by Ed Morrone
Shorthanded and in a scenario in which the team would need its two point guards to step up to win ugly, Juan Adames and Jake Hsu were happy to oblige.
Adames, a senior veteran, and Hsu, a rising sophomore, have played major roles for the Germantown Academy basketball team all season. However, led by explosive junior Jordan Longino and his 22.6 points per game, Adames and Hsu’s contributions may sometimes go unnoticed to the casual observer. With Longino missing Friday and Saturday’s games against Penn Charter and Carver High due to injury, it was Adames and Hsu’s times to shine.
In a tough road loss to PC, Hsu scored a team-high 17 points, while Adames chipped in eight. Against Carver the next day, the point totals weren’t as high, but the backcourt duo’s fingerprints were all over GA’s eventual low-scoring 39-34 victory.
With 5:29 remaining in the fourth quarter and the result still hanging in the balance, Adames and Hsu converged to form a double trap in Carver’s halfcourt offense, forcing the ball-handler into a turnover. A few plays later, Adames scored his only basket of the game to give the Patriots a 31-30 lead they would not again relinquish. Earlier in the quarter, Hsu (five points) tied the game off a dish from Adames, and both players had four assists in the victory.
Quite simply, Adames and Hsu play calmly, smartly and confidently, huge factors when considering they are GA’s primary two ball handlers within the offense.
“My role is to get guys where they need to be to score, and to just control the game,” Adames said. “We’re a fairly young team and sometimes we get flustered down the stretch, so my job is to bring that down and push us back the other way on a run.”
Adames came to GA as a freshman from Northeast Philadelphia, taking an hour-long train ride each way every single day. A couple of his mentors persuaded him to apply to the school in Fort Washington, and even with the arduous commute, Adames can’t envision an alternate reality where he ends up going somewhere else.
“That train ride in the morning isn’t fun, but coming here is the best decision I’ve made in my whole life,” he said.
Another responsibility Adames has inherited is mentoring Hsu, a rising sophomore who “plays like a senior,” according to head coach Matt Dolan. Hsu, from nearby Ambler, has been at GA since kindergarten, so he feels a deep sense of comfort at the school despite his underclassman standing on the varsity hoops team.
Hsu’s expression on the court never changes as the sophomore plays with a steely-eyed intensity that never wavers, and his development gives the Patriots a safety net into the future even after Adames graduates later this year.
“I try to set the tone both offensively and defensively, just keep the game at our pace to play fast sometimes or slow it up when we need to,” Hsu said. “Sometimes you’ll have off days shooting the ball offensively, maybe the shot isn’t there but you can always bring it defensively. That’s one trait Juan and I especially share, we’re always looking to bring the defense.”
Adames and Hsu have teamed up to help guide GA to a 13-10 overall record and a 4-4 mark in the Inter-Ac with two regular season games remaining. Malvern Prep captured the league crown this season, but if Longino can get healthy in the final week heading into the postseason PAISAA Tournament, the team likes its chances to make a deep run in states.
The two guards are also huge fans of one another. Adames has tried to take the younger Hsu under his wing and has been left impressed by how far he has come in a short time; meanwhile, Hsu has tried to absorb Adames’ toughness and natural leadership ability as the season has progressed.
“Juan is the leader of our team,” Hsu said. “We’ve had our ups and downs this season but no matter what he’s been the vocal leader of the team, which is the most important thing about him. He always keeps his head up, and during those down times Juan has really been there for us. He picks us up when we make mistakes and congratulates us when we do something good.”
“It’s very visible that Jake has great athleticism and he can get to the basket whenever he wants,” Adames added of his teammate. “Throughout his sophomore year, he’s played more and more under control. He’s a freak of nature, to be honest. He just does everything for us.”
Dolan has leaned on both players this season. As talented as GA is, they are one of the younger teams in the league with junior Longino and sophomores Hsu and Casey Traina playing major roles. The duo has remained levelheaded throughout.
“They bring a competitiveness and passion every day,” Dolan said. “With our team, it starts with those two. They’re pit bulls who give us that toughness identity. Juan brings that ‘Philly guard’ style and he loves the game of basketball. His legacy will be that he is a winner. And Jake is a wonderful, coachable kid who doesn’t know how to not play hard. As a sophomore, he plays like a senior, which doesn’t always happen, so we feel lucky to have him.”
With a few games still left together, Adames and Hsu are only focused on one thing: finishing strong and trying to bring a PAISAA title back to Fort Washington.
“The most important thing is to stay together,” Adames said. “If we do that and play to our strengths, I think we’re the best and can make a run in that tournament.”
“It’s all about improvement,” he said. “We’ll play hard these last two games and prepare for what’s in front of us. If we get healthy, we’ll be a problem for a lot of teams.”