Daniel Sofield scored 1,824 points in his boys’ basketball career at Jackson Liberty High School.
He will leave the Jackson Township school as its all-time leading scorer by far.
As a senior this winter, the 6-6 Sofield averaged 27 points per contest, even pouring in 59 during a 91-82 victory over Lacey Township High School on Dec. 18.
Sofield’s prolific senior campaign earned him a First Team All-New Jersey selection in March. It also landed him a First Team All-Shore Conference nod.
“Daniel is the best player in Jackson Liberty history,” said the Lions’ coach, Mike Antenucci. “It’s pretty safe to say that.”
Antenucci is right, but not just because of Sofield’s individual accomplishments.
This year, Jackson Liberty went 15-10, won the Shore Conference’s B South Division and beat Saint John Vianney High School, 53-41, on Feb. 13 in the first round of the Shore Conference Tournament.
The Lions never won a division title or postseason game before 2019. It was the best campaign in the program’s 12-year history.
“It felt great to become the best team with the teammates I’ve had since sixth grade,” Sofield said. “They always put me in great positions.”
Before and throughout high school, Sofield had opportunities to transfer to elite private school programs. But the senior is a lifelong Jackson resident, and he wanted to stay home.
So in 2015, he chose Jackson Liberty, even though it had an eight-year-old program with no track record of success. Sofield also stayed at Jackson Liberty, even though the Lions went 17-54 in his first three seasons.
“I just wanted to try to bring a winning tradition to this school,” Sofield said.
The senior does not regret his decision. The successful 2019 campaign surely helped ease his mind. But Sofield probably would have felt that way even without the successful final act.
“There’s not a whole bunch of loyalty anymore,” Sofield said. “But it’s still important.”
During the summers, Sofield also played basketball for the New Jersey Shore Shots AAU program. That put him on the radar of Division 1 collegiate coaches.
Sofield has not picked a college yet. He has been talking to Furman University, Florida Gulf Coast University and the University of Arkansas. He still needs to visit those schools and “get a feel,” he said.
Once he commits, he will achieve the individual goal that all high school players shoot for: a collegiate scholarship. He did not need to attend a private high school.
“He’ll play somewhere, more than likely for free,” Antenucci said.
“I truly believe you can stay home and be a college prospect,” Sofield said. “So I would advise kids to help their hometowns try to win.”
After Jackson Liberty’s season ended, Antenucci made a Facebook post about his best player.
“I jokingly announced that Daniel passed on college to be a fifth-year senior at Jackson Liberty,” Antenucci said, laughing. “Some people responded to me saying, ‘You can do that?'”
You can’t. But you can inspire younger players from your town to carry on your legacy.
“It’s the effort you have to put in to compete night in, night out,” Antenucci said. “That kind of mentality was what we hope Daniel left behind.”