Sophomore Jaeden Greenleaf and the Cape Cod Academy Seahawks were fresh off the program’s deepest run in the Division 4 South Sectional postseason — reaching the semifinals last season.
In the summer months, the Seahawks stuck together for the annual Hyannis Youth & Community Center’s high school summer league series, showing their run in the tournament last year was no fluke. And with Greenleaf, a man-child of a 16-year-old guard continuing his ascension as one of the best basketball talents south of Boston, the Seahawks were well on their way to proving that.
Then, on the eve of the regular season, an injury put all of that in jeopardy. Greenleaf, a Bourne native, suffered a broken forearm, forcing the sophomore to sit on the sidelines for nearly two-thirds of the season.
“He’s the backbone of our team. He brought in that work ethic and it’s made everyone work just as hard in everything behind the scenes,” Cape Cod Academy head coach Adam Rose said. “[But his injury] ended up being a complete blessing in disguise.”
While Greenleaf was rehabbing his injury—working on off-hand ball skills and stationary shooting drills in addition to regaining his strength in the weight room—CCA, anchored by senior Alex Marchant and junior Andrew James, had to figure out how to win without its star playmaker. The Seahawks lost five of their first seven games and went 4-6 without the six-foot sophomore.
“Not that we rely on Jaeden, but for two years he’s been there. When we get in trouble he’s there. When we need a bucket he’s there. Then, for a period of time he wasn’t,” Rose said. “We had to avenue our way through that.”
But when Greenleaf returned to the court, he quickly slid back into his role as the on-court alpha male, averaging 23.2 points per game in first four games back with CCA. On January 30 against Martha’s Vineyard, a team that scored a 15-point win without Greenleaf, the hulking guard made history, joining the esteemed 1,000 career points club with a 32-point performance to go with seven steals.
One thousand points is impressive enough, but the Seahawks’ guard reached the plateau as a sophomore, averaging more than 20 points per game in each of his three season (he started as an 8th grader for Rose). Perhaps more impressive, though, is the way in which he gets those points. Of course he’s a deadly outside shooter, but with a strong handle and quick first step, Greenleaf has the combination of speed and strength to make a living a free throw line. And as the primary distributor for CCA, he does most of his scoring within the flow of the game, ensuring his teammates get involved as well.
“I look at the book every night and, I swear to God, it’s always a quiet 25, 28, 35 points. If that’s possible. He does it within what we do. That’s why it may not always stand out during the game because it’s within our offense,” Rose said. “He’s hustling after an offensive putback or getting fouled and making shots at the line. He does all the dirty work and the most skilled player on the floor.”
His head coach went on to note that while everyone sees him dropping 20-plus points on a nightly basis, what they don’t see is him getting hitting baskets in the gym every morning at 6:30 AM or working out in the weight room four days a week, where he can be seen on Instagram maxing out 225 pounds on the bench press. Although not necessarily tall for the sport, his long wingspan — coupled with his chiseled, protruding arms and shoulders — makes him a force to reckon with in the low post, resembling a silverback gorilla.
That workmanlike mentality meshed with pure talent and a savvy basketball IQ was on display as the 11th-ranked Seahawks worked their way to the Division 4 South finals, dismantling third-seeded Old Colony in Rochester and outlasting Southeastern in the semifinals before getting ousted by reigning South champion Abington last weekend.
“When I’m on the ball, I’m just looking to make the right play and find the open guy,” Greenleaf said. “Off the ball I’m constantly fighting through double teams, running off screens and trying to find open space.”
Short, to the point and humble in interviews, every so often flashing his metal-clad smile that serves as a reminder of his youth, Greenleaf’s game on the court is the exact opposite — demanding the attention of opponents and spectators alike. He poured in a game-high 34 points against Old Colony and followed that up with 31 points against the large Southeastern squad, also a game-high.
In the South finals at Taunton last Saturday, March 7, the sophomore opened the game with a casual make from long distance, but had an unusually quiet first half against a deep Abington team that featured a handful of strong football players. In the second half, as CCA closed a 16-point deficit to two points late in the fourth quarter, Greenleaf figured out the Green Wave defense, finishing with the game-high point total of 26.
“He does everything necessary to be the best version of himself. He works with his teammates. He’s not an iso guy. He just wants to be successful and wants to win. When you have a kid who checks off all those boxes, you have a pretty special young man,” Rose said.