or 3 times a week when it wasn’t basketball season,” Adelson said. “He helped me with my footwork and elevation on my shot and played a big part in it and early development on the jump shot.”

“Hayden Harkins strengths were to shoot the ball from anywhere on the court and being able to work out with and seeing his shooting workouts helped me in my growth and shooting ability. I give that guy all the credit for my growth as a player and leader. He really gave me the blueprint and one of the best shooters I played with and just an overall great guy.”

“As a shooter, the other team knows what you can do. Part of a being a shooter is being able to create your own space and finding a way to get your open shot and that’s one of the biggest transitions going from being a high school to college player and had to learn early on. Once I was able to do it and stepped up to the next level and had to confidence to knock them down.”

Despite the fact that the Soaring Eagles not having a winning record in the four years Adeslon has been on the team, Adelson is taking on more of an active role as a leader as well as changes within the athletic department. “We have not have had the best record this season but honestly competed in every game and realistically have done some of our won damage and not been able to close out games and lost six or seven games in the last four minutes and hold a lead,” said Adelson. “It comes down to having a young team, we have four seniors on the team but only two of them getting minutes. We have a young team that needs experience and they will use this year as a learning experience and hopefully take the team to bigger heights next season.”

“My job this year was really to give the guys the blueprint and stay positive through it all. The biggest obstacle as a freshman whether it’s being vocal in practice and it’s really the little things that separate you from being a leader and not a leader. The most important about being a leader is helping these guys learn from their mistakes, helping them mature as a players, staying positive and giving them feedback when I can. Hopefully they can learn from me and don’t make some of the same mistakes I have made and learn from it.”

“We have a new AD at our school, new jerseys and new sponsoring program with Under Armour and Elmira College Athletics is really something on the brink of something special and really glad I was able to be part of it.”

Basketball takes up huge chuck of Adelson’s time but it’s the rigorous schedule of being a student-athlete that keeps Adelson on the move the majority of the day. A Business Administration major with a concentration in Marketing. “A normal day is 6 a.m. lift workouts for about an hour and half,” Adelson said. “I go to breakfast with my teammates, class is from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. with lunch in between, practice from 4 to 6:30 p.m. shower up and go to the library to get homework done. The hardest part is you are exhausted and have minimal motivation. As a student you have to find a way to get it done. I have a 3.2 GPA here at Elmira College and safe to say been able to get it done and find balance between being a student and athlete.”

“I came to Elmira as a finance major, decided after my freshman year I wanted to go the course of Marketing. My sophomore year I was working on campus in the office of career services and my boss Julie Fielding was a huge part of my progression not only as a student but a person. She really opened up my world and made me see things I never thought about it and showed me I can do this. She helped me pick out classes I needed to take and made sure I balanced going to class, work and practices as well. Someone who I looked up to on campus and could talk to about a lot of issues.”

“The first business class I took was Principles in Marketing. Last year I took Market Research/Planning with Professor (Alison) Wolfe. She is the head Marketing professor here at Elmira College and in two of our classes with Market Research in the fall and Market Planning in the winter we did a student consulting project with a nearby hospital (Guthrie Hospital). They were just opening up a Health & Wellness Center and open to people who just not needed rehabilitation but a regular fitness center.”

“Twelve students worked as a team and conducted market research and with quantitative and qualitative research and implementing other research we found in the fall and implement a plan in the winter they could follow and increase their business and perception in the community. That experience was definitely time consuming and have to go and travel 20 minutes away for focus groups and work on surveys together for people to fill out. You just plan your day out and learn how to take responsibility for things and how to get it done.”

With five remaining games in his basketball career at Elmira College, including back-to-back home games this upcoming Friday and Saturday against Nazareth and St. John Fisher, Adelson is soaking in these moments. In addition, Adelson has an opportunity to move into the Career Top-10 lists for made three-point goals. Having totaled 154 treys in his career, is two away from tying Reggie Rollins (1988) in 6th place and Shawn Blakeslee (2000) 7th place.

“Speidel Gymnasium is definitely the nicest gym in our conference and when that place is rocking it’s rocking and being able to play in that atmosphere where people come to watch you play is a dream come true. Anytime we get that place filled up is an unbelievable environment and no other place I rather play. I love playing there in front of the fans and one of the things I’m going to miss the most about Elmira College. Playing on a Friday night in packed gym and tough conference game.”

Sharing these special moments with Adelson are his Mom (Ricki), Dad (Adam) and older brother Cory. “I owe my parents’ the world, they let me play and live out my dream for four years, at Elmira College,” Adelson said. “Even before that whether it was taking me to games, stopping to get me a Gatorade or paying for weekends to stay in a hotel. When I have been struggling and any time I needed someone to talk to my parents’ have been there. My brother is someone I look up to, working for the NBA right now and just a person I strive to be every day and very proud to call him my brother.”

“Basketball has been the focal point of my life the past 16 years and to have to say good-bye is definitely something I’m not looking forward to.”

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Sunil Sunder Raj

Since July of 2014 Sunil Sunder Raj has been with In The Zone. Sunil has experience covering minor league baseball, high school and college sports. A beat writer for the Rockland Boulders for six years, Ramapo College men’s basketball for four years, NJIT men’s basketball and Seton Hall women’s basketball. Now focusing on feature articles about athletes, coaches and sports media professionals. A graduate of Ramapo College of New Jersey with a bachelor of arts degree in journalism.
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