Spruce Creek’s Jayla Adams named News Journal Player of the Year

Winning a state championship marked the end of a four-year quest for Jayla Adams. From the time she set foot on the court for her first varsity game at Spruce Creek, Adams’ goals were, in no specific order, bringing home the school’s first girls basketball title and earning a college scholarship.

So, after the Hawks toppled Miami, 44-43, in the Class 9A championship game on March 3, Adams let everyone know she and her team had done it.

For roughly two weeks after the Hawks’ victory, Adams wore her gold medal everywhere she went — in class, at work behind the drive-thru window at Wendy’s, to her aunt’s birthday party in Ocala, even to her local gym. And it quickly made her the first choice for pick-up games.

“When I walk in now, the guys are like, ’Oh, I got her (on my team),” Adams said. “I used to sit on the sidelines and watch. Now, they are like, ‘She’s a state champion. Why wouldn’t I want her on my team?’”

Adams will leave Spruce Creek as one of its most decorated players, including one more honor in 2018 — The News-Journal’s Girls Basketball Player of the Year.

“I want to thank Coach (Kelvin) Hamm and all the other coaches who have been there throughout my whole journey, in AAU and high school,” Adams said. “And I want to thank my teammates for being there with me through all this. We’ve been through a lot together, and I couldn’t do it without them.”

The 5-foot-5 senior point guard averaged 16.9 points and 5.1 assists per game, both among the highest totals in the Volusia/Flagler area. Adams also shot a career-high 46 percent from 3-point range (96 for 209).

She caught fire on several occasions, hitting a school-record 11 3-pointers at Jacksonville Mandarin (Jan. 23) and seven in the first half of the Region 1-9A final against Orlando Colonial (Feb. 23).

Adams attributes her improvement behind the 3-point line to a renewed dedication to workouts. Hamm said Adams arrived in the gym during second period, every day, to refine her game.

“I’d shoot at least 500 shots (during workouts). Then I’d go after practice, after work, whenever, and shoot 500 more,” Adams said. “The basket just got big for me. It got easier as I became more confident.”

Adams remained confident throughout the entire season, even when her team trailed by 10 at halftime of the state final. She admits she had some jitters in the first half, but those disappeared when fellow senior Yoke Tassent buried a 3 on Spruce Creek’s opening second-half possession.

The Hawks outscored Miami, 27-16, over the game’s final 13-plus minutes. Adams tied for the team lead with 13 points, and sprinted the length of the court in exuberation after the Stingarees missed a potential winning putback at the buzzer.

For Adams, it was misson accomplished. And her legacy will be defined by coming up clutch in the biggest games in Spruce Creek’s girls basketball history.

As for that second goal, she checked that box in November when she agreed to a scholarship at Florida Atlantic University.

“As of right now, she’s the best player I have ever coached,” Hamm said. “From the time I started coaching her in the seventh grade (in travel ball), I knew she was a program-changer.

“She made us more competitive. She put us in a position to be recognized throughout the state, and helped to propel us where we wanted to go.”

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