by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal
For the Sonora boys’ basketball team, senior Adam Marlow knows that being a team leader is more than just barking orders and giving inspiring team speeches.
In a historic season that saw the Raiders make a CIF Championship appearance for the first time since 1984, the senior didn’t just do everything the team needed from him, he anticipated those needs and put himself in position to help his team succeed.
Though Adam’s contributions won’t be seen on a stat sheet, without them, the Raiders wouldn’t have enjoyed the amount of success they earned this season.
“[He has] unbelievable leadership skills, that’s the first thing,” said Mike Murphy, Sonora head coach. “To be a great point guard and a great leader is an added bonus and he’s been that way since he first walked on our campus. This year, he’s really the heart and soul of our team, you read about Josh and you read about Ben and they’re scoring all the points, but the guy that stirs the drink and keeps the team together. I’ve been coaching for 29 years and I can’t think of five other guys that I’ve enjoyed coaching more than him.”
Adam has been a varsity starter since his sophomore year and in each season since, the Raiders have seen an improvement in their overall record while still facing the same tough competition.
While his sophomore year was about pushing himself to becoming a mainstay in the starting lineup, it was during his junior season that he recognized the need for a leadership presence.
“We didn’t really have a captain, no one really stepped up to be a leader, so I thought if I could have played that role a little better, our season would have been different,” he said.
During that same timeframe, Adam developed into the Raiders best defensive player and was constantly given the task of trying to shut down the oppositions’ best players.
Realizing that role, Adam often sacrificed his offensive scoring ability to focus on his defense as well as to help set up his teammates on the offensive side.
“He brings a lot of intangibles,” Murphy said. “It’s a specific skill set that you have to have and he’s our best athlete, fastest, strongest and quickest from side to side and that makes him our best defender. We’d find the best guy on the other team and assign him to Adam.”
To take it a step further, Adam would approach his head coach with suggestions on defensive strategy that often involved him switching to the opposing player that was causing the most damage at that particular point of the game.
Some of these situations involved the 6-foot senior guarding a 6-foot-8 forward. Such was the case when the Raiders went up to Santa Maria, where Adam attempted to limit Cameron Walker, the Warriors’ 6-foot-8 forward.
Adam attributes his defensive abilities to his commitment to getting stronger in the weight room, something he started after he was called up to varsity during his freshman season.
“When I got moved up, I got a chance to practice with guys like Raffi [Chalian], Tyler [Thomas], they were grown men,” Adam said “I had close to the same skill set as them, but I wasn’t nearly the athlete that they were and that’s when I realized that if I put in time in the weight room, it could help me a lot more than working on my skills every day.”
When it comes to his leadership and competitiveness, Adam’s long-lasting friendship with Whittier Christian senior Ryan Esslinger, who played football and basketball, may have a lot to do with it.
“Growing up with him, he’s just as competitive as me. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone as competitive as me, except for him,” Adam said. “Seeing him on the football team this year as the starting quarterback, he’s just a stud, I was so proud of him, but it also made me want to be like him and do what he did on the football field while I was on the basketball court. It was still a competition thing, but we really push each other to be the best that we can be.”
When the team absolutely needed points late in ball games, Adam had the ability to hit clutch shots as well.
In the Raiders’ first game against Sunny Hills in Freeway League play, Adam drove inside for two tough layups late in the fourth quarter to break a tie game and give Sonora enough separation to win the ball game and take sole possession of the Freeway League lead, which the Raiders held for the rest of the season.
In other situations, he made the extra pass to junior teammates Ben Rico, Josh Rodriguez and Steven Murphy who often hit open shots as a result.
“Only the people in the program really know the value that he added to our team. He’s very poised and whatever we needed, he supplied,” Murphy said. “One of the biggest struggles we had was moving the ball quickly, but the guy who sacrificed his offensive game to help make that extra pass was Adam. Ben Rico broke the scoring record this year and that had a lot to do with it.”
But even more than his contributions on the court, Adam was an example off the court, often demonstrating certain gameplans for teammates and using his work ethic as a way to motivate his teammates.
When it came to leading a group of talented players, including four junior starters by season’s end, Adam admitted that it wasn’t always easy.
However, he also said he wouldn’t trade them for anyone else.
“I’ll never forget this year, that’s for sure,” he said. “This was my team and it was something that you never want to end and at times it felt like it was never-ending, I’ll never forget these guys.”
While Adam hasn’t committed to a school at the next level yet, he said that Chapman University, Vanguard University and Cal State Los Angeles have all expressed interest.
Along with his leadership abilities, his abilities on the court and his commitment to improvement off the court, Adam also boasts a stellar performance in the classroom, maintaining a 4.0 grade point average.
During his senior year, he enjoys taking AP Calculus as he’s always liked Mathematics. He also enjoys Psychology.
Adam looks up to his parents as role models for their constant support and always being willing to take time out of their day to drive him to workouts and practices.
In terms of his sport, it came as no surprise that Adam said he looked up to his head coach, Mike Murphy.
“I always look up to him, he got me to work harder than anyone else in my life,” Adam said. “When I got here I was pretty lazy, but the way he gets people to work hard, he just inspires us.”
When he’s not in the classroom or on the court, Adam enjoys playing video games with friends and also has picked up surfing as a steady hobby in the summer.
But while he has a couple months left as a high school senior, Adam’s goal is to maintain his grades and prepare for an opportunity to play basketball at the next level.
“We’d love for the community to come out and see Adam, he’s a great example of what it is to be a Raider, if you come to this program, this is how you turn out,” Murphy said. “I’m hoping that the colleges in the area will see that he’s a kid they need in their program. He just needs an opportunity and if he gets that opportunity, he’ll make the most of it.”