James Adams: Guiding Players to Success

Images by Saint Elizabeth Eagles Basketball 

Winning can be a wonderful feeling. It is the moment when hard work pays off, and the triumphs and obstacles prove to be worth it.

The Saint Elizabeth Eagles recently experienced that moment, as they defeated the top-seeded Wilson College Phoenix to win the Skye Division Championship.

In what was a tightly contested game, the Eagles beat the Phoenix 65-56. This was the Eagles’ first championship game appearance of any kind, and the Phoenix have championship experience as they won two Colonial States Athletic Conference championships (before the CSAC merged with the United East Conference). This game would be a challenge, and Eagles head coach James Adams was prepared for it. 

“The mentality going into the game has been the same all season. We know we are the underdogs in almost every game we play, so we approached the game knowing we had to be aggressive and put forth maximum effort. Pressure defense is our calling card so we wanted to pressure their players into making mistakes. Wilson is a top-notch championship program so we knew that they would not go away lightly. We played a complete all-around team game to knock off the defending champs.” Adams said.

The first half was extremely competitive. It was a battle of baskets, and both teams fought to maintain a lead. A 10-0 run from the Eagles helped them gain a six-point lead going into halftime. The competitiveness from both teams carried over into the second half, and defense was the key to the Eagles’ win. They played lockdown defense and stopped Wilson from gaining any momentum. In a game of runs, Adams knew what he had to do to keep his team motivated.

“My main message to my team when I’m coaching is to manage the runs of the game. Despite such a high-stakes game, I think my players did an excellent job of managing their emotions and staying connected as a unit. This was something the coaching staff has emphasized from the first game until now and the fruits of our labor have paid off.” Adams said.

Adams was named head coach of the Eagles back in 2021. He is their second head coach in history (as the program’s first season was 2016-17). This year (his third season in the role) was the best season in program history, but it had its share of obstacles. This season, 13 players returned to the team, and there was a group of talented recruits coming in. This season was a process, as the team had to learn how to mesh, develop team chemistry, and find their identity. 

“Once we did, we saw unbelievable success. I’m so proud of this team for putting “we” before “me” and accomplishing all that we set out to do!” Adams said.

That hard work paid off, and in a big moment like the championship game, it was more apparent than ever. The Eagles won the game, and when asked about the victory, Adams expressed his gratitude.

“I feel overwhelmingly grateful to win the United East Skye Division Championship in just three years of coaching at Saint Elizabeth University. This was our long-term goal as a staff when we took over the program in 2021 post-COVID 19 and to accomplish it makes all the long hours and extra efforts worth it. I have to give honor to God for placing me at Saint Elizabeth University and allowing me to experience such great success.”

The Eagles accomplished something great, and they did so with Adams and his staff leading the way. And Adams and staff want those great accomplishments to extend beyond the court.

“As a coaching staff, we put together resources to help our student-athletes excel and graduate on time but they deserve all the credit for managing all of the responsibilities we place on them,” Adams said. 

Of course, being a student-athlete requires balance. It requires balancing academics and athletics, and that is not always easy. However, it is not something a student-athlete has to deal with alone. Having the right mentors can guide them through the journey, and mentorship is something Adams is passionate about. 

“Mentorship is very important to a college athlete’s experience. When you play a sport in college, practice, and workouts only take up about two to three hours in your day. It is the rest of your experience that shapes you as a young man. We talk to our players about everything from career aspirations to mental health. They know that they can walk into our office at any time and talk to us about anything. Although I am not yet a father, I feel like I have 18 kids and take that responsibility very seriously.” Adams said. 

Being a student-athlete can be challenging, and as a former student-athlete himself, Adams knows what it takes to succeed. Adams spoke on his experience as an athlete at the University of South Carolina.

“My experience on the University of South Carolina track and field team was life-changing. I had the chance to be mentored by some of the best coaches in the sport. They were extremely tough on us as athletes, but also loving and fair at the same time. We were taught valuable life skills on top of our athletic training. My coaching style has been influenced by my track coaches such as Delethea Quarles (Director of Track & Field at James Madison University), Kevin Brown (Current Assistant Coach and Recruiting Coordinator at South Carolina), and Curtis Frye (retired Head Track Coach at South Carolina).” Adams said. 

Adams has been through the journey. Things have changed a bit (with things such as the transfer portal and NIL), but as someone who has been through it (the journey), he gives good advice. When asked about the first piece of advice he would give a student-athlete, he gave great insight.

“The first piece of advice I would give a student-athlete is to go where they want you the most and where you fit in with the culture of the college. I think too many athletes and families are caught up in the bells and whistles of facilities or division levels and don’t value the best fit for the athlete. Our players at Saint Elizabeth University love their experience because they play for a coaching staff that believes in them and values their development. Besides that, they are comfortable with our small-college atmosphere and diverse student body which makes them feel at home. To me, comfortability at any level is what allows a student-athlete to reach their potential.” 

The Saint Elizabeth Eagles had a phenomenal season, and with Adams leading the way (and being a mentor), the sky’s the limit for what they can achieve.

#SaintElizabethEagles #SkyeDivisionChampionship #WilsonCollegePhoenix #HardWorkPaysOff