After missing the majority of last year’s season due to off-the-court troubles, Pitt sophomore center John Hugley is primed to make his comeback a memorable one.
“I feel like going into my second year, I am much more in shape,” Hugley said on Wednesday. “Much more disciplined than last year. Just staying together. But the most thing is that I am just more disciplined this year, year two. I am more disciplined like talking more on the court, being in spots I wasn’t in last year, just being that vocal leader on the court.”
In the seven games that he played in last year, Hugley put up an average of 5.1 points and 4.3 rebounds per game, while shooting 40% from the field. Although he only started one out of those seven contests, the youngster, who was Pitt’s highest-rated recruit in the 2020 class, was given very high expectations coming in.
“Last year was different, it was a learning experience for me,” Hugley continued. “I was an 18-year-old coming into college, you know, COVID year, I was given a big role as a freshman, so I was just learning new things last year.”
In Pitt’s recent preseason scrimmage against Maryland, Hugley played just over 22 minutes and led the team in scoring with 14 points. He went six for eight from the field, including one for one from three-point range, and also racked up six rebounds, three assists, and two steals. While scrimmage stats should always be taken with a grain of salt, those are some notable numbers for someone who has not competed since Dec. 22 of last year.
“He’s a wide body, he is getting in better shape, and he’s got really good hands,” head coach Jeff Capel said about Hugley. “He has a really good feel. He is a willing and capable passer, and he gives us something that we haven’t had in the three years I have been here. Hopefully he can continue to grow, and build, and get better and give us something that we haven’t had.”
“[I have] A way different role than last year,” said Hugley. “The biggest thing is just being that vocal leader, that defensive anchor, because I am the back guy, so I am on whatever they can’t see. I definitely want that role, for sure.”
Hugley, under the guidance of his family, home community, teammates, coaches, and many others, has almost made it all the way back to the court with games starting up in just a few days. One of his teammates, Jamarius Burton, has especially been at his side, motivating him day in and day out.
“Having Jamarius around is a great thing, man, just him being that vocal leader,” he said. “When he first came I never played with a teammate like that. He’s going to talk the whole practice, he’s teaching us. He is one of the reasons every morning I come in and get in extra work at 7:50, I got that from him. Just basically training like a pro. That’s what he embedded in me. If you want to be a pro, you’ve got to train like a pro.”