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High school basketball coaches are, generally speaking, not eager to pass out superlatives to sophomores but Manasquan guard Ben Roy has made coaches around the state take notice during his first two years of high school basketball.

Even in a senior-heavy conference and with a dominant senior teammate playing alongside him, Roy’s credentials as the Shore Conference Player of the Year were undeniable in the eyes of the conference’s coaching collective. After leading the Warriors to their first Shore Conference Tournament championship in 63 years, the coaches voted him Player of the Year – virtually unheard of for a sophomore.

Following a run to a second straight NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II championship and a wire-to-wire No. 1 ranking for his Manasquan team in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, Roy can also add 2019-20 Shore Sports Network Player of the Year to his already-impressive resume.

Manasquan sophomore Ben Roy. (Photo by Paula Lopez)
Manasquan sophomore Ben Roy. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

Roy is the second sophomore to win the award, joining current Villanova freshman and former Ranney star Bryan Antoine, who won the first of his three awards in 2016-17. Antoine was not, however, named the Player of the Year by the coaches that season.

In Roy’s case, statistics don’t quite do his game justice but they are a good start. The 6-foot-1 guard finished 10th in the conference with 18.1 points per game and his 578 total points were the fourth-highest total at the Shore this season, trailing only seniors Alex Ratner of Marlboro (656) and Najae Hallenbeck (619) and Jakari Spence (616) of Toms River North. Roy has been more of a score-first combo guard for Manasquan during his first two seasons but still threw in 2.5 assists per game while paying off his stellar defense with 1.87 steals per game.

“He plays the entire game,” Manasquan coach Andrew Bilodeau said. “I think some other guards are just scorers at times, some guys are just shooters, some are just drivers. Ben does it all on offensive end and he doesn’t just play one end of the floor. He’s special.

“He has a toughness about him. He takes it to the rim against bigger guys, he’s great finisher around the rim and he’s fearless. All those things are what make him so different – and he is different. There isn’t really anyone else like him that I have seen.”

From the early part of the season, Roy showed a propensity for performing his best in big games. In a WOBM Christmas Classic that featured six of the top seven ranked teams in the final Shore Sports Network Top 10, Roy stole the show and won tournament MVP honors by leading Manasquan to the title and averaging 20.5 points per game in the process – including 53 combined in the last two games vs. No. 3 Middletown South and No. 4 Toms River North.

The only team to beat Manasquan within the Class A Central division in 2018-19 was Red Bank Catholic and in that game, the Caseys held Roy to zero points – the only time in his career he has been shut out. This year, Roy hit back hard, scoring 20 points in the first Manasquan win over RBC and 26 more in the road win over the Caseys.

Once the Shore Conference Tournament came, Roy again summoned his best basketball. He averaged 18.5 points over the first two rounds of the tournament – both double-digit Manasquan wins over St. John Vianney and Ranney. Roy and his team got off to a rough start in the semifinals vs. Holmdel but Roy rose to the occasion by scoring 11 of his 14 points in the second half to lead a fourth-quarter comeback and 44-40 Manasquan win.

The furious finish by Roy and Manasquan earned them a trip back to OceanFirst Bank Center on the campus of Monmouth University. A year earlier, Manasquan fell to Ranney, 70-60, in an entertaining championship game that Manasquan trailed by four points early in the fourth quarter. While the Warriors put forth a valiant effort against the eventual Tournament of Champions winner, Roy did not have his best scoring game and finished with only four points to go with five assists.

With another chance to thrive on the Shore Conference’s biggest stage, Roy more than made up for 2019. He and Manasquan bombarded Toms River North with a 32-7 start to the game and when the smoke cleared, the Warriors dumped the Mariners, 75-49, behind a career-high 31 points from Roy.

The SCT championship game was the first of two 31-point outings in the postseason by Roy, who also poured in 31 in an 80-67 win over Bordentown in the Central Jersey Group II semifinals. Roy averaged 16.7 points in the NJSIAA Tournament, including 21 over the last three rounds of the tournament.

“His level of play is such that he’s had some games in the high twenties and thirties – I guess you would call it a quiet 30,” Bilodeau said “You’re so used to him being so outstanding that you have to pinch yourself once in a while. He is at such a high level all the time that you just get used to it. He doesn’t have those lows that most guys tend to have.”

While Roy book-ended his marvelous sophomore season with standout performances in tournament settings, he likely won the Player of the Year in the middle of the season by stepping up his play while senior teammate Alex Galvan was on the shelf. Galvan – who could very well have been the Player of the Year were it not for injuries to his ankle and shin – averaged 18.3 points and 9.5 rebounds in 19 games, leaving Manasquan to fend without that production for 13 games in the middle of the season.

In those 13 games, the Warriors went 12-1 thanks to a true team effort. Roy averaged 18.5 points and 3.1 assists during that collection of 13 games while drawing even more defensive focus from opponents.

Roy’s memorable sophomore season is worthy of comparisons to some of the Shore’s top guards in the Shore Conference over the past decade and beyond. Matt Farrell made significant strides as a sophomore at Point Pleasant Beach, but his real breakout came as a junior when he led his team to the Group I championship and a Tournament of Champions appearance. Farrell reached another level as a senior, leading the Garnet Gulls to their only SCT title before landing a late scholarship offer from Notre Dame.

Brendan Barry carried Rumson-Fair Haven to a Shore Conference Tournament title as a junior in 2015 and while he, like Farrell, flashed his brilliance-to-come during his sophomore year, Barry was not posting the night-in-night-out numbers for a top-10 team in the state like Roy did this year.

More recently, Rob Higgins led the Shore Conference in scoring as a sophomore and did so two more times before his career at Middletown North ended in 2019. Statistically speaking, Roy is a longshot to match the pace Higgins set during his four-year varsity career but Roy’s postseason track record has already surpassed that of Higgins – albeit while playing with a better cast of players around him.

That leaves Ranney’s duo of Antoine and Scottie Lewis, who graduated last year as two of the most decorated players in Shore Conference history. Antoine was a First-Team All-Shore Player in all four of his high-school seasons, won three Shore Sports Network Player of the Year Awards, two Shore Coaches’ Player of the Year Awards, two Kerwin Awards and finished his career as the all-time scoring leader in Shore Conference history. Lewis, meanwhile, was SSN Co-Player of the Year along with Antoine last year, picked up the Kerwin Award as a sophomore, was a three-time First-Team All-Shore selection and graduated 12th on the all-time Shore Conference scoring list. Together, Antoine and Lewis led Ranney to back-to-back Shore Conference Tournament titles and the Tournament of Champions title in 2018-19.

Manasquan sophomore Ben Roy. (Photo by Paula Lopez)
Manasquan sophomore Ben Roy. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

While some of Antoine’s accomplishments are beyond matching, Roy has a chance to check a lot of those boxes during the second half of his high-school career. At 882 career points already, he will have a good shot at becoming the ninth Shore Conference player to eclipse 2,000 points and can make a run at two more Player of the Year Awards. He already has scholarship offers from Monmouth University and Robert Morris and could continue to pile those up over the next calendar year.

More than that, he has a chance to become one of the Shore’s great winners. Roy has already played in two Shore Conference Tournament championship games, helped end a 63-year SCT championship drought and won two Central Jersey Group II championships – all while playing on a team that is 60-5 since he joined the program.

“Right away, as a freshman, you could see how confident he was,” Bilodeau said. “That comes from his work ethic, his skill level and from playing high-level AAU competition. He is a daring, aggressive kid and I think that made him fit in with what our team was about. He probably even inspired some of the older guys with the way he works.”

Considering the current state of the world, nothing should be taken for granted or assumed. Roy could play add to his career over the next two years, but then again, high school basketball could cease to exist. Whatever story is told in the Shore area over the next two years, Ben Roy will be a central character.

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